2012 A Message from our Chairperson – Charles Mutunga

As we celebrate our fourth year in operation, we have to feel a strong sense of pride and accomplishment for the continued successful execution of our scholarship program for the needy. The financial contributions plus the voluntary efforts made by the members, supporters, and the local representatives have allowed us to attain these milestones. We’re making a difference in alleviating poverty in these local communities and our commitment is to stay the course in advancing our philanthropic activities.

  Every year we receive scholarship award requests from more than 300 qualified applicants, but due to the financial resources constraints we’re unfortunately limited to an established number that we can afford to sponsor. This year we awarded 84 scholarships, which were equally distributed among boys and girls to attend High schools in Kenya. In the last four years we have respectively awarded scholarships to 29, 54, 74, and 84 students annually. We’re making steady progress in our match towards our target of 100 scholarships annually.

The first group of our 29 scholars is completing Form IV this year 2012, and I take this opportunity to wish them good luck in their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination performance (KCSE). We’re anxiously awaiting the Examination results with a hope that some of the scholars will be admitted to Universities to continue their academic pursuit while others may choose to enter the Job market. In either case, we’re committed to continuing our support to these graduating seniors and to ensure they eventually become economically productive members of their local communities. Our core belief is that education of girls is a critical element in improving the quality of lives for their families, and the local communities at large.

 This year we also launched the Fundraising efforts to address water shortage in the drought stricken areas of eastern Kenya. These efforts are progressing on well and we continue to seek partnerships with major donors so that together, we can be a much stronger force in the implementation of water solutions. We’re targeting water harvesting by capturing and retaining rainwater from roof tops into water tanks as a cost effective means of providing clean drinking water to schools, and local community water points. We have identified 100 schools and community water points that will immensely benefit from this program. We also plan to construct large scale agricultural water reservoirs and dams. Once constructed, these dams will allow farmers to grow crops year-round, resulting in greater yields and improved incomes. We are targeting to construct 4 dams in the next 4 years out of the total of 100 large dams that we believe will be required to fully address the water shortage and mitigate the perennial human/animal loss of life due to lack of food in these communities.

 I extend a special note of appreciation to our local representatives in Kenya for their engagement to our mission: Joseph Nzioki, Winnie Nzioka, Nadia Muthama, Esther Muthama, Titus Nthiwa, Peter Ndolonga, Mary Mutua, Fred Muteti, and Hellen Ndeti.

 And I invite every one of you to join us in raising Funds and awareness for our philanthropic activities. Together, we can make a real difference.

 We are not what we are, nor do we treat or esteem each other for such, but for what we are capable of being. Henry David Thoreau

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2011 A Message from our Chairperson- Charles Mutunga

As we celebrate our third year in operation, I have to look back these past few years with a strong sense of pride and accomplishment for the continued successful execution of our scholarship program for the needy. And also humbly recognize the contributions made by all the members, supporters, and our local representatives that have allowed us to attain these milestones. Our commitment guided by our vision to stay the course in advancing our philanthropic activities is commendable and a welcome blessing to our needy beneficiaries. We’re making a difference in alleviating poverty in these local communities and I’m excited to be a part of this great initiative.

We have made significant impact during our three years of operation. We have so far awarded more than 150 scholarships to needy students who otherwise would not have been able to attend High School due to lack of school fees. This year we awarded 74 scholarships, which were equally distributed among boys and girls. Our core belief is that education of girls is a critical element in improving the quality of lives for their families, and the local communities at large. We’re making good progress in our match towards 100 scholarships per year, our stated goal since inception of our organization. And as the journey continues, we’re also working towards implementation of some of the lessons learned, during the course of execution of our program. The challenge of awarding scholarship to more than 50 different  high schools, where our scholars attend, in the vast geographical region of Kenya is both real and at times a daunting endeavor when viewed relative to the targeted level of efficiency that we strive to achieve.  Our goal is to award the scholarships in a timely manner while adhering to the highest level of transparency particularly on the part of the Head teachers of the respective schools. We continue to emphasize and convey our expectation that the funds, once deposited into the school’s bank account, must be credited to the respective scholar in a timely manner. This is happening in the majority of schools, but we have noted with some concern a few incidents where delivery improvement is required, and we’re working hard to mitigate these isolated challenges. In the event we do not see real improvement, our contemplated workaround would be to filter out these bad apples resulting in our future scholars not attending these suspect schools.

One of the things that I believe we perform better than any other organization, and that helps ensure transparency in the execution of our program is the sacrifice that we make to visit with the scholars on regular basis at their respective schools. This has a huge impact on the students, and the school teachers for it becomes evidently clear to them that we’re within reach and we’re fully engaged.  Last year, myself plus other Kacoinc members conducted the school visits with the sole purpose of ensuring all went well with the scholarship distributions, and encouraging all the scholars to do well in school. We met with Kenyan government officials, local community leaders, school Head teachers, and a significant number of the scholarship recipients. Needless to say, the effort to accomplish these goals has been huge, and I extend acknowledgement to those who have made and continue to make the necessary sacrifices towards realization of these successes. I am very much aware that it is a rarity to find organizations that are able to undertake what we are engaged in, pure labor of love: fund projects, volunteer time to execute the projects, plus spend personal financial resources to visit project sites to ensure the funds are invested properly. We’re guided by integrity, and given the transparency challenges in these local communities it is imperative that all of our important stakeholders – donors, supporters, members, and award recipients- trust that we will continue to do the right thing and live up to our hard earned reputation.

As we embark on the projects for this year, water shortage in the drought stricken areas of eastern Kenya is in our minds. We fully comprehend the urgency of the situation, the dire consequences of water shortage, and as a result we have developed a two pronged approach to help alleviate the perennial water shortage crisis: Water Harvesting by capturing and retaining rainwater from roof tops into water tanks is a cost effective means of providing clean drinking water to schools, and local community water points. We have identified 100 schools and community water points that will immensely benefit from this program.

And construction of large scale agricultural water reservoirs and dams: Once constructed, these dams will allow farmers to grow crops year-round, resulting in greater yields and improved incomes. The local communities will be extensively involved with the project, providing labour and creating water cooperatives to manage the projects on a long-term basis. We are targeting to construct 20 dams in the next 4 years out of the total of 100 large dams that we believe will be required to fully address the water shortage and mitigate the perennial human/animal loss of life due to lack of food in these communities. We’re currently seeking partnerships with major donors to help us launch this project so that together, we can be a much stronger force in the implementation of solutions to address these poverty problems.

I extend a special note of appreciation to our local representatives in Kenya for their engagement to our mission: Winnie Nzioka, Nadia Muthama, Esther Muthama, Titus Nthiwa, Peter Ndolonga, Mary Mutua, Fred Muteti, and Hellen Ndeti.

And I invite everyone of you to join us in raising Funds and awareness for our philanthropic activities. Together, we can make a real difference.

 And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years!

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2010 A Message from our Chairperson- Charles Mutunga

As I reflect on this past year’s activities, bringing hope to the hopeless, I feel a strong sense of pride and accomplishment. I am truly humbled to note that our performance efficiency has by far exceeded my expectations. And I’m excited to be a part of this great initiative.

We made significant impact during our first year of operation. Our maize distribution effort, to alleviate the hunger condition in Eastern Kenya, was a phenomenal success and positively impacted more than 10,000 lives. We distributed more than 400 bags of maize this past July to feed starving women and children in ten upcountry distribution centers. And many more lives were touched through our scholarship program. We awarded 29 scholarships last year to orphan/needy students to continue with high school education. And this year we have awarded 52 scholarships. Thanks to the passion and commitment of our members who kicked-in the additional funds for sponsorship. The Kilome water project inaugurated in October, to provide clean water to a local hospital was also well executed, water brings life and a lasting economic change to a local community.

Myself plus other seven kacoinc members made a trip to Kenya with a sole purpose of ensuring all went well with our maize and scholarship distributions. We met with Kenyan government officials, local community leaders, school Head teachers, and all the 29 scholarship recipients. Among our scholars, we were particularly moved by the high level of commitment to pursue academic excellence displayed by Faith Mutua of Matungulu Girls, and Robert Mbisu of Kitui School, an inspiration for our continued support. And we were equally moved by the resilient of all those Kenyan mothers to keep hope alive who in each of the maize distribution centers surrounded our vehicle convoy simply to thank us for being “such a good people, doing great things, may God bless you” in the midst of tears of joy. We humbly accept their appreciative gestures, and is a further affirmation that our activities are making real difference in peoples lives.The effort to accomplish these goals has been huge, and I extend acknowledgement to those who made the necessary sacrifices towards realization of these successes. I am very much aware that it is a rarity to find organizations that are able to undertake what we are engaged in: fund projects with our own monies, volunteer time to execute the projects, plus spend our own resources to visit project sites to ensure the funds are invested properly. Our pledge to steer away from intermediaries for fear of compromising our transparency is well founded. We’re guided by integrity, and given the transparency challenges in these communities it is imperative that all of our important stakeholders – Donors, supporters, members, and award recipients- trust that we will continually do the right thing and live up to our hard earned reputation. We thus cannot afford to have resources being wasted in scrupulous engagements. We have positioned ourselves to be an effective catalyst for change and what facilitates such is, our deep familiarity with the local culture and our ability to navigate through the potential corruption entrapments that are endemic in these areas.

As we embark on the projects for this year, our approach to addressing the poverty condition in these areas is based on attacking the problem from three fronts. Award scholarship to educate the kids from these impoverished communities with the belief that once educated they will be able to financially support their communities mitigating outside dependence. Secondly our trip to Kenya, reminded us that there are some areas that haven’t seen rain for 24 months, putting humans and animals at risk of becoming sick and dying. To relieve drought conditions we plan to construct dams to provide water for humans and livestock thus mitigating adverse impact to food production, and thirdly we plan to continue engaging the local women groups to establish sustainable enterprises to create jobs and generate income. We take pride in acknowledging the Kikambuani Women Group efforts who within a span of a year have quadrupled our seeding investment. This year we have successfully increased the number of scholarships to 52, with 50% being awarded to girls. And we will target securing stable funding for the scholarship program to allow us to hit our eventual annual target of 100, and put in place the necessary mechanism to award the scholarships at a central site. The students would be invited to come to this center to pick-up their awards and meet with their sponsors and/or local representatives. We will engage in fine tuning the details of our water project. We have the intermediate water project of supplying 100 Primary schools with water tanks to harvest rain water, clean water for students consumption. And the long term water project of constructing 100 large earthen dams to provide water for humans, livestock, and for irrigation. The monsoon season being scarce and short, dams would fill quickly and become perennial water reservoirs. The dams once build will significantly change the lives and the ecosystem of these communities for a long time, and I am convinced that raising the money for this effort is an easily achievable goal. Our scheduled trip to Kenya in 2011 will allow us to sell the idea to the local communities so that they too can be a part of this great initiative. We tentatively plan to break ground on two dams in 2011. As we continue to grow we are looking into addressing the operational challenges of today and tomorrow. Our focus for this year being to significantly increase the donor contribution levels. Seeking partnerships with other organizations, groups, companies, etc that fathom a one plus one equals three, so that together, we can be a much stronger force in the implementation of solutions to these poverty problems.

I acknowledge the already cemented partnerships with Kalonzo Musyoka Foundation, Fountain of Life Church, Operation Mercy, Jazz for peace, and Meko Ma Ngwatanio (Kenya). And I extend a special note of appreciation to our local representatives in Kenya for their engagement to our mission: Winnie Nzioka, Nadia Muthama, Esther Muthama, Titus Nthiwa, Peter Ndolonga, Mary Mutua, Fred Muteti, and Hellen Ndeti. I send my personal thanks for a great year and look forward to working with all of you in 2010 as we continue to grow our organization and provide quality of life improvements to impoverished communities in Kenya.

I invite you all to join us in raising Funds and awareness for our philanthropic activities. Together, we can make a real difference.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. ~ Aristotle

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2009 A Message from our Chairperson- Charles Mutunga

As we launch this new charitable community organization in December 2007, please allow me to commend you, the KACO members, for voluntarily committing yourselves to the challenge of making a difference in improving the quality of lives of the Kenyan people. It is truly a big sacrifice on your part, for I note that this effort will be complementary to the philanthropic activities that you currently undertake on behalf of your immediate or extended family members. The new efforts and your current family support are not mutually exclusive activities, since we’re simply advancing philanthropy to the community level. I share with you the belief that the Kenyan people in the Diaspora must play a significant role in alleviating the Kenyan poverty condition. It is when we financially support these causes that we become credible proponents of change and thus facilitate quality of life improvements to emerge. I am of the school of thought that believes, sitting on the sidelines and wishing and expecting others to come to our aid is hardly a tenable recipe for a sustainable solution. We must take the initiative and commit ourselves to do the heavy lifting while seeking support from the American people for any sustainable economic development to occur.

Our contribution pledge of $1 a day is both commendable and realizable, as a minimum first step with the ultimate contribution goal of reaching up to 5% of each member’s annual income. This support, once realized, elevates the projects funding to the critical mass level ensuring successful outcome for all our undertakings. I believe we are all fully engaged and committed to this cause.

I believe that the initial projects of funding for student scholarships, and developing support for clean water, once executed successfully, will have an immediate impact on the lives of the recipients and the local community. The benefit of these two projects will be immediately realized, and visibility of their favorable outcome lends itself well for future incremental growth. Our phase two projects of College scholarship and the delivery of schoo/medical supplies, although somewhat challenging at this time, will benefit from the successful execution of phase one projects. This performance will make it possible for sponsors to help us raise enough funds to successfully launch these two additional projects. We invite interested donors to help us as we wage war against poverty in Kenya.

While acknowledging that the enormity of these problems could sometimes be overwhelming when viewed from the perspective of impacting solutions to squelch all, I believe that we can dissect them into manageable pieces and then collectively work to initiate progressive solutions that are practical and sustainable. Given that most of us are natives of Kenya, we mostly know what works, and we’re uniquely equipped to be an effective catalyst for change. Our familiarity with the areas where our projects will be located mitigates any major surprises as we move towards the implementation phase. Our success nonetheless hinges on our ability to stay committed, drawing support from the American people, and having the beneficiary communities in Kenya staying fully engaged. I hold fast to the conviction that it’s better to teach a person how to fish rather than giving him/her a fish for the day, and consequently the local community partnership is a critical component of our effort to making a difference within the framework of sustainable development. Since I can count on your continued support and commitment, the downside to our efforts is insignificant for it simply amounts to a scaling factor for the number of local communities that we will afford to support. That is our comfort zone.

I firmly believe that we owe it to our members, donors, and the local communities to keep our promises and manage our resources effectively and efficiently.

We have launched a remarkable philanthropic organization, and I invite you all to support and nurture its growth and keep alive the commitment to making a difference.

If you plant no seeds, you will reap no harvest. Nothing’s accomplished if you simply stand and wait. Everything depends on taking the initiative yourself and then following through with care and consistency. Only then will your endeavor bear fruit.” Konosuke Matsushsita, Panasonic Founder.