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Volunteer from Seattle discovers home is where the heart is

Lizzie Odegaard thought touring the world for her gap year would leave her with a rich appreciation of different cultures. It did more than that. It gave her a new passion in life

Lizzie Odegaard did not know a random decision to explore the world during her gap year would leave a lasting impression on her. Soon after graduating from the University of Washington in Seattle, she travelled to many countries including, India, Nepal, Romania, Bali, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Ireland and England.

When she landed in Kenya, her heart stuck here. After sometime, she decided to volunteer at Mugie School, a school situated on Mugie ranch, built to take care of the local children and many orphaned children with disabilities.

She had a passion to assist a community, which offered a loving and supportive environment to children shunned and hidden. Here, girls living with disabilities were deemed a curse. “I wanted to help Josh and Donna Perrett, the owners of Ekorian’s Mugie camp, make a difference in the community.

We began to envision a grassroots organisation that would further access to education and healthcare, promote sustainable development, and highlight the importance of conservation – four things that are inextricably linked,” Lizzie explains.

“In 2015, Josh and Donna Perrett approached me with the idea of starting and managing a fund that would help the community around Mugie. They were aware of the opportunity, and the necessity, for Mugie to take a more active role in helping,” she says.

“I was volunteering at Mugie School, in Mrs Agnes’ nursery class, and I was becoming more and more aware of the distressing dichotomy between the basic things that we take for granted growing up in the privileged ‘west’, and the experience of school children in rural Kenya,” she says.

Lizzie desired to bridge the gap between the resources of Seattle, her home, and Kenya, as she saw a vast unmet needs. Having spent much time in Kenya, and following her volunteer work in the Mugie Primary School, she desired to assist the community she had fallen in love with.

After long and careful discussion and deliberation with local charity/education/healthcare leaders, the idea of Moyo, a Swahili word meaning heart and life, came slowly to light. Lizzie returned to Seattle and enrolled in a non-profit management course at the University of Washington, and in 2017 began the administration – the ‘paperwork’ side, of The Moyo Foundation.

In 2017, they slowly began the organisation’s operations, developing programmes and activities that the community wanted and needed. In collaboration with Mugie, The Moyo Foundation is making great strides toward the future of Kenya.

The organisation has its board of directors – Adrianna Collins, Sophie Odegaard, Donna Perrett, Rory Singh, Jacob Morgan – and it works primarily on projects based in the Laikipia region of Kenya, at Mugie Ranch and conservancy.

Presently, the Mugie School provides tuition not only to the children of Mugie employees, but also disabled school children from a nearby orphanage abandoned by their families because of their disabilities. Its three basic pillars include health, education and conservation.

“As Mugie looks to the future, ideals of community engagement, responsible farming and tourism, and sustainable development, are top priorities and the Moyo Foundation strives to help Mugie achieve this,” she adds.

It is not only the books and teachers that help these children, but also providing the children with three nutritious meals a day. Other activities that the organisation does include outreach health clinics, offfering scholarships to Mugie School, reaching out to special needs students at the school, ecological conservation projects, vision screening and eyeglass distribution, health education curriculum in the school, maternal healthcare and family planning.

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