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Help for His Homeland

Colby student-athlete brings new classroom and water projects to his Kenyan village

Benard Kibet at his native village in Kenya. Submitted by Milton Guillen

Home may be 7,000 miles away for Benard Kibet, but it’s always in his heart.

Kibet, who participates in cross country and track and field at Colby, is from a rural Kenyan village northwest of Nairobi. Since fall 2014, Kibet has attended the private liberal arts college in central Maine and looked for ways to help others in his village find similar success.

In Kenya, Kibet, his mother and his three siblings lived in the home of his grandfather, a farmer who grew crops and raised sheep and cattle. Kibet excelled at school, performed well on his national exams and even attended a private boarding school in high school on scholarship. He was accepted as part of the college class of 2018 by KenSAP, the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project, which has a stated mission of helping “gifted, needy Kenyan students gain admission to the most selective universities in the United States and Canada” while providing full, need-based financial aid.

Kibet personifies the program’s goal of recruiting students committed to advancing Kenya’s development. He has given back to the villagers who have supported him with two successful projects: a new kindergarten classroom and a project to bring water closer to the village’s schools, hospitals, churches and homes. Kibet’s initiatives each received $10,000 in funding through the Davis Projects for Peace program, which helps fund grass-roots projects designed by undergraduates to build peace.

“I see the people in my village as the most important people because they’ve helped me a lot when I really needed it the most,” he says. “Having an opportunity to do something that helps them is very dear to me.”

Kibet’s first proposal, to build a new classroom for kindergarten children in his village, was selected as a 2015 project. He called his project Msingi Thabiti, meaning Strong Foundation. During the summer after his freshman year, Kibet returned to Kenya. Speaking in his native Kalenjine, Kibet worked with community members to accrue the sand, stones, iron sheet, cement and other materials needed for the construction process, which was not without challenges. By purchasing 100 plastic chairs that could be rented out to the community for income, the school could buy materials for the classroom, and the project would be sustained, Kibet says.

“My definition of peace was to give a good environment for the kids to be able to study, to have the proper introduction to education,” he says. 

The objective of last year’s Peace Through Water project was to bring the water from a nearby river closer to villagers. Kibet vividly remembers how he and other students, many barefoot, had to bring 5 liters of water to their grammar school or use school time to bring water from the river back to school. Now a hydraulic ram pump and three plastic tanks supplied by a local hospital have helped fill the void of running water, thanks to Kibet’s efforts, members of the community and Davis Projects for Peace grant money.

“People were really so happy and pumped about it. They received it with a lot of enthusiasm,” says Kibet, who is hopeful the government can expand its reach at some point. “It solved one of the big challenges that people have been facing.”

A Colby Magazine short film, “Maji,” documents Kibet’s efforts. Now the economics and math major is making a positive impact in another East African nation, spending two months in Uganda this summer working as a data analyst.

More acts of kindness

Springtime in Peru: Wingate senior soccer student-athlete Kaitlyn Brunworth traveled to Lima, Peru, for spring break as president of the school’s chapter of the organization Medicine, Education and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere, or MEDLIFE. She assisted with health screening clinics and helped build a staircase in one of the neighborhoods.

Kindergarten Lesson: For three years, the Cal Lutheran men’s and women’s water polo teams have been inspiring kindergarten students at Ceres Elementary in Whittier, California, to work hard so they can attend college. In addition to receiving care packages and visits from the athletes, the “kinder buddies” took a college-day field trip to campus this spring. Coach Craig Rond says his teams have gained much from the experience.

Special Team Chemistry: The SUNY New Paltz Student-Athlete Advisory Committee hosted a series of Special Olympics-affiliated basketball games in April. Teams consisted of SUNY New Paltz student-athletes and Special Olympics athletes and committee associates. Student-athletes practiced with the teams leading up to the event.

A Lifesaving Pitch: Illinois-Chicago pitcher Karissa Frazier has been working with Gift of Life as a campus ambassador, recruiting potential bone marrow donors for its #swab2save campaign. Frazier has swabbed more than 600 people who became fully registered donors with the worldwide bone marrow registry.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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