Milgis School educates its students in both traditional academics and conservation. As basic education is a necessity, so is conservation education in this region. According to Helen Douglas-Dufrense of Milgis Trust, “conservation efforts in northern Kenya have been a big challenge because of the low level of education. Many youth and elders still believe in some traditional methods of grass regulation or pest control like bush burning that are dangerous for the environment. It is therefore important to empower Samburu children through education to become conservation ambassadors of the days to come… It is out of this conviction that, together with the community, we started Milgis School.” Milgis School’s mission is to nurture conservation ideas in the minds of young Samburu children with the eventual goal of helping the community to understand, through their own children, the many benefits of conserving wildlife, the habitat, and the Samburu way of life.

Local artisans and laborers worked with Milgis Trust to build the school with environmentally friendly, locally available materials. There are six primary school classrooms and one nursery school classroom. 186 students are enrolled in Milgis School, though only 110 currently attend due to security concerns and the traditional way of life of nomadic pastoralists. All the classrooms have vibrant murals inscribed with simple messages such as ‘we can live together with wildlife’ and ‘take care of your environment;’ which serve as useful teaching aids for children and passersby.

180546_10150094883157368_224194252367_6035977_1229110_nMilgis School has a proven track record: the school’s students have earned exceptional exam marks and the area has seen marked reductions in unsustainable tree cutting. Unfortunately, there have been several setbacks in addition to these achievements: the solar water pump at the school broke down, the kitchen and classrooms are in need of maintenance, and the school needs two more classrooms and two more houses for teachers in order to be recognized as a full primary school by the government. Recognition as a full primary school will enable the school to conduct national examinations and make it easier to attain government funding.

The Bergums have recognized the important connection between water and education, and have decided to raise $69,012 through Lene Maria for Rent Vann (or, Lene Maria for Clean Water, in English) to fund another project. The funds will be used to repair the broken solar water pump, repair the classrooms and kitchen, and complete construction of Milgis School. Through continued innovative efforts and generous public support they have already raised over half of the necessary funds, which will be disbursed by October to fund the first part of the project.

Since 2008, Voss Foundation has funded the construction of 11 clean water access points and 10 sanitation facilities at schools across Sub-Saharan Africa. Like our projects in Masiketa, Kenya and Kalebuka, DRC, repair of the water point at Milgis School will be essential for both the daily operation of the school and construction. The solar pump will provide water for the kitchen, toilets, and sinks in the school, the teachers’ houses, and the community. It could also allow the school to grow vegetables to supplement the school meal program or support their tree-planting project. In addition, the students will have the opportunity to learn about proper water usage, management, and basic maintenance, which is essential for conservation of the watershed.

Voss Foundation representatives have visited the Milgis School and we are excited to work with Milgis Trust and the Bergums to realize this project. We are overjoyed to be able to employ our clean water project to empower a generation of conservation ambassadors in Samburu children through the ripple effect. We are so grateful to the Bergum family and all the Lene Maria for Rent Vann supporters, and look forward to providing everyone with updates as the project progresses.

When the Bergum family traveled to Masiketa in Samburuland, Kenya last February to attend the opening ceremony of their first water project in memory of Lene Maria Bergum, they learned aboutthe impact that running water had on the local primary school from David, the headmaster. They also learned about Milgis School, a primary school started seven years ago as a joint initiative between the community and Milgis Trust, in Ilgwe Eldome: another school in need of access to clean water.