Marshall Hawkins has had, by all accounts, a very eventful life, including touring with well-known entertainers and teaching students who would succeed in many aspects of life. The wisdom and grace he radiates certainly qualifies him to be Idyllwild’s ambassador-at-large.
Therefore, when he says that his experience travelling to Tanzania with the Karimu Foundation was a life-changing event, it is very meaningful, and you pay attention. And when Marianne Kent-Stoll and Don Stoll discuss the 10th anniversary of the charity they founded, you begin to understand what it has accomplished, the people that have been helped, the friendships that have been created and the number of people who feel like Marshall does.
Marianne is assistant head of school and Don is manager of communications and international student relations at Idyllwild Arts where Marshall is head of the Jazz Department. The couple went to Tanzania as tourists in 2007 and stayed at a home in the village of Dareda Kati. Their retelling indicates they were overwhelmed with the warmth of the villagers who, in a short period of time, welcomed them as members of their family.
Ten years later, they fight back tears as they describe this first visit, knowing even then they would return often. The result was the Karimu Foundation, dedicated to helping the village with projects that could not be completed without outside help. They have accomplished much in the past 10 years, as portrayed on the foundation’s web site karimufoundation.org. Marianne and Don gave a synopsis of this decade of friendship and mutual aid to the members of the Associates of the Idyllwild Arts Foundation at its monthly meeting on Thursday, Aug. 17, at Idyllwild Arts, after Hawkins gave his brief and moving introduction.
The first project of the foundation was an effort to improve conditions for the students and teachers of the Ufani School. The results, as documented by photographs, were truly amazing. Using local experts, school buildings were built to offer protection from the elements and give students a proper environment in which to learn.
Also, housing was constructed so teachers could be recruited to this rural village from the cities that have more amenities to offer. An important part of the school construction was creating kitchen facilities that used efficient, ventilated stoves.
Respiratory disease is a significant cause of death in Tanzania because cooking fires were traditionally built inside homes and schools, resulting in the buildup of black tar on the walls of the buildings and in the lungs of the occupants. As an example, one of the school cooks had chronically inflamed eyes that cleared up after ventilated stoves were installed.
Another recent project was the construction of a bridge over a small stream that becomes a raging river during monsoon season. Without the bridge, it would take some students two hours to get to school; with the bridge, 15 minutes. Along with some of the other projects that have been completed, this has resulted in dramatic improvements in school attendance.
As with all of the foundation’s projects, they are proposed by Dareda villagers and become joint efforts. The founders and board members of the foundation obviously take great pride in working with villagers, not just showering them with material goods they may or may not need or want.
If you want to know how to make a difference in our world, there is no better place to look than the Karimu Foundation, created by two individuals, born out of international partnerships and friendships, doing good and changing lives in both Idyllwild and Dareda Kati.