A West Unity man is in Kenya helping to lay the foundation for a school and orphanage to give children an education and chance on life.
A year ago, J. Mark Holbrook and his wife founded The Acacia Alliance, an international mission to build and operate a school to go along with and orphanage in Kisii, Kenya, a city of about 300,000 people in the southwestern area of the African nation.
Holbrook has been traveling to Kenya since 2008 and after he left his post as a senior pastor in Bryan, decided to make Kenya his mission.
His latest trip began Feb. 23.
“I am going to work on the logistics and foundation for the school,” Holbrook said in an interview hours before he left.
The Alliance has an orphanage, a house donated by a member of the Kenyan Parliament in Kisii and has recently acquired land adjacent to the orphanage to build a school, Holbrook said. The school will be built vertically, adding floors when the need for more space arises, he said.
“We will start small,” Holbrook said. “We will have space for up to 500 people. (The school) will be about six to seven stories.”
Holbrook has a large place in his heart for the people of Kenya. He and his wife tried to adopt an orphaned Kenyan child, but lost him to a domestic family. The money raised for the adoption became the seed money for the organization.
The orphanage houses 30 children now, but Holbrook hopes that once the school is up and running, the orphanage can handle 80-90 children. The school will be open to local children as well, and through their school fees, some orphans’ school fees will be covered.
“Three or four paying students will pay for one orphan,” Holbrook said. “We will be self-sustaining.
“I want this to work long after I am gone.”
So for now, Holbrook is filing paperwork to get his charitable organization recognized. In the United States. The Acacia Alliance is incorporated as a nonprofit in Ohio and has qualified for 501c3 status from the federal government.
“I want to do the same in Kenya, establishing by registering and by establishing (us) as a charitable organization,” Holbrook said. “I want to get things in place so I can travel back and forth and so people can send money directly to Kenya by wire.”
Kenya is open to foreign groups like his coming in as long as they are properly registered, Holbrook said.
He is also helping to foster a connection between 4-H groups in Ohio and Kenya. A local woman established 4-H in Kenya three years ago.
“She contacted me with a goal of establishing a cultural connection between Kenya and their counterparts in America,” Holbrook said. “I contacted Laura Rohlf, (director for 4-H in Henry County) and told her.”
Two area clubs are making drawstring sacks about the size of a shoebox filled with items as a gift to the Kenyans, Holbrook said. The hope is the children will become pen pals and the cross-cultural experience will lead to a more interactions, he said.
James Pruitt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org