Read through archived FRONTLINE/World
conversations around this story, including responses from
Bertha Kaumbulu - Pt. Richmond,
Tonight I watched the program segment and when it ended
I could only say, simply, WOW! My son who was born in Kenya
and who is in the ninth grade was thoroughly engaged when
listening to the determination of the Kenyan women.
The program offers prime material
for middle and high school instruction. As an adjunct faculty
member at Dominican University, I also see a strong link
to the course that I teach in Education and Culture.
Carolyn Campanile - Plano, Texas
It is unfortunate that [the viewer in] Granville, MA saw
your story as a reflection of an entire nation. I saw it
as a portrait of one woman, reaching her goal, and giving
back to other women. This woman just happens to live in
Kenya; I hope that the world has many women like Lornah
that reach out to others and inspire us to do the same.
Bob Creed, Jr. - Idaho Falls,
I coached a Kenyan women's cross-country team to the District,
Regional and Provincial Championships from 1983 to 1985.
Watching "Run, Lornah, Run" brought back many powerful memories
of my Peace Corps experience at the Biwott Technical School
in Chepketeret, Kenya a few [kilometers] south of Iten.
Although we were an O-level school, we often competed with
St. Patrick's and I spent quite a few days in the company
of Colm and the other Patrician brothers at St. Patrick's.
They were wonderful hosts... . The young women runners of
Biwott Technical School brought a tremendous amount of pride
to their community. BTS was considered a lesser school (no
electricity, telephones, regular mail or running water)
where the primary objective was to obtain a "leaver's certificate."
Partly due to the difficulty in attracting teachers to such
a remote and cold (the school was at 9,000 ft above sea
level)location, most of the students had little hope of
passing the O-level exams which allow them to continue their
education. ... Knowing a little bit about running and the
history of the Kalenjin runners (such as Henry Rono), I
determined that this existing source of pride could be amplified
and used to motivate these kids. ...
My Dad was an avid runner at the
time (he qualified for the Boston marathon three times)
and he belonged to a Memphis, Tenn. running club. In one
of my letters home, I explained that I was trying to establish
a running program and could the club send a few pair of
shoes to help motivate the runners? In a profound and overwhelming
display of generosity, his running club sent three boxes
of running shoes... . I would take pictures of the top three
runners every training race and let them have their pick
of the shoes my dad sent. ... It also turned out that some
of the best runners turned into the best students. I am
very happy to say that while I was at BTS, 16 students passed
their O-level exams. The whole community seemed to take
pride in the young women's accomplishments. The Elgeyo-Marakwet
Kalenjin did not have a good reputation in some ways and
the successes of their young women meant a lot in terms
of tribal bragging rights. Perhaps our crowning achievement
came at the District Championships when BTS became District
champions by defeating Kapkenda girls school. Kapkenda was
like a well-funded private school compared to BTS and had
two Olympic distance runners on their team! The whole community
was smiling for days after that meet and people were walking
on clouds in the following months after we won the Regional
and Provincial Championships. ... Given this sense of pride,
students began to believe that they could pass the national
I benefited more from the Elgeyo
Marakwet Kalenjin than they benefited from me. I must admit
that when I arrived at BTS I was as self-centered and cynical
as most college age adults but this community changed me
in the most profound and permanent way. Most Americans will
never understand the sense of community and appreciation
that rewards even the smallest contribution to community
pride and improvement.
Rick - Houston, Texas
I loved this story! Good job! More power to Lorna and all
the female athletes at her camp training hard for victory
and a chance at a better life, while eroding stereotypes
and placing Kenyan women center-stage in the international
arena of athletic excellence.
Anonymous - Oakland, California
We'd like to know how to support Lornah's project in Kenya.
How can we reach her.
Co-producer Alexis Bloom responds:
If you want to get a hold of Lornah, she has a web site:
I'm sure she would appreciate your support.
Anonymous - Berkeley, California
This was a beautiful, poignant story of a woman giving back
to her community and offering fellow women a chance to improve
their lot despite obstacles of chauvinism and societal inequity.
One question, though: It seems as though Lornah's camp would
be a national asset to Kenya, as it's helping train the
next crop of possible Olympiads. Doesn't the government
then have an obligation to help subsidize the cost of running
the camp instead of having Lornah continue to foot the bill
for its existence?
Co-Producer Alexis Bloom responds:
The Kenyan government supports athletics through institutions
like the army, the police force and the prison guard system.
Many Kenyans who want a career in athletics will sign
up to one of these services, and train under their aegis.
Athletes are fed, clothed, and encouraged to run - and
when they win, the glory rubs off onto the institution.
It's a mutually beneficial arrangement. But the result
is that the Kenyan government tends not to support private
running camps (for those who don't want to sign up to
the army, police force or prison guard system.) Lornah's
camp is also the only one for women in the country - women
athletes are not considered as important as men. So I'd
venture to say that if the Kenyan government did end up
supporting a private training camp, it wouldn't be one
like Lornah's - which is specifically for women.
Rahul Mehta - Detroit, Michigan
Hello!! Fortune favors the brave and that's what the record
breaker has proven it.
It takes a lot of guts and determination
to achieve a stage where she is and all my appreciation
I wish her all the best for [the]
future too and hope, like her, other women from Kenya become
successful against all odds. Please let me know if I can
be [of] any help.
Anonymous - Granville, Massachusetts
Although I agreed with some [of the] issues in the article,
and I have to commend Lornah for "giving back", I once again
was sad at the negative picture the West paints when it
comes to Africa. Granted we are poor. But we are still "normal"
and we are happy, in fact very happy and well- adjusted
citizens compared to the craziness here in the US.
I realize that now because I have lived the "American
Dream" but I have realized that what I had growing up was
priceless and no "riches" in the West can compare. Like
most Kenyans who have lived the "dream" life abroad, Lornah
has also realized that the answer is back home in Kenya
and once again, I commend her. Most Kenyans give back to
their country - we are just not famous. One of the foreign
exchange earners for Kenya is Kenyans abroad sending money
home, to help our communities. I am a 38-year-old Kenyan
and grew up poor by US standards though normal by Kenyan
standards. No dishwashers, one flushing toilet for a family
of nine (believe me we have flushing toilets, even in rural
schools) and cold showers, but comfortable by Kenyan standards
as I had my basic needs taken care of.
Fact - when I was in Kenyatta University, there were more
women than men in college, and when we joined the workplace
after graduation, our earning power was at par with our
male colleagues as the pay scales were controlled by the
government based on your education and not sex. The economy
has declined since[.] However, in the US, I have consistently
found that men are paid more regardless of having the same
education. That is not too common in Kenya if you have an
I do not believe this story is balanced nor a true reflection
of most women in Kenya. I believe it is time [for] us Kenyans
[to] interview our own famous people, and write our own
stories. I am sick of the Western perspective which is always
skewed. Imagine if I interviewed Americans who have made
it from the ghettoes, or from poor Southern states in the
US who still use outhouses and used that as a yardstick
to measure the US, how accurate would that report be? I
would like to read about regular Kenyan girls who are in
regular boarding schools and will not wash a man's sneakers!!
... [A] Kenyan girl is brought up to depend upon herself
from day one and never on a man as he can marry wife number
whatever and you are left in the cold. For that reason,
Kenyan women are pretty outspoken and pretty tough and don't
take nonsense from men and tend to save for a rainy day.
At least that was factual - women are the workers[.] In
addition, academically, girls' schools top the country in
national exam performance. They occupy most of the top twenty
places! The fact that we are not well-represented in parliament
is not any different from the US and the Senate representation.
I refuse to believe [that] just because you are richer,
you are happier or have a better life. ...
If I interviewed [a] woman from [a] polygamous household
in Utah as [the] US standard, how accurate would that be?
Please be balanced in your reports. I urge you to interview
girls from a regular, government, girls' boarding school,
and you will be surprised. In 20 years will you be wondering
where all these progressive Africans came from with all
these negative, inaccurate report[s]?
Co-producer Cassandra Herrman
Thank you for your comments. I'm sorry that you felt Kenya
was negatively portrayed. As filmmakers, our intention
was to show the positive efforts of some very talented,
strong Kenyan women.
You raise some valid points and
I agree that there are many well-educated, independent
and resilient women in Kenya. I feel that Lornah and the
women at her running camp reflect this. And on a broader
scale, there are Kenyan women who have achieved great
success in business, politics, and higher education. I
do not think we in any way negate this in our piece. However,
I lived in Kenya for two years and have been there often
over the past decade and have met many women who feel
trapped by circumstance -- lacking the fees to go to school
or struggling to make a living and care for their children.
It is a society, like much of the world, that favors boys
over girls. Which is what makes the achievements of women
like Lornah all the more remarkable.
I agree that it would be unfair
to portray poor Southerners or polygamists as the "U.S.
standard" but I don't think that's what we've done to
Kenya in this television piece. We do not cover the society
as a whole but rather look at the accomplishments of a
woman who inspires social change and who is recognized
for her struggle and success around the world. And ironically,
I think Lornah and the female runners in the piece are
very strong examples of what you argue is lacking in western
media coverage of African women.