Mar. 14, 2011
Educational and fundraising initiative to build the first girls high school in Kenya.
Community Contact Information:
Holy Blossom Temple
- To increase awareness of the plight of African female children
- To raise and donate funds to help high school girls access education in Kenya
- To promote congregant participation, especially youth, in social justice initiatives
Holy Blossom Temple’s Social Action Committee developed an educational and fundraising initiative in collaboration with the international organization Free the Children to build the first girls high school in Kenya.
In November 2009, Holy Blossom Temple gave its annual humanitarian award to the Free the Children co-founders. Following this event, the social action committee hosted an African Marketplace with a variety of informative and cultural booths as well as African entertainment.
Through this event, the congregation learned of Free the Children’s plan to build the first girls high school in Kenya and the social action committee unanimously chose to support the project. To do so, a large-scale initiative to educate and fundraise began. This effort included an education program about the plight of females in Africa and the arduous walk they do daily to carry water back to their families by holding its own Water Walk. In addition, the donation of funds raised in the past by an AIDS initiative were given to provide four scholarships to Kenyan girls studying at the high school.
Posters were prepared and advertisments were placed on the website to enable advance registragion to the Water Walk. Prior to the event, volunteers planned the route, invited speakers, organized set-up for registration and the water fill-up stations and prepared a booklet of water-related questions for each marked station. The sequence of events and outdoor set-up for the speaker presentation and ceremony was arranged as well. All participants were asked to make a donation to attend the event.
The Water Walk was held on a Sunday in September 2010, immediately following the synagogue’s family sukkah party. Volunteers helped to set up the registration area, water fill-up station, African craft and photo display area and the stage for the post-walk ceremony. Additional volunteers were sent to stand at different intersections in the neighborhood and help guide participants through the planned walking route.
One of Free the Children’s co-founders attended the event, accompanied by two visiting Maasai Warriors (young men) who had never left Kenya before. As drummers led the way in starting the walk, these three special guests followed, along with the synagogue’s rabbis and congregants of all ages carrying full water buckets. Participants walked with their buckets a full kilometer (about 0.6 miles) and some symbolically carried the buckets on their head.
The ceremony following the walk began with introductions by the congregation’s senior rabbi. Each of the visiting Maasai Warriors were given gifts on behalf of the synagogue. The synagogue’s student choir then sang two social justice songs. Following the check presentations, the crowd was charmed by brief greetings from each of the Maasai Warriors. The ceremony culminated in a motivating speech of thanks and inspiration by the attending Free the Children co-founder. Following the ceremony, participants were invited to meet and chat with the co-founder and the Maasai Warriors.
The African Marketplace (held after the November 2009 humanitarian award ceremony) inspired the congregation to address the needs of Kenyan children; some traveled with Free the Children to Kenya, some made B’nai mitzvah donations to Free the Children and some made individual donations to the organization.
Three checks were presented to Free the Children at the Water Walk:
- Holy Blossom Temple donated $20,000 for four scholarships at the first girls high school in Kenya.
- Religious school students raised $1,500 to help build a well with clean water in Kenya.
- Synagogue’s Day School raised $12,750 for the girls school through their Brick by Brick campaign. The day school also began a Tikkun Olam Club and a Social Justice Choir.
Synagogue embers expressed enthusiasm and gave positive feedback about all of these initiatives, revitalizing the Social Action Committee, which had been dormant. Holy Blossom Temple intends to continue working with Free the Children and provide support to the girls school in Kenya