Kenya Krew

POSTED ON October 4, 2016

In 2006, Karen Weiner, a middle school teacher in Long Island, shared the second installment of Time for School with her 7th graders. Some of the students were so moved by the film – particularly by the story of our student in Kenya, Joab Onyando, then 12, – that they decided they had to do something. Karen contacted the principal at Joab’s school to ask what the school needed most and learned that it was missing the basic staple of all schools – a library and books.

The students began skipping lunch periods to brainstorm ways they could raise money. They began selling friendship bracelets, washing cars, and recycling cell phones and ink cartridges. In two years, they raised nearly $8,000.

This diverse group of highly motivated kids called themselves the Kenya Krew.

Just as important as creating the library were the friendships that sprung up between students in two very different parts of the world. Some of the kids became pen pals and started writing to each other. Joab’s pen pal was Lauren Blackburn. They corresponded about everything from school to family to their hopes for the future. “Keep on pursuing your dreams,” Lauren encouraged Joab, “and don’t let people and obstacles get in your way.”

In 2014, when we went back to film with Joab for the last time, we learned that Lauren was a junior in college at the University of Wisconsin concentrating in International Studies, with a minor in African Studies and Swahili. She credits Time for School with helping to shape her path in life: “Seeing Joab struggling more than I was at that time opened my eyes to understanding that the life that I was living was not the life given to everybody.”

Lauren and Joab had lost touch but she happened to be in Kenya studying abroad for a semester – and was finally able to fulfill her childhood dream of meeting Joab.