MHP Builds Kenyan School

A School in Kenya

Cuppa Change’s first project began in 2005.  It was inspired by Don Jennison, a good friend of Claire Ross Dunn’s family.  Don Jennison worked tirelessly on issues of social justice, public education, public health care and the betterment of his neighbourhood.  He was an active member of World 19, the Council of Canadians, Toronto and Ontario Health Coalitions, Council on Monetary and Economic Reform, The Alliance of Seniors to Protect Canada’s Social Programs, Swansea Area Ratepayers Association, and the Swansea Historical Society, among others.

Claire met Don at Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church (MHP).  They became friends and discovered that they had many interests in common: fair trade (Don was the one who introduced fair trade coffee to MHP’s fellowship hour, believing the use of fair trade coffee to be ethically on track with what the church stood for), The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Africa, the importance of education and its ability to combat poverty.  Don was a retired teacher and principal, and these things were of interest to him.  Don and Claire discussed local and global issues that worried them, and Don’s question was always, “well, whatcha gonna do about it?”

So when Don died in 2005, this was the question foremost on Claire’s mind.  She wanted some way to honour Don’s memory, and the very question he’d asked Claire – whatcha gonna do about it? – galvanized her to find a project and roll it out in his name.  So Claire decided to fundraise to build a school, in Africa, by selling fair trade coffee.  In this way, she could honour at least three of Don’s passions.

With the help of Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church, Claire coordinated Don’s Schoolhouse Project.  It was officially launched on November 30, 2005.  We had two project partners: our coffee supplier and our school builder.

We chose Toronto’s Alternative Grounds and Roastery as our fair trade coffee supplier.  It was launched in 1995.  Pre-dating fair-trade certification, Alternative Grounds came out of a concern for social justice, locally as well as globally.  Sixteen years later, they continue to offer custom roasted certified fair-trade and organic coffee to their clientele, through their café at 333 Roncesvalles Ave in Toronto, as well as to their wholesale, mail-order and fundraising supporters.  They are proud owner/members of Cooperative Coffees through which they promote direct trade, transparency, on-going dialogue and support, long-term relationships and best practices with their producer partners around the world.  Alternative Grounds delivers the coffee right to Cuppa Change, wherever we are running a fundraising project.

Free the Children (FTC) is our school-building organization.  Founded in 1995 by Craig Kielburger when he was 12 years old, FTC is the largest network of children helping children in the world.  It has built and furnished over 650 schools around the world, providing education to 55,000 children daily; distributed more than 207,000 school and health kits to children in need; shipped $15 million (US) worth of medical supplies, and built primary health care centres.  Ninety cents of every dollar donated to FTC gets sent to programs that benefit children.  FTC received the 2006 World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child (also known as the Children’s Nobel Prize), the Human Rights Award from the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO), the Roosevelt Freedom Medal, State of the World Forum Award, the 2007 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, and the World Economic Forum Medal.

In the first year of Don’s Schoolhouse Project, over $15,470 was raised to build a schoolhouse in the Enelerai district of a Kipsigis community in Kenya.  The Enelerai Primary School which Don’s Schoolhouse Project funded was built in Rift Valley Province, Narok South District, Kenya by FTC in August, 2006.  By February 2008, through the support of other fundraisers and the hard work of FTC, the school had grown to 10 classrooms, 1 library and teacher accommodation.  Funds raised by Don’s Schoolhouse Project also paid for a school washroom, the schoolhouse teacher’s salary for two years, a feeding program for the students, as well as Alternative Income projects and Healthcare Programs in the Enelerai district.

In the 2011 school year, 273 boys and 271 girls are enrolled at Enelerai Primary School. Enelerai is one of the few schools in the entire Mara region with a 50/50 male/female student ratio.  Subjects taught in School are Math, Science, Social Sciences, Christian Religion Education, Kiswahili, English, Physical Education and Creative Arts.  The students also enjoy athletics (marathon and relays) and ball games (soccer, volleyball, and net ball).  The school usually provides food to the students during lunch, which may be the only meal that the students receive during the day.  You can find out more about Don’s Schoolhouse and the Free the Children Enelerai project at  www.freethechildren.com/reporting/enelerai.

These photographs of the school, and of the plaque honouring Don Jennison near the school door, were presented to Joyce Jennison, Don’s widow, and the Congregation of Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church on Sunday, April 27, 2008.

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Cuppa Change and MHP supported the schoolhouse in Kenya for three years.  When the schoolhouse was up and running successfully, we decided to continue with the coffee sales in MHP’s community and rename the Don’s Schoolhouse project.  We changed the name to Don’s Coffeepot and redirected the coffee sales profits to another one of Claire and Don Jennison’s favourite causes, The Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF).  Read more about this project here.

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