FRUIT HEIGHTS -- Many young students in Kenya no longer have to sit on the dirt floors of crumbling schools built of sticks and mud.
That's due to the help of a few Top of Utah locals, including Morgan resident Cindy Workman and Fruit Heights couple Sue and Curt Tingey, who all became involved in a project called Koins for Kenya, a foundation that provides ways for caring Americans to actively engage with rural Kenyans to provide education opportunities.
Ten years ago, Bret Van Leeuwen, of Alpine, went to Kenya and found such a great need for outside help that he formed the foundation Koins for Kenya.
Workman, a Morgan resident and sixth-grade teacher, also helped form the foundation.
"Ten years ago, I went to Africa with another humanitarian project," Cindy said. "I met Bret and we wanted to do something for the same village and it grew from there."
Sue Tingey heard of the needs in Kenya and also desired to help. Because of some health problems she didn't have the opportunity to go with her husband when he first took the journey to help build desks for the students. But last year Sue went along, and she will be leaving July 8 on another expedition.
"At first I thought the problems were so enormous that I wondered if we could make a difference. They need water, housing, sanitation," Sue Tingey said. "Last year when we went, we added another room to a school."
Anyone can donate coins for Kenya, but several local schools have already helped in a big way. Windridge Elementary, of Kaysville, where Workman teaches, has already helped to build a school. This year, Windridge and Eagle Bay Elementary, of Farmington, collected a combined total of $10,000. Also, Guy Child Elementary School, in South Ogden, collected enough money to pay to build a cistern to collect rain water.
Each spring, Workman's class has a water walk so they can understand what it would be like not to have water in the house.
"The thing that's most awesome is to see 12-year-olds involved," said Workman.
Students in Kenyan villages must get their own drinking water.
"They usually get their water from a watering hole where animals also go," Sue Tingey said. "When the children are on their way to school they stop to get water to drink for the day."
Villagers are getting a hand up, not a hand-out.
"Villagers must put up 10 percent. They must sacrifice, cash is a really big deal," Sue Tingey said.
This year, the group traveling from Utah to the village of Mnyenzeni will build a school, two cisterns, a latrine and school desks, she said.
Curt Tingey oversees the wood shop, where desks will be built for the 300 children who will attend the three-room school. He is also building tables and furniture for the teachers, who currently must stand all day as they teach. Because they have no school supplies, Koins for Kenya will take science supplies to them.
Workman's classroom also raised money to purchase a microscope for a medical clinic. Both Workman and Tingey explained that the Kenyan government will not provide treatment for those with malaria unless they are first tested. The clinic had to have a microscope in order to provide the test. The microscope was delivered in January.
"The next day, eight people were tested and six had malaria. You could say we saved six peoples' lives," Workman said.
Sue Tingey's sister, Karen Timothy, of Fruit Heights, also wanted to get involved in Koins for Kenya.
On June 28, more than 160 people gathered in the backyard of Timothy's home for a fundraising dinner. It was a familiar scene, as this was the 12th dinner Timothy has hosted.
"To do service is a great experience. It's been so much fun," Timothy said.
In May, Tingey arranged for a huge garage sale, with items donated by friends and neighbors that raised over $5,000.
None of the money goes to overhead, it all goes to help the people, she said.
It is a tradition in Africa that schools be named for those who provide the school. However, Tingey said she was uncomfortable with having a school named for her family.
"It is an honor for them to meet you. This isn't something I am comfortable with, but I have to look at their point of view," Tingey said.
The school they will build this summer will be named "The Tingey School of Gona."
"We are naming it in honor of our kids," she said.
Donations may be made to help with the many projects taking place at Koins for Kenya. For more information go to www.koinsforkenya.com
According to their website, "The goal of Koins for Kenya is to develop programs which are self-sustaining."