Help Build a New School for children living in Nairobi slums

You can help build the new "Hope Academy"... to educate, feed and clothe children barely surviving i

Operating as usual

Nairobi and its Slums 04/18/2015

Nairobi is a beautiful, clean, and modern city… with parks, malls, and high rises just like any city in the US. A fitting tribute for the capital and largest city in Kenya.

But it is also home to a million and a half Kenyans who live in conditions I couldn’t imagine, if I hadn’t been there myself. An endless hodge podge of corrugated metal shanties surrounds the city. The smells, the filth from open sewage, the overcrowding, the heart-wrenching poverty… to a gal living in a middle class neighborhood in Richmond, VA … the thought of living here was about like moving to hell itself.

No wonder so many children die of starvation, disease, or unmentionable violence here. But there is some hope. The city is constantly building new apartments. But to move into one, these slum dwellers need to find work, and that’s a bit hard to do without an education. And that's something that's not free in Kenya.

Obviously we can’t do it all, but even if we can help a few hundred of these unfortunate children… think what a difference that could make!

Nairobi Wildlife 04/18/2015

No, Dorothy… we’re not in Kansas any more. Living in Richmond, VA I get excited seeing a squirrel or a raccoon, so it was a real treat for me to find myself in a living zoo. Imagine going for a stroll and coming up on a pride of lions, or an ostrich, or a pair of giraffes!

Hope Academy Open House 04/18/2015

We went into one of the worst slums of the city, passing out flyers about Hope Academy’s open house. And we got a great reception for our efforts. Hundreds of kids and their parents came interested to see what we had to offer.

We had a lot of activities planned for the children… jungle gyms, games, face painting, food, drinks, and even a camel ride. I can’t begin to tell you what that felt like, but it was all in good fun and everyone had a terrific time.

The kids as you can see are just adorable, bright-eyed, and eager for a future despite the wretched conditions they’re living in. To finish off the day, we had a huge cake, after an address by Tom Shore, Hope Academy’s founder, and even a song and some dancing by some of the faculty and administrators.

Hope Academy 04/18/2015

Hi, Marsha Grahek here reporting from Nairobi, Kenya. I’m here in Hope Academy, a privately endowed school which provides food, clothing, and an education for 150 elementary age school children living in the many slums surrounding the city.

Our teachers are experienced and certified, and our curriculum meets the approval of the local school board. And yes, we even teach English. Reverend Tom Chore and his wife operate the school, which has been funded by Project Respect, a 501C3 non-profit corporation I started in Richmond, Virginia.

We provide operating funds, food, clothing, and just about anything else the school requires. The original school started in 2008, but with a massive waiting list, we are trying to build a new school to serve 1,000 students all the way up through high school.

School begins early here, at 6 am, and begins with an assembly in the school yard. After that it’s washup time for breakfast. That’s my son, Kevin helping some of the boys get ready. We also provide lunch for our students.

Everything is cooked right here from scratch by our own staff. Rice and beans are a staple with sometimes potato, carrots or even a little meat… a royal feast for these starving little ones, who are used to scavaging garbage cans for scraps to eat.

After a hard morning of academics, we turn them loose in our enclosed play area. And like kids here in the US, they climb on jungle gyms, kick soccer balls, and of course swing and slide. We like to involve their parents in our school activities, like this Christmas feast they were invited to attend.

In addition to raising money to build the new school, we of course have to maintain the current one. Right now we desperately need money to help refurbish the school’s restrooms. Our board is working hard in every way they can to help Hope Academy grow and provide an education these children would not be able to get any other way. And that’s why we need your help.


It is with great joy that I had the opportunity to visit Hope Academy, the school that we have been supporting in Nairobi Kenya Africa for the past twelve years. At the school, when I looked at the 200 children lined up waiting for Kevin’s and my arrival, I was overwhelmed. To me, the children were absolutely beautiful! I went from child to child, holding each child’s hands in my hands and told them some version of “Hi, How are you? I am so happy to see you!” Some of the children were very shy and waited for me to take their hands in my hands. Other children laughed and giggled and held out their hands waiting for their turn to be greeted by the white American lady.
My son, Kevin and I visited each of the classrooms and ate a meal of beans and rice with them. For most of the children, that meal of beans and rice would be their meal for the day. We saw the torn sweaters and the little ties that were held around their necks by elastic bands. We watched them run and play with old discarded tires that no one else wanted. I met the staff of workers (20 total) who faithfully take care of the children every day without any pay because the poverty is so great.
When we came, we had many surprises for the children. A supporter gave me money for soccer balls and another gave me money to give the staff as a thank you for what they do. We were able to purchase playground equipment that would serve as a constant reminder that there are people in the United States that love them and care for them. We also built a bathroom with 8 stalls that is the beginning of a new school that we want to build for the children.
Kevin and I walked through the Tassia slum areas where the children from the school live and were exposed to poverty such as we have never seen. In the midst of the slums there were children following us and reaching out their hands hoping that we had some food for them. They were starving and desperate for any morsel of food we may have had. We invited many in the slums to a Sunday service and picnic. On Saturday, we had a festival for the students that included inflatables to jump in, a camel to ride and a puppet show with lots of music. I had the joy of jumping with the children on the inflatables, dancing with them and singing with them. I watched as the children swarmed all over the playground equipment before the equipment was set up. The children saw things that week that they probably never saw before.
On Saturday, we surprised the parents and children with a picnic. We served 700 people a meal of beans, rice, brown gravy and a potato with a bottle of soda. On Sunday, the families in the slum areas responded and we ended up feeding 1,200 people. The people from the neighborhood kept coming until the pans were scraped clean and there was nothing left.
When we left on Sunday, it was very difficult to say good-bye to the children and staff. As we left, I felt more resolved than ever to help build a new school that would allow the 1.200 children that are on the waiting list to have a chance to attend school. I discovered that without Project Respect these children would have nothing. Many would have died of starvation and none would have gone to school.
As I think about these precious children, there are so many things that we need. We need money to connect the bathroom to the sewer line and to provide for a tank that holds water for flushing. We also need more people who are willing to provide monthly support. It only takes $10 a month to provide for a child and many times we are $500.00 short in needed funds for the month just for the care of the children. We need people who are willing to make a commitment so that the beans and rice doesn’t run out before the end of the month. We also need people who are willing to financially bless the staff that care for these children. Anything you decide to do will be a great blessing to these children – whether it’s a one- time gift or a monthly gift –everything is greatly appreciated and needed.
Please visit our website at to see a video of the school children and to see the plans for a new school. From the bottom of my heart, I say “Thank you” on behalf of the children at Hope Academy and myself. Thank you for partnering with me to create a beacon of light (Hope Academy) in the midst of a very dismal place. Your support provides hope to these children.
Sincerely yours,

Marsha Grahek, President


A couple of months ago, I made a call to Pastor Tom Chore, the director of Hope Academy in Nairobi, Kenya. I had talked to him a week earlier and was sad to hear that our support money had run out and the children had gone without food for about a week. My call to him was for the purpose of letting him know that money had been wired and the children would soon be able to eat.

Before I could even say any-thing other than “Hi!” , I heard a noise in the background. The noise became louder and louder and I heard shouts, screams, and squeals and even singing. “What’s going on?” I asked Pastor Tom. “What’s all the commotion about?” As I listened more intently I began to make out some of the words and chants. “Mrs. President, Mrs. President, thank you so much!”

Now I understood. I didn’t have to tell Pastor Tom that the money would be there soon. He already knew and the children knew. The staff people were lugging big bags of beans and rice up on their shoulders and the children were dancing and singing around their legs. They could see the bags of rice and beans and they knew that they would be eating soon. The money had already arrived and the children would soon be fed. What an incredible experience to be able to hear the pure joy from children who were literally starving.

Hope Academy candids 04/09/2015

Photos from my recent trip to Kenya

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