The Pride of Kenya: Fixing the Future

  • Photograph by Stevie Mann
    Photograph by Stevie Mann
<< Back to Robb Report, October 2007
  • Sheila Gibson Stoodley

A student is nodding off in his morning

math class, a common occurrence among the 266 day students who attend

Olkiramatian Arid Zone School, a public elementary school in Kenya. The boy

cannot be older than 6, and he rose early to walk several miles to school. Odds

are he left home without eating breakfast and did not bring lunch; his parents

probably cannot afford to feed him three times a day, and Olkiramatian’s meal

budget covers its boarding students only.

Nike Kondakis, the Lorika Foundation’s head of projects, says

that the sleepy student illustrates the many needs of the 52,000 people who live

in the areas bordering Oldonyo Laro. Lorika is trying to address some of those

needs by sponsoring 26 Olkiramatian boarders, and, if feasible, it will begin

offering a bus program and a lunch program to the commuter students. "We want to

attract students," says Kondakis, "but we also want to improve their ability to


Lorika is most active with schools, but it began offering

instructional classes for aspiring business owners in April, and soon it will

launch a microlending program. Locals seeking to establish or expand a business

need tiny amounts of capital to meet their goals, but no banks are equipped to

lend to them. The Lorika program will loan sums ranging from $15 to $300, and

the borrower’s creditworthiness will be entwined with that of a group of six or

seven of his peers; if one member defaults, the whole group will forfeit the

ability to apply for future loans.

The foundation’s ultimate goal is to help these communities

mature and cease to need Lorika’s assistance. "We need to build capacity, not structures," Kondakis says. "We’ll teach them to own a business so that in five

or 10 years’ time, they can build their own health clinics."

Lorika Foundation

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