A Kenyan Diaspora in Iowa makes a difference in his community


Mwalimu Karisa’s second dream is getting closer to reality.

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Karisa, 20, who spent a year in the Quad-Cities in 2012 as a foreign exchange student, first dreamed of seeing a drinking well built in his village in Kenya. About 18 months ago, that came to be.

“This well has changed everything,” he said.

Now, the freshman at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, is close to seeing his second dream come true with the construction of a medical facility in the same village of Maryango.

Thompson Family RV in Davenport received a $5,000 check Wednesday for exceptional charitable outreach from Ally Financial Inc. and RVBusiness, a trade magazine. That money will go toward completion of the medical center.

Bill Thompson, director of recreational finance for Ally Financial, and Sherman Goldenberg, publisher of RVBusiness, presented the $5,000 award.

Karisa’s dream blossomed three years ago when he came to Davenport as a foreign exchange student. He attended Davenport West High School and lived in Blue Grass with the family of Mark Thompson, president of Thompson Family RV.

Karisa said people of his village had to walk up to 30 miles to find water to survive. So, he engaged others with his dream and saw the concept become reality. He even wrote a short book, titled “Mwalimu’s Dream, Clean Water for his Village in Kenya.”

Thanks to help from Karisa’s classmates at West, Mark Thompson and his family-owned company, and other sources, the well was completed in July 2013, said Joshua Ngao, president and CEO of Fishers of Men Ministries.

Ngao, a native of Kenya, started the global ministry 20 years ago. Based in Davenport, the organization has worked with 10 villages in Kenya to build wells. Karisa’s village was one of them.

Ngao was in Maryango when the well opened.

“We have pictures of a woman who was crying,” he said. “She said, ‘Really, this was here all this time since we were born?’ It just changed that village.”

But that is only part of Karisa’s story. He then began a crusade for a medical center in his village of 12,000 people located “in the middle of nowhere” on the eastern coast of Kenya.

“People are losing their lives every day for walking very long roads to the medical facility,” Karisa said. “And children die also due to walking a long ways to medical facility.”

Many people, including children, die en route to medical help, he said.

Women ready to deliver babies often are pushed in wheelbarrows up to 30 miles to the hospital, Ngao said. He said the village chief told him that 5 percent of those mothers and/or the newborns die during trips to or from the medical center.

“But now, the medical facility in our village is 80 percent done,” Karisa said. “Now, the big thing is to get it finished.”

In addition to helping with the well, Mark Thompson said he and his company will have given at least $70,000 toward the $160,000 medical center when it is completed.

“We need about $85,000 to make it open, and then they will hand it over to the government, and it will maintain it,” he said. “Then we need to find funds to equip the facility. That is another $80,000 to $85,000.”

Wednesday’s event also was a time Karisa could say thanks to all the Thompson employees who helped make both dreams come true.

“I really, really want to thank you for all of your efforts and doing all of this,” he said.


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