Sagamore and Rotary's Work in Kenya

Carole Kariuki Kariuki joins ISOKO as the CEO of Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), a business consortium seeking to create an enabling business environment in Kenya and East Africa.

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 America’s Heartland, Africa Meets Indiana

In June 2006, the Rotary Clubs of Indianapolis and Indianapolis Northeast were joined by the Langata Rotary Club on a visit to Kenya. These visits took place as a means of understanding more about the AMPATH Program, CURA, and other similar programs that could benefit by Rotary support. Additionally, they facilitated relationship building among fellow Rotarians from Eldoret, Nairobi and Langata. The Rotary Clubs of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Northeast and Savanna La Mar, Jamaica took a similar trip to Kenya a year ago with these same objectives. The primary purpose of this most recent visit was to further Rotary engagement in Kenya, specifically with Eldoret.

Masai Mara

The first part of the journey focused on rest, bonding and experiencing the famous Kenya wildlife or “Safari.” The Mara is a 45-minute flight from Nairobi. After two days there, the team took off for Eldoret on a road trip through rural Kenya, where this country’s largest population resides. Kenya has an area comparable to the State of Texas. Its topography is strikingly diverse; within 45 minutes, one can fly from Nairobi to the beach, the lake basin, the savanna, the highlands or the desert.


When they arrived in Eldoret, the team attended a dinner hosted by the local Rotarians. The Eldoret Rotary has partnered on matching grants with other Rotary clubs for community initiatives, and has drawn strength from its collaborations with other organizations, including the Lions Club of Eldoret. Despite the club’s relatively small size, its members have been effective in many community projects. The team visited two of those projects: Kip Kino’s orphanage and a school for mentally challenged children. Later that day, the team visited AMPATH — as well as other related programs, which included the Neema children’s home. The home has received support from both local and international partners. The AMPATH program supplies medication for the HIV/AIDS infected children in the home. The home is in the process of expanding, and plans to invite one of the Eldoret Rotarians to be on the board. This will further facilitate a strong relationship among AMPATH, the Eldoret Rotary and other partners, such as the Indiana Rotary Clubs.

Before the team visited the AMPATH, the lead physician, Dr. Joe Mamlin, gave a brief history of AMPATH in Eldoret, and encouraged the team to focus on one component of the program for maximum impact. He discussed some of the unique qualities found in the components of the program, one of which is its academic focus. Many universities, including Indiana University, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Duke, Purdue and Toronto partner with Moi University and the Moi Referral Hospital, based in Eldoret. These partnerships are formed as a means of providing optimal care for patients, and providing opportunities for HIV/AIDS education and research. One teaching component focuses on providing ongoing training to Kenya government employees as a means of sustaining the program.

A second important component is the food program. Eldoret is the “food basket” of Kenya, and yet 20% of the population goes without food. Program farms, which produce food for the patients, are supplemented by both World Food Program and USAID. They are seeking to increase their food capacity to 32,000 tons.

A third important component is the orphan program. There are about 2 million orphans in the country right now. AMPATH is seeking to continue developing the NEEMA/GRACE Children’s Home, which serves abandoned, HIV-positive children.

The fourth component is business. AMPATH is focused on rebuilding lives – not “chemical” numbers. The focus for US donor funds has been on Africa. However, as the spread of HIV moves east, so, too, will the funding, and the support for African-based programs will decrease. Thus there is a dire need to address and alleviate the poverty in Kenya. The Imani Workshop is one project which helps those with HIV/AIDS to be selfsufficient. Dr. Mamlin emphasized that the entire community — as well as those directly affected by the disease — need help, in order to truly alleviate the problem of poverty. He encouraged Rotary to focus on this area. Since Rotary is about business, the appropriate place to engage would be in the creation of business through such a micro-enterprise. The Gatonye Farm, which is part of the program, emits carbon dioxide in its liquid form. This provides a potential opportunity for a project that can be a turned into a business venture. The gas can be used to decaffeinate coffee and in the tea extract Artemisia (used to make malaria medication). Further, it can be used in processing pyrethrum, which is used to make insecticides. Another viable project is the Imani Workshop, as well as other related businesses operating under the Family Preservation Initiative (FPI) Program. It seemed that the Indianapolis Rotary’s main focus will be here.


The Langata Club has been awarded a 3H grant for a water project in Kibera — one of the largest slums in Africa. For a long time, the Langata Club met for fellowship close to the slum, and has been involved in various projects in the slum. This will be a good club to learn from as the project gets under way. Alternatively, Langata has a wealth of experience in community projects. It boasts a unique racial diversity among its members not found in other clubs around the country.

One of the programs that the big Nairobi Club has been involved in is CURA. This was spearheaded by Evelyn and Mike Eldon, both former presidents of the club. On visiting CURA programs, the team learned more about its background. CURA is a good place for Rotary community involvement. The community core activity is subsistence farming, and the church is the focal point of community involvement. It has a population of about 6000 people. One out of four people is unemployed.

As a starting point, the community came together and did a SWOT analysis. Out of this, the community collaborated with the Rotary on several projects, including providing computers, desks and chairs for a school that was started in 1930, providing drugs and equipment for a clinic launched in early 2006, collaborating with Africa Harvest on banana farming, developing a children’s home, which currently houses 20 children, and liquid soap making. The community is losing many young people who leave for Nairobi in search of job opportunities. Starting micro-enterprises among other business initiatives will provide the initiative needed to keep young people in the community.

CURA’s success can be attributed to several things, including effective assistance from local and international Rotary Clubs, collaboration of ideas with the community, an acknowledgment of the need for development, church leadership, and involvement by Canada World Youth Program volunteers, organized by DEPOT. Planning is done with the community, where leadership is implemented. One objective behind the Eldons’ involvement is to make create a model village.


The last part of the trip was spent debriefing in Mombasa — yet another place to experience Kenya’s diversity in both culture and climate. One of the places visited here was Bombolulu. This is a project of the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya. Over 150 persons with disabilities are employed in handcraft production and related business skills. The purpose of this visit was to envision how Imani Workshop in Eldoret could develop, if given focus and enough funding. The week had been full of activities which helped the team learn more about the Kenyan-based initiatives on alleviating poverty and addressing other problems facing different communities.

The Way Forward

AMPATH and CURA have much to learn from one another. One example is how to utilize donor funds to transform a community, while allowing the community to spearhead the projects and decide what will impact most. These two programs connect most, and could collaborate quite effectively in poverty alleviation. Micro-enterprise was a common denominator identified as a major breakthrough for wealth and employment creation. KEPSA is the apex body of the private sector, and its mission is to engage government in policy formulation and implementation for the creation of wealth, and as a means of maximizing Kenya’s competitiveness. KEPSA promotes and values partnerships as a concept of economic development. Thus, public-private partnerships are integral to the program at KEPSA. A key initiative at KEPSA involves mainstreaming the micro and small enterprises into the economy. Thus, KEPSA is in the process of lobbying the government into establishing and supporting micro-enterprise programs. Seventeen percent (17% ) of the GDP is contributed by 70% of the population that operates in this sector. This sets a stage where KEPSA, AMPATH/FPI/Imani and CURA can work together in this area. Both CURA and AMPATH would be model programs that can be replicated in the rest of the country.

As a starting point, the team met with Nairobi Rotary to discuss the way forward. As a result, several suggestions were proposed and some were endorsed by the end of the evening:

  1. The Indiana Rotary Clubs suggested that Imani Workshop look at the feasibility of making clay safe water drinking vessels. These will be used by HIV positive mothers to feed their babies formula with clean water.
  2. The groups agreed to work on a raffle that will raise funds for both AMPATH and CURA micro-enterprise programs and other programs. The raffle will be based in Indiana, and the prize will be a safari trip. The proposal has already been passed by the executive board of the Indianapolis Club. Out for the funds to be collected, $30,000 will be dedicated to CURA through the Nairobi Rotary Club. The logistics of the raffle on the US side will be handled by the Indiana clubs. The logistics of the trip on the Kenyan side will be handled by KEPSA and Nairobi Rotary Club. For the programs, there is a need to identify community-viable and great-impact micro-enterprise projects, as well as effective usage of funds. Of note, the Sagamore Institute is well versed in this area.
  3. Sagamore and KEPSA are in the process of conducting a community assessment study of Eldoret Community. With Rotary focus narrowing to micro-enterprise as a way of poverty alleviation, the study could focus on this and extend to CURA for the same. KEPSA and Sagamore will play the role to help sustainability of AMPATH in the following ways: (1) KEPSA would advocate for supportive policies within the Ministry of Health and other relevant ministries, given the cross-cutting nature of HIV. Sagamore would advocate on the US side; (2) They would facilitate establishment of closer linkages with the District Government in Eldoret, as well as the local government and the community, to support the program through the Constituency Development Fund.
  4. The Indiana, Nairobi and Eldoret Rotary Clubs will partner in many small matching grants in preparation for the 3H grant. Lessons on the 3H grant will be drawn from the Langata Rotary Club.


In conclusion, Rotary has much to offer in the success of partnerships as a model of development. We have already seen how partnerships work where trust and lasting relationships have been established. Many programs have failed completely or have not fully realized the desired impact of their objectives. This is attributed to an inadequate amount of time invested in developing relationships and engaging the community in planning and implementation. Indiana and Nairobi Rotary involvement in Eldoret, with both AMPATH and Eldoret Rotary, will bridge the gap and strengthen the Eldoret Club for effective engagement in AMPATH programs. Rotary transcends color and economic boundaries. 

The Eldoret community is very vibrant, and commands a large business community whose resources have not been fully tapped into. Such resources have great potential to serve the community. The Eldoret Rotary will help in mobilizing these resources, and will serve as a model for other communities comprised of indigenous populations, settlers and foreigners. By working together, and through partnerships, communities such as Eldoret can and do experience positive transformations.


Research Fellow Carole Kariuki drafted this report from her offices in Kenya. Gregg Keesling of the Rotary Club of Indianapolis also contributed to this report, which was originally published by the Rotary Club of Indianapolis.

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