A.G. woman stays true to her school back in Kenya

nightengayles@aol.comSeptember 7, 2010 

Millie Klumpp, now of Arroyo Grande, grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. She also spent three years of high school in the small community of Kendu Bay on Lake Victoria, the same village where President Barack Obama’s great-grandfather was born.

Kendu Bay was quite a change from Millie’s life in Nairobi. In Nairobi she had plumbing, safe water and mosquito netting to protect against malaria and other infectious diseases. But her parents could not afford to send Millie to high school, so she was sent to Kendu Bay, to her grandmother, who was able to pay for her schooling.

St. Francis Nyangajo Girls Boarding School had no plumbing and no mosquito netting. They had to go to the river three times a day to wash clothes, bathe and get water. They had to go to the middle of the river to avoid the dirty water near its bank. Without mosquito netting, each week 20 to 30 girls — out of 400 at the school — had to go to the nearest hospital for malaria.

Because of a fire that destroyed a dormitory, the girls had to sleep in the classrooms. Nevertheless, Millie was one of the lucky ones. For girls whose families could not afford school — which cost $350 a year, a lot of money for most Kenyan families — the main recourse was to be married very early or become housemaids.

Millie was also grateful that her father was able to provide for her to finish her schooling in Nairobi.

Millie has a fervent desire to help her school in Kendu Bay furnish basic necessities: clean water, a dormitory, toilets and mosquito nets.

She met her husband, Ralph Klumpp, in Nairobi, where he was doing research on tropical medicine. They settled in the Bay Area 16 years ago, and her husband got work at Stanford. They moved to Arroyo Grande in 2000. He still commutes to Stanford.

Their son, Jason, a junior at Arroyo Grande High School, sells African bracelets to buy mosquito nets for boys’ schools in Kenya.

Through the Avila Bay Athletic Club, where she works, a fundraiser brought in $30,000 for the girls school. Club members Rodney and Robin Cegelski requested donations from friends. The dormitory is named “Rodney and Robin House.”

Rodney’s brother, Steve, and his wife, Margaret Cegelski, are supplying mosquito nets. They have traveled to the school three times. A client of Millie’s gave what she could: coins amounting to $23. “I was so moved,” Millie said.

Catherine Coffey, a sister of one of Millie’s clients, is taking 15 college nursing students to Kendu Bay. Arielle Stallman, 10, organized a walk for water in the spring and has raised $1,500 for an elementary school near Millie’s old school.

So far, $50,000 has been raised in San Luis Obispo County, helping pay for:

• Construction of a dormitory for 40 students;

• Installation of four Eco-San toilets, which recycle waste for fertilizer;

• Drilling of a well for the school and the surrounding community; and

• Mosquito netting for 400 students, plus staff.

Millie’s grandma supported and started a school for disabled children, also in Kendu Bay.

The disabled children badly need wheelchairs and other aids. The girls’ school needs more toilets, a dining room and another dorm.

A donation of $5 will buy a mosquito net; $350 will sponsor a girl in school for one year; $1,000 will buy one Eco-San toilet.

To find out more about the schools or to donate, call Millie at 474-6100, or email luolady@gmail.com.

Anyone with story ideas involving people in the South County can reach Gayle Cuddy at 489-1026 or nightengayles@aol.com.

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