THE journey of this school is filled with immense dedication from both the American supporters and Tanzanian villagers who are always guided by the belief that:
"We can do no great things, but only small things with great love."
In 2006, Kellie and her daughter, Heather, traveled to Tanzania to go on safari, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, and volunteer at a convent in Sanya Juu. While there, they asked the Sisters for any other projects they could help with. The Mother Superior at the time, Sister Dona, told them: "There is a Maasai man named Gabriel who keeps coming to us asking to help his village with a school."
Kellie and Heather visited Gabriel's village with Sister Dona.
Upon their arrival, they were greeted by 150 members of the Maasai tribe. A few men stood before Kellie and offered their most prized possession, their land, to her if she vowed to build a school for their children.
As Kellie looked around at the many children who were at home during school hours, she and her daughter knew what they must do. They discovered that their real purpose of their trip to Africa was to give the children of that village hope for the future.
Ten days later, they returned to the village and designed the school on the back of an envelope. When they left Tanzania just two days later, concrete blocks and sand were already in place to begin construction.
They discovered that their real purpose was to give the children of that village hope for the future.
THE O'BRIEN SCHOOL OPENED ITS DOORS TO THE FIRST THREE CLASSROOMS TO 150 MAASAI CHILDREN.
By the time Kellie traveled back to Tanzania in 2007, the first school building was standing in the middle of Maasailand where only goats and cows had roamed before.
The school started with just three classrooms, a storage room, and an office.
After installing desks, purchasing school supplies, and simply figuring out all the logistics, the first children were invited into the school as O'Brien School students.
a 4,000 book library was opened.
The school went through a major growth phase. We built three more classrooms, a 4,000 book library, a women's vocational center, and a clinic.
Generous donors filled a 40' container that was shipped to Sanya Station, Tanzania too. A very special recognition goes to: Notre Dame Grade School, Monroe School, Hinsdale residents.
After the new wing of the school opened, our total student body totaled 300.
Due to the severe lack of safe drinking water in the village, we dug a well to provide enough clean water for drinking and better hygiene. We also brought electricity to the school and additional water pumps to irrigate a vegetable garden.
We taught women, particularly widows who needed additional help, new skills in tailoring and jewelry making.
We also hosted visiting doctors and nurses on a regular basis. They treated our students and villagers or referred them to local health facilities for additional care, if necessary.
Finally, we received another 40' container full of supplies, nutritious food supplements, and essential items.
Due to the Severe lack of safe water, we built a well.
three of Our students scored in the top ten in the district on the level four national examinations.
The school grew again! We gained four new classrooms and a new office space. We also expanded our gardens, and built a large water tower to store extra clean water.
Most importantly, the school registered with the Tanzanian Ministry of Education on June 21, marking that day as "O'Brien Day" for years to come.
This year, student enrollment reached over 320 students and our first Level 4 students took the Tanzanian National Examination.
Three of our students scored in the Top 10 in the entire Hai District of the Kilimanjaro region.
Drought plagued the village, destroying any hope for crops and food. Another container was sent and received. In addition to other goods, it was full of enough food for 100,000 meals. For breakfast, the students ate Quaker Oats oatmeal. For lunch, they often had fortified rice meals from
Feed My Starving Children. Due to a generous donation of two high-quality solar ovens, donated by local Illinois Rotary Clubs, we were able to cook healthy meals for our students.
To protect their feet, we distributed 2,000 donated shoes and other supplies, with special thanks to Soles for Africa and Monroe School.
The students also received new uniforms, and the teachers were thrilled for the gift of transportation after we purchased a 13-passenger van.
a Drought plagued the village so we brought nutritious food to prevent malnutrition.
playgrounds, dining halls, and generators, oh my!
In addition to educating nearly 400 students, managing staff of nearly 30, and dealing with all other hardships that come up in Maasailand, the school's projects are endless.
The women's center projects expanded, particularly the jewelry projects, from the funds raised from the school's first Mt. Kilimanjaro Charity Climb. We even had the top student, Jacob, climb with us!
We received and installed a gorgeous, high-quality, and super fun playground set from kids around the world and Hands and Hearts International.
Due to a generous partnership with the Astellas Foundation, we also built a beautiful dining and meeting hall, protecting our students and villagers from the harsh sun while they eat, attend meetings, and perform plays and musical performances during extracurriculars.
We paved much of our grounds to prevent dust from swirling around the campus and replaced windows to keep it from entering into the classroom too. A generator became necessary because of the increasingly frequent power cuts and issues across the country. And a 4-wheel drive vehicle eased many severe transportation challenges, both during the dry, dusty season and the rainy, flooding seasons.
Finally, our 18 teachers managed to educate more all-star students. We often scored in the top of the district and never had a failing student during examinations.
And in 2014,
2012 - 2014
We graduated the first seventh grade class!
We completed our master plan with a final construction project with additional classrooms, a new health clinic, and a teachers' room.
We reached student capacity at 420 students and celebrated graduating classes each year.
There have been more droughts and poor agricultural conditions, prompting us to send two additional containers full of shoes, school supplies, desks, and food for over a year. For a healthy and fun outlet for the students, Mike Wiggins's Hinsdale Central boys soccer team donated over 300 soccer balls to the school!
To address both operational and financial sustainability of the school, we also began three women's economic empowerment projects: clean-cookstoves, due to a partnership with OBSM, Christ Church of Oakbrook, and Maasai Stoves and Solar; a Maasai-inspired guesthouse program; and a set of small businesses. They will run a general kiosk store, a hair salon, and a maize grinding business.
We remain eternally grateful for all who have contributed to these containers and operational costs of the school, especially Hinsdale Junior Woman's Club, Women's Club of Oakbrook, WeatherTech and Dr. Michael Klapecki.