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This fundraiser ended on 09/22/10

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We are running two half marathons to raise money to send Benson to the US international university in Nairobi, Kenya. He will be persuing his degree in International Development and hopes to use his skills to help his fellow tribesman in Turkana.

Last winter i was given an awesome oppurtunity to visit the country of Kenya along with my friend Zach to meet up with his father, Ed Colina (founder of Journey: The Ed Colina Foundation) as well as his friends around nairobi and many additional villages in Kenya. We spent a partiocular amount of time with Ed's friend Benson and i learned bits and pieces of his background and his many dreams. He wished to further his education to stay in Kenya and work with conflict in the northern part of the country where his family lived and he had grown up.

When i learned that Benson had been accepted into the International Development program at the University i thought about it and spoke with some of my friends and family and we have decided to do what we can to take some of the financial burden from Benson's life. Living currently in KIbera and having a meager upbringing Benson never has asked for this help, but we feel that he is meant to do great things and we would like to support him in his education and his future life. We are running two half marathons to raise money to send Benson to the US international university in Nairobi, Kenya. He will be persuing his degree in International Development and hopes to use his skills to help his fellow tribesman in Turkana. The first race is on july 17th and the second follows on aug 22.

 Following this description are the words that Benson has sent to me describing what he plans to do and why. PLEASE READ!!

I can remember as a young boy, walking along the banks of the Tarach River looking for firewood in my homeland of Turkana, in the Kenyan north. Green trees, adequate amounts of water, animals and birds were plentiful. In 1989, when I was 8 years old, there came an influx of refugees in my town of Kakuma and huge camps began to dot the banks of the Tarach River. The numbers soon grew to almost 95,000 refugees. Somalis, Sudanese, Congolese, Ethiopians, Ugandans and others came and had an affect not only on the environment but also on the life of my Turkana community. I recently returned to Kakuma to find the land further deforested, the river a dry bed due to a three-year drought, and animals dying for lack of food and water. The human toll was far worse. Famine, diseases, HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking, gun-running on the Sudan, Ugandan and Ethiopian borders, have had a profound affect on the Turkana community, indeed on my own sister, brother and mother who remain there, living in a simple dwelling near the banks of the dry river bed. Of all my family members, I have been the most fortunate, having been rescued from the streets by a religious order of nuns; I was fed, clothed and educated for reasons that are still a mystery to me. And so my fascination, my interest, my mission was born to aid not only my own homeland of Northern Kenya, but also those refugees from various African countries, many of whom became my friends. I have been involved in a number of work experiences and internships, (HIV/AIDS testing and counselling, collecting UN refugee data, healthcare, etc.) that my efforts have been temporary solutions and, although of significant value, have not dealt with the systemic and underlying struggles of a developing country. And so my journey now leads me to seek further education in order to better combat the many problems in my country.

My background, as I stated, is as a member of the Turkana tribe, a community of pastoral nomads living in the arid and semi-arid zone of the Northern Kenya that is Turkana district. I speak of my tribe because, sad to say, today tribalism rules the Kenyan struggle and Turkana is one of the most marginalised groups in Kenya. In addition to the refugee populations referred to above, my country continues to be plagued with other serious challenges. Food related issues such as hunger, food security, climate change and drought have led to additional problems of increased poverty, armed conflicts and migratory shifting. Gender-based inequalities, illiteracy, low education levels and unemployment are daily challenges. In addition, healthcare issues such as HIV/AIDS and epidemic diseases, notably tuberculosis and malaria are ongoing problems that hinder progress in African society. They exact a huge toll in human suffering and lost opportunities for development. The Kenya government’s constitutional duty to take firm action to bring about improvements in these challenging conditions continues to be negligible.

Based on these concerns and my desire to bring about change in my country, I would like to pursue a bachelors degree in International Development. I hope to one day be a part of an organization which strives to bring about systemic change and improvement in the plight of displaced persons and refugees. Perhaps I will join an NGO, a research institute or an international development organization that find solutions to some of the major challenges facing the world and in particular the African continent. With proper training, my graduate studies may also help me to advance research and write case studies on the Turkana region’s priorities in the field of development. I firmly believe that by working in partnership with my government, local agencies and research institutions in Kenya; my studies will enhance the development prospects of the Turkana community.

-Kristin Harmeyer and Benson Lotianga

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