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.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Kenya Schools Fund Needs You (And our Solstice Party does too)

It's the Building Hope Holiday Happy Hour!
Wednesday, Dec 21    5:30 - 7:30  p.m.
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, 107 W. 6th St. Austin
$5 wine and cocktails/half-price appetizers
Turk will be signing the beautiful new book/dvd of Building Hope
Books are also available online at  - a meaningful and beautiful Christmas present that supports our work.

In the past year, we've worked at schools across rural Kenya to build new classrooms, water systems, libraries and computer labs. Your support has provided real hope and opportunity for 3,000 students at the Amboni, Bondeni, Daaba, Honi, Mahiga and Mugaka Schools.

There is more work to be done. To make a tax-deductible year-end gift to fill the following needs, please go to

Library and Computer Labs at the Amboni, Kabiruini or Irbaan schools
$5,000 - build a library or a computer lab (with extra thanks to AMD and Lenovo)
$250 - a shelf full of library books 
$25 - 3 library books including classics in English and Kiswahili

Rainwater System and Classroom at the Mutaki School
$10,000 - build a rainwater collection and purification system
$5,000 - build a new classroom (using bricks made by the parents)

Textbooks for Daaba, Mugaka and Mahiga Schools
$25 - textbooks for two students              
$500 - textbooks for a classroom/grade

Mosquito Nets to prevent malaria at the Talek School
$10 - a life-saving mosquito net for one student sleeping in the dorm      
$100 - nets for ten students 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Building Hope Book/DVD Release Party - What a ride!

Wow - what a ride! Fom the end of our successful Kickstarter campaign for Building Hope to the book/dvd party on Dec 11 we had two months to work miracles. Two months to revise and copyedit a manuscript that tells the story of Mahiga Hope High School and The Nobelity Project (thanks to copy editor Dana Frank for a great job). Two months to design a coffee-table book with nearly 200 color photos from my five continent journey on the past three movies (thanks toDJ Stout and Stu Taylor at Pentagram Design for a gorgeous design). Two months that also had to include full-color printing on a giant Heidelberg Speedmaster Press (thanks to Rob Wallace and everyone at The Whitley Group, including the master printers that worked over the Thanksgiving weekend).

The book is now at Roswell Book Binders in Phoenix (the photographs may be from all over the world but the book and the dvd are Made in America). The DVDs of my film Building Hope will be added to each book by hand. On Sunday, December 11, we celebrate it all at the Big Book Bash. Hope those in Austin can join us from 6 to 9 at El Sol y La Luna on 6th Street for cocktails, great food, fabulous music by Carolyn Wonderland and special guests, and the first opportunity to take home a copy of Building Hope - the book and dvd.

Purchase party tickets and order your copies at

Thanks to everyone who purchased copies on Kickstarter or at If you can't make the party, you can still buy copies at We'll get them off to everyone the week after the big party.

What a ride!  turk

- here's the party invite:

Party with a purpose! The Building Hope Book Bash!
 Sunday, December 11
6 - 9 p.m.   
El Sol y La Luna
600 E. 6th St. Austin

Music by  
Carolyn Wonderland & Special Surprise Guests!
 Great food and cocktails 

A moving and meaningful gift for the holidays. Proceeds support our Kenya Schools Fund - building clean water systems, classrooms and libraries in rural Kenya.
It's a book! Nine months after our new film BUILDING HOPE won the Lone Star Audience Award at SXSW, The Nobelity Project is releasing a book that tells the full story of Mahiga Hope High School and our amazing global journey.  And every  purchase supports our work with rural schools in East Africa. 
Filled with color photos of our work around the world and insights from the Nobel Laureates and other global leaders in our films, this special edition book package also includes an advance DVD of the film the Austin Chronicle calls "Inspirational Redbull for the humanitarian soul." 

 Can't make the party? Order books by Dec. 18th for holiday delivery.   
Thanks to everyone who ordered on Kickstarter! We could't have done this without you.
Love to hear from you if you are interested in making a year-end gift to The Nobelity Project. We have so many new projects underway that every dollar makes a huge difference-from $5 for a library book to $5000 for a library! Contact Christy at or 512-263-7971. 

Many, many thanks from Turk, Christy and the entire team at The Nobelity Project--including a couple of thousand kids in Kenya...  

ps. Save the Date! March 25, 2012 for the Artist and Filmmakers Dinner
Four Seasons Austin.   

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Building Hope - The Book! With DVD of the Movie

As Building Hope continues to play film festivals and win awards – and as we continue to make fast progress on construction projects at ten Kenya schools – we're very happy to announce what may be our most exciting project yet. Why so exciting? Because of the pace that it's happening, because of an innovative new funding model, and because it gives us the chance to tell the full tale of the Nobelity Project and the amazing journey we've been on.

The story of the high school was much bigger than we could tell in one film. The story of the Nobelity Project is bigger than the three feature

films we've made. So we're very happy to announce the publication of a beautiful new coffee table book that is going tell the full story in words and in pictures.

Building Hope - the Story of Mahiga Hope High School and The Nobelity Project is now available for sale through the innovative fundraising platform, You buy the book in advance and we use the funds to pay for the cost of design and printing. The best part is, with every copy of the book you get an advance dvd of the film, Building Hope.

Please watch our new video pitch for the campaign, then choose which level you want to help us reach our goal. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform. If we don't raise our goal of $25,000, we don't get a dime (and the book project won't happen) so we REALLY need you to step up and buy a book (or many books) for you, your family and your friends.

The book release party is set for Sunday, December 11 at El Sol y La Luna, and we're expecting quite a celebration (Those of you who partied with Dennis Quaid and Marcia Ball at last year's El Sol event know it's a blast!). This book and dvd package is going to be a great holiday gift with meaning, and we're also recommending it to companies who want to buy copies for their clients and employees.

The Kickstarter Project link is also on our website at We've also just launched a fully rebuilt website (way to go Christy!) that has links to our feature films, our shorts, the Kenya Schools Fund and our work in schools. Check it out!

And there are three important dates for your calenders:
Sept 17 to Oct 26 - The campaign to presell Building Hope (the book and dvd)
Sunday, Dec 11 - The Holiday Party/Book Release at El Sol y La Luna
Sunday, March 25, 2012 - The Artists & Filmmakers Dinner at the Four Seasons Austin

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's 9-11-11, ten years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, and

I’m on the Texas-Mexico border this evening with Joe Klein from Time Magazine and, ironically, the great photographer Lynsey Addario who was tough enough to endure her kidnapping in Libya earlier this year and continues to be one of America’s greatest news photographers. All three of us spent much of the decade since 9-11 filming, shooting photos and writing in a lot of crazy places around the world, and each of our journeys seemed to have been launched by the incredible tragedy of 9-11 and by America’s response to the attack on The World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Like the rest of America and the world, there’s no going back to who we were before. We can’t undo the falling of the towers or the growing tragedies of the Iraq and Afghan Wars, but we’re still searching for the best way ahead through the stories we tell in words and pictures. Much of the diary below is about Willie Nelson and a voice that continues to fill a need in so many people. Willie’s still out there doing what he does. The rest of us can only follow his example to the best of our abilities. One happy note – the diary mentions our upcoming American Masters film on Willie which later premiered to great acclaim and was rewarded with an Emmy Award for the best non-fiction series. Thanks for all the music, Willie. We still love you; still need you.

So here’s my Slate Diary #3 – in the wake of 9-11.

And stay tuned for some great news about my new book, Building Hope - The Story of Mahiga Hope High School. It's going to be beautiful.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

We are just back from Kenya and a fantastic working trip to Mahiga Hope High School. Now part of the Kieni West Education District, the school has a fine principal, deputy principal and a growing staff of teachers. Enrollment in the high school has grown from our first nine students two years ago to over 150, now in grades 9 - 11 with an even mix of boys and girls.

Construction on the last two buildings - the science labs and the new primary school classrooms - is also complete. On the primary school side, both the new preschool and primary school
playgrounds are gorgeous, and we were thrilled to cut the ribbons on the final four stone classrooms. Once and forever, the mud floors are gone! The combined schools now have 600 students, all of them working hard to take advantage of this opportunity for a quality education.

We still have some funding challenges. A desk, chair and classroom materials for one student costs $50. We're almost a hundred kids behind and growing by 100 per year, so it's important to raise $10,000 in the coming months.

The story of Mahiga Hope High School is told in our new feature film, Building Hope, an inspiring work which won major awards at the SXSW Film Festival and at Maui Film Fest. Just like the miracle of the amazing changes that have come to this community, the film ends with a miracle of it's own. After months of no rain in this very dry area, The Grand Opening of the high school and the first basketball game on the RainWater Court were rained out by a beautiful, heavy downpour that nearly filled our 30,000 liter water tanks.

That miracle seemed to repeat itself on this trip. With the entire high school, we gathered in the dining hall/theatre. After the drama club put on their first play for us, it was our turn to turn out the lights and show the
students the film in which they star. The room was filled with laughter and joy as we watched how this community's dream grew into reality. As the film progressed towards the miraculous rainstorm that ends it, I began to hear scattered raindrops on the roof above us. Once again, this was the first rain in an extended period and the local farmers were on the verge of total crop failure.

Within minutes, the rain was pouring down in a giant flood of huge drops mixed in with small hail that had been formed high in the clouds above Mt. Kenya. We turned up the movie to overcome the deafening clatter on the roof but it didn't matter for the sound of rain from the film and the skies above us were all one.

To everyone who contributed to building this school - or who is thinking of contributing - you are a part of great and wonderful miracle. Your faith and partnership in this great community will provide real opportunity to young people for generations to come. That's the kind of miracle we can all believe in.

Turk Pipkin, The Nobelity Project,

- Don't forget to watch the trailer to Building Hope at Our New York premiere is coming up on Monday, July 25 at the Tribeca Cinemas.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Building Hope repped by Ostrow and Company

With momentum from the Lone Star Audience Award at SXSW Film Fest and Best Documentary at Maui Film Fest, our new film Building Hope is now repped by Ostrow and Company, leading producers representation firm based in Beverly Hills California, led by top rep Page Ostrow.

Building Hope tells the story of The Nobelity Project's partnership with a rural Kenyan community to build the area's first high school. Proceeds from the film support the Kenya Schools Fund, building classrooms, water systems, libraries and computer libraries at schools across Kenya.

The New York Premiere of Building Hope is Monday, July 25 at the Tribeca Cinemas, 54 Varick St. Tickets are available online at

For more information on distribution rights please visit or call Page Ostrow 310

276 5007

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Building Hope at the Violet Crown Cinema

The Violet Crown Cinema is Austin's coolest new theatre. It's located downtown on 2nd St., has luxurious seats and great tech, a full bar and appetizer menu, and a lineup of great films.

Following the Lone Star Audience Award at SXSW Film Fest (and some great reviews), Building Hope opens Friday for a week of screenings that benefit The Nobelity Project's Kenya Schools Fund.

Marc Savlov at The Austin Chronicle called the film, "a medicine for melancholy." And we have to admit that it is a rare kind of doc about Africa - an inspiring one.

Show times are:
12:00PM 1:45PM 3:30PM
5:15PM 7:00PM 9:00PM
And 11 p.m. on Fri/Sat

Tickets are selling fast, and with just 50 seats per screening, it's important to buy your tickets in advance at

Thanks to our great partners for helping us spread the word and bringing their own groups and supporters to the theatre. These include:

Friday - Austin Film Society & Origin Magazine
Saturday - Austin Woman and ATX Magazine
Sunday - and (two amazing groups in the global fight against poverty)
Monday - Bazaarvoice
Tuesday - Well Aware (special tickets for this one at
Wednesday - Citizen Generation
Thursday - Bazaarvoice

There's a reception with the filmmakers in the lobby every evening at 8 p.m. If you attend the 7 p.m. screening, we'll be waiting for you when the film ends. If you attend the 9 p.m., the reception will help warm you up for the move. And the Violet Crown is offering happy hour specials every night.

Check out the trailer to Building Hope at

You're gonna love this movie!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nobelity Project Dinner launches Kenya Schools Fund

The Nobelity Project's Artists & Filmmakers Dinner at the Four Seasons was a fantastic night. We had 40 tables hosted by 40 legendary Texas artists including Ricardo Chavira, Kyle Chandler, Dana Wheeler, Jerry Jeff Walker and his buddy Jimmy Buffett.

Thanks in part to Patron Spirits and Becker Vineyards, the cocktail party was a big boost for our silent auction. We had too many donors to thank them all, but the three hottest items were Carlos Ortiz's BIG Willie Nelson portrait, a UT basketball signed by the basketballer in Chief, President Barack Obama, and a gorgeous John Allison-made Dixie Chicks custom guitar.

You can't beat the Four Seasons Austin for a big charity event, and throughout our great dinner, the crowd enjoyed performances by Marcia Ball, Harry Anderson, and by Shawn Colvin singing with The CourtYard Hounds, Martie and Emily
of the Dixie Chicks!
The evening celebrated the completion of Mahiga Hope High School and the
great news that our new film Building Hope had won the Lone Star Audience Award at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival.

Just before Martie, Emily and Shawn took the stage, we announced The Nobelity Project's new Kenya Schools Fund, building classrooms, libraries, computer labs and rainwater systems across Kenya.

The projects we've been planning are important infrastructure work at Mahiga Primary, Kabiruini Girls School, Honi Primary School, Mugaka Primary and the Daaba School. Special thanks to Kyle Chandler, star of Friday Night Lights and the summer's hottest movie Super 8, for a big contribution to a new library and computer lab for Kabiruini Girls High School. (Attention Kyle Chandler fans - a $500 donation at will add an extra Dell PC to the lab and I'll tell Kyle how wonderful you are.)

Additional thanks for key donations go to the Netri Foundation, Peace Love & Happiness Foundation, Carla & Jack McDonald and many others. During that one great night, we funded all the first phase projects, including work in a very isolated location, The Daaba School, where we are partnering with Well Aware ( to build a new water system and classrooms. Check out these photos of young kids climbing into an open 40-foot well to retrieve water, and of the outdoor classrooms where the sun, wind and dust add even more challenges to the difficulty of receiving a proper education. With your support of the Kenya Schools Fund, we can make a lasting difference in the lives of many thousands of kids across rural Kenya.

Three of these projects are already underway and we'll be announcing more school partnerships and good work so stay tuned.

If you missed the big dinner, plan to join us next year. We've already set the date. The 2012 Artists & Filmmakers Dinner will be Sunday, March 25, 2012 at the Four Seasons Austin.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Building Hope - Audience Award Winner at SXSW Film Fest

It's been a wild year for Mahiga Hope High School and The Nobelity Project. One year after we broke ground and began construction on the classroom building and the Rainwater Court, the school is open with 135 high schoolers enrolled in grades 9, 10 and 11. That number goes up every month, and we are well on our way to capacity of 350 students.

While we were working with the community to build the school, I've been shooting the Nobelity Project's third feature documentary, Building Hope. We had a World Premiere at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival - and Building Hope won the prestigious Lone Star Audience Award, and had very emotional response from a big crowd at the recent Paramount Theatre Premiere in Austin.

While we're talking to distributors, Building Hope will continue to play select film festivals. Our goal is to launch a much louder global conversation on the need for universal secondary education in Africa and elsewhere. We've also launched our new Kenya Schools Fund, building classrooms, libraries, computer labs and water systems at rural schools across Kenya. Work on these projects is already underway, so stay tuned for details on specific projects.

Here's what the critics are saying:

‘Building Hope is an inspiring documentary that not only builds hope for the youth of Kenya, but also empowers people thousands of miles away to affect change through small yet significant contributions.’ -

Turk Pipkin traces the building of the Mahiga Hope High in Kenya with the moving Building Hope. The movie concludes with a rousing grand opening of the school.’ - Austin American Statesman

‘Inspirational Red Bull for the humanitarian soul and proof positive that you – yes, you – can help fix our broken world and make a difference in the lives of countless others.’ - The Austin Chronicle

Thanks all! To receive (occasional) updates on the film and Mahiga Hope HIgh School, send an email to:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mahiga Hope High School – An Incredible New Year!

It’s been quite a year for the partnership between The Nobelity Project and Mahiga Hope High School. We broke ground last March on the 2-story Classroom and Libraries Building and the RainWater Court, both of which are now complete and operating. But that’s just the beginning of the story. As we worked with the local community, Architecture for Humanity and others, the idea of a model school for rural Africa grew into a reality, encompassing the full infrastructure (and operating model) for what would give every student the best step forward in life.

The news is all good! Mahiga Hope High School is now open and operating as part of the Kieni West Education District. Facilities include the 8-classroom block, a Science Lab Building, the RainWater Court, new Kitchen and Dining Hall/Theatre, a library with a great book collection, a computer lab with 14 Dell and AMD pc's, and an Admin Building.

The RainWater Court has solar-powered UV-purification of the 30,000 liters of fresh rainwater it catches with every two inches of rain. And four more rainwater systems at the school expand our capacity to over 100,000 liters. New toilet blocks are operating and we have hand-washing facilities for proper sanitation.

In January, Christy and I were delighted to meet the schools great new principal, Jane Wainaina, who told us: “Mahiga means stones in our language, and stones are generally obstacles. This school had so many obstacles, but now we have Hope.”

Our Form One and Form Two students (grades 9 & 10) have moved up a grade and we have a big new class of Form One students, bringing High School enrollment to well over a hundred (heading towards capacity of 320).

Our students and our teachers (thanks to Isabel and all!) are enthusiastic about studies and other activities. Scouts Club and a Journalism Club with a focus on environmental work are both active, and the amazing RainWater Court is hosting lots of basketball games, including the Zonal Tournaments. The new soccer field and goals are also complete, with running track space and several athletes gearing up to compete as runners.

Christy and I were asked by nearly everyone we met in Mahiga to say thanks to the individuals, companies, schools and foundations who have helped make this all possible. And our thanks go to architects Greg Elsner and Christina Tapper – who lived so long in the community – and to our Kenyan architects and builders, Julius, Joseph, Bosco and Kariuki from Multiplex Systems, Boslika Construction and Minorah Contractors. In the U.S., Kenya, Spain and elsewhere, this was truly the work of thousands.

We are especially excited about the beautiful new pre-school which has a second classroom/second teacher for a total of 60 kids, ages 4 and 5. And I was very touched by the memorial donations to the Karen Webber Playground, which sits in a lovely wooded spot overlooking the school compound. (A second playground for the primary school kids is under way.)

I’m going to follow this blog soon with details about Building Hope, our new feature documentary about the school. Building Hope has been accepted into the 2011 SXSW Film Festival (out of 4,900 submissions). The SXSW screenings (dates tba) will be followed by a big April 6 premiere at the Paramount Theatre in Austin.

And mark your calendars for the 2011 Nobelity Project Artists & Filmmakers Dinner – April 10 at the Four Seasons Austin! It’s going to be amazing!

- Turk Pipkin, Feb 5, 2011

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.