Students Raising Funds for Kenyan School

March 23, 2009 - News Release

A dozen University of Guelph students will travel to rural Kenya this fall to work on a school that provides education to AIDS orphans and destitute children. They will raise money and provide the labour to help build and furnish a classroom at the Bukati Primary School, which was “adopted” by Prof. Cate Dewey, chair of the Department of Population Medicine.

The students, in collaboration with Guelph Campus Ministry, are holding a dinner and silent auction March 28 to raise money for the initiative. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Rockmosa Community Centre in Rockwood. Tickets are $50 ($35 for students) and are available at the University Centre Info Desk and McNally House. All proceeds will go towards the costs of labour and building supplies, not the students’ travel expenses.

The students, along with Jamie VanderBerg, a member of U of G’s Multi-Faith Resource Team, will spend a month in the Busia district of Kenya. They’ll live with host families in the village of Butula and work alongside builders and tradespeople on the Bukati School.

"I feel very fortunate to be a part of an initiative to enrich the lives of two communities, those of Guelph and Butula," said Jared Wohlgemut, a third-year biological sciences student who is going back to Kenya for a second time. "This venture carries much more importance for the group than just building classroom facilities."

He said living with a host family will allow him to immerse himself in Kenyan life. "I'm personally pumped to simply spend time in their presence. I learned so much about how we are connected based on our common humanity, although our perspectives and histories may differ drastically."

The people of Busia are primarily subsistence farmers. With half the population struggling to survive on less than 50 cents a day, they are among the poorest of the poor. It's also a society reeling from HIV/AIDS infection rates that are among the highest in Africa.

Dewey has been raising money to support the Bukati Primary School since her first research trip to Kenya in 2006. The school had no electricity and meagre resources and was serving about 1,500 families. About 250 of its 700 students have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and many more orphans don't go to school because their adoptive families can't afford school uniforms or even basic supplies such as pencils.

Dewey has been supporting the school in many ways since then, helping to fund a school lunch program, buying school supplies, paying tuition for some of the children, buying livestock and land, and teaching sustainable farming practices to help improve quality of life. She also established a formal charity called Children of Bukati and has raised more than $150,000.

Jennifer McIntyre, a fourth-year international development major, said she’s thrilled to be involved. "Children of Bukati is an amazing organization that recognizes the importance of working in partnership with a community."

She added that she and the other students going to Kenya don't look at the trip as "helping" or "offering expertise" to the community. "We're fundraising to help extend the primary school because the ability to do that is something we’ve been blessed with as university students here in Canada. But we’re also very aware that our experience in Butula is one we will gain a lot from. It will be a time of sharing and reciprocal learning and relationships."

More information about Children of Bukati is available online.

For media questions, contact U of G Communications and Public Affairs Lori Bona Hunt at Ext. 53338,, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982 or

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