The Nobelity Blog is a running series of reports on the film and education work of The Nobelity Project (, including reports from our partner project Mahiga Hope High School in Kenya, and numerous other school projects from our Kenya Schools Fund. The blog also includes reports on our films, including the recent SXSW Audience Award winner, Building Hope, and on our advocacy for specific issues related to a more sustainable and just world for children everywhere.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From Mahiga With Love

After years of film edits and fundraising for our partner schools in Mahiga, Kenya I knew that my first visit was going to be a great experience. But I had no idea how much I’d be affected by the trip, or how much I’d come to love these wonderful kids and their families.

Though Kenya is a beautiful country and in many places green and productive, Mahiga is a dr

y zone, which is almost intolerable in an agricultural economy. As we drove from Nairobi past the Aberdare Mountains to the school, I could see the poverty rise as the water table dropped. The drier it got the shorter the maise

crops stood, the skinner the cows, and the more kids I saw toting wood and water rather than going to school.

Pulling into the schoolyard for

the first time we saw, rising over the old metal roofs of the Mahiga Primary

School, the new two-story stone classroom building with its beautiful green roof. I thought back to a day when we’d received two envelopes from donors – one with $5,000 to underwrite a classroom-one with $5 from a retired teacher. Both meant the world to me at the time and even more standing in front of the beautiful and very real stone building that will soon house the new high school.

The primary school was letting out for the day and when the kids saw Turk, cries of “Pipkin!’ filled the air. Shy smiles followed introductions to me and to our girls, Katie and Lily. It took a while and a lot of questions for them to figure out that Turk had brought two daughters and not three. Ha! After all these years, I’m the littlest Pipkin.

As I met

the kids, the faces from Turk’s photos and footage came to life. The high school students – studying in temp classrooms while we build the new school - were full of questions about why we were there, about the States, and my kids. Among those students was George, a very bright sophomore who wants to be a journalist. When Turk isn’t in Kenya, George has been shooting video footage of construction with an HD Flip camera.

Our resident design fellow Greg Elsner has been living in the community for a year now and is quite the rock star. “Misch!” the kids call out, using his Kikuyu nickname. Greg is the lead architect of the RainWater Court, a technically challenging build that is now making fast progress toward an October 1 ribbon-cutting. Greg’s girlfriend and fellow architect Christina Tapper has joined him in Kenya and is helming the set-up of the school library and designing a beautiful new preschool. The two of them have taken on monumental tasks under tough circumstances, and they are true heroes to me.

Our longtime community partner, Joseph Mutongu, welcomed us at the school like family. He proudly showed me around the school— pointing out the first tree that Turk planted 5 years ago that is now taller than he is. Like every visitor to the school, I also planted a tree, the first in the High School’s new orchard.

This trip was just a small part of this incredible journey we are all taking together. Thanks to everyone who’s made a connection to these kids through your donations. We’re almost there, and your continued support will really make a difference in the lives of every kid who attends this beautiful new school.

From Mahiga with love, Christy

About Me

My photo
People know me from different things I've done, and often seem to remember me from whatever I was doing when our paths first crossed. If you first saw me on television with Harry Anderson or doing stand-up comedy, you may be disappointed in my current level of funny. On the other hand, if you first saw me as that idiot narcoleptic guy in The Sopranos, I could really use a nap, so I'm still playing that part well. The last few years have been occupied by making three feature docs, Nobelity, One Peace at a Time, and Building Hope. All three were produced by our education and action nonprofit, The Nobelity Project ( I've also written ten books of fiction and nonfiction, most recently the NY Times bestseller, The Tao of Willie, co-authored with the very awesome Willie Nelson.