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Ferhad Junior and I had a bit of a fight over who got to interview sisters Liza Cronhelm and Amy Cronhelm.

He wanted to interview them for My Job Totally Rocks because they work on cruise ships around the world selling their designer jewellery and accessories collection. By doing this they help support a New Zealand registered charity doing good work in Kenya. He agreed to let me interview them for Good Humans Doing Stuff instead. Thank you, my noble young cousin.

Liza and Amy are project managers for The Michael Cronhelm Foundation Trust (The MCFT) that supports children and education in Northern Kenya.

Volunteers play a big part in the success of the Michael Cronhelm Foundation Trust and come to Kenya from as far away as New Zealand and the USA.

Can you tell us about the good work you do?

The MCFT assists the Daasanach people in and around the village of Ileret on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya by building educational facilities. In 2010 we travelled to Ileret with volunteers to oversee the construction of the Michael Cronhelm Foundation Library. The ongoing supply of books and assistance for this community and other Northern Kenyan indigenous peoples will be a lifelong commitment. In 2012 we opened the MCFT Nursery School and in 2014 have plans under way to expand the El Bokoch School classroom by classroom.

How long have you been doing this for?

Since 2004 when we started in a small way by providing school materials on our first visit to Kenya.

(L-R) One of the basic volunteer camps on the way to Ileret; the four corners of the library marked out; early stages of the building project. The photo of the campsite shows one of the main reasons we donated money to the MCFT ...   every single cent   donated is spent on Illeret, not on expensive hotels, fast cars, and HUGE salaries for the directors, like   some charities   we could mention! This foundation is run by a small dedicated team of volunteers who tirelessly give of their time to managing The Michael Cronhelm Foundation Trust.

What motivated you to start doing such wonderful work, in such an out-of-the way place?

Our brother, Michael Cronhelm, worked in Kenya from 2000-2004 with Dr. JWK Harris on the Koobi Fora Field School where he was the head mechanic and head of logistics. Very sadly, in 2004 Michael lost his life to cancer. That year our family travelled to Kenya to meet his wonderful friends and visit the places he had been to and talked so often of. The Kenyans truly loved Michael - his strength of character and his openness.  

As a memorial to Michael, we formed The Michael Cronhelm Foundation Trust that supports children and education in Northern Kenya. We felt he would be very proud of this and in turn we have given a life long commitment to continue building educational facilities that support learning and potential whilst preserving the cultures of indigenous peoples. With his huge smile and love of life, Michael was an inspiration to everyone he met. An incredibly capable, honest and loving person.

        The MCFT Library at various stages of construction.

What is the best thing about what you do?

The thank you letters we get from the Daasanach children and knowing that The Michael Cronhelm Foundation Trust has such a huge positive impact on their lives. Here are some excerpts from their letter. ( Please note the grammar and spelling are as the children and parents have written their letters.)

Thank you very much,I improved My English through this library.After reading story books both in Kisswhali and English. I want to be come a Doctor and based in Ileret Health Center.Thank you very much again.
- Akkoy Norro Std 3

You are encouraging or attracting many students who are drop out of school. Now they are come back to school because that library which good for all people living Ileret desert area.
- Efrem Achali Liesho’o

MCFT has inspired me to teach others that is why I am teaching voluntarily.
- Joshua Anete Laur

I read many high school books which are available by then. It later improved my grade during my final National examination and I got mean grade of B-,which can automatically take me to university.
- Henry Yierat Lorus

The library has also helped the community at large because in the past more people became idol in that they engaged in some activites which are not healthy to our community like stealing, kidnapping and other things that are not helpful to the community and to our surprise we can now see that most people spend their time in the library reading novels and other story books, thus those acts which are disturbing people in the past stopped at once.
- Abrose Sialem Moroto

You can read some more letters on the MCFT website, or download them as a pdf file.

(L-R) Building continues; gathering water from Lake Turkana in buckets and then lifting onto the roof of the trukc for trasnportation back to the village - everything is done by hand and is labour intensive; building continues

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about what you do as good humans?

As this foundation was created in honour of Michael through his love of the Kenyan people we wanted to retrace his journey to this remote Northern Frontier area and to find out what the elders and parents deemed would be the best way to assist their young people. Rather than just giving a cash donation, which can end up anywhere, and get spent on anything, we knew that we would have to travel to Kenya and oversee the work. It was tough and challenging but incredibly rewarding to see the measurable results of what has been achieved so far.

In August 2009 we went to Kenya to purchase and transport the building materials from Marsabit to Illeret. We worked with the head fundi (stone mason) along with young Daasanach who had previously assisted other NGOs in the area doing good work. During our time in the village we prepared the building site making sure all the materials were in place for our return early in 2010.

For the February 2010 build we went with a group of seven volunteers from New Zealand and the USA. We flew into Nairobi, and from there it is a three or four day very bumpy and slow journey by 4WD to get to the village. Ileret is a tough environment to live in, with no running water or electricity, and everything is done by hand and labour intensive. Some Daasanach tribesmen from an outlying village gathered the small stones by hand to mix with the cement, and the water was transported in 20 litre containers from Lake Turkana, five kilometres away.

The library was completed and opened in September 2010, and has become the heart of academic learning of the village with both teachers and students accessing the ever expanding collection of books.

(L-R) Giraffes on the road north - GIRAFFES!!!

How can people get involved and support what you do?

Donations can be made through the Michael Cronhelm Foundation Trust website www.michaelcronhelmfoundation.org. The MCFT is registered as a charitable entity under the New Zealand Charities Act 2005 so receipts are issued along with the opportunity to have your name listed on a benefactors list.

FOUNDATION FUNDRAISING DINNERS: This is a great way for a small group to fundraise. Get a few friends together and host a “Pizza Night” .This makes it easy and works like this: One person agrees to be the host and buys the Pizzas and drinks – the friends group join together to watch and learn of The MCFT's work through a short mini-documentary and donate the price of what they could afford or would spend for a restaurant meal to the foundation. Everyone has fun and there is great satisfaction knowing what you have raised will go directly to such a great cause.

NOTE FROM REBEK: In March 2014 Little Peppe & Friends donated $USD550.00 to the MCFT. The money will be used for materials for the MCFT Nursey School and the El Bokoch Primary School. Keep a look out as we will post photos once the books and materials have been delivered to Ileret.

Volunteers pay their own expenses and are an integral part of The MCFT.    
(L-R) The awesome team of volunteers with some of the Daasanach parents; the MCFT Library; children and elders outside the MCFT Library the day it was opened with a spectacular ceremony of dancing and singing - the boys in pink and the girls in blue!

Are there any websites you think humans should check out?

The Michael Cronhelm Foundation Trust

Wild Jewels (one of the major supporters of the foundation)
Wild Jewels is a stunning range of designer sterling silver, paua, mother of pearl, freshwater pearl, and semi precious stone jewellery, and accessories handcrafted using nature's finest creations. 

Wild Jewels on Facebook

Comment from Rebek: check out the Library Project Update page on the MCFT website for lots more great photos that Liza and Amy took in Kenya.

Save the People Award

Amy Cronhelm and Liza Cronhelm earn a Save the People Award from Little Peppe & Friends for the amazing work they do in Kenya.

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