Immigrant's Success Story: Kenya Native in Sutton, MA Builds a School in Kenya
Abdi Lidonde had about $20 in his pocket when he arrived at New York City's LaGuardia Airport about 40 years ago.
Although he didn't have a lot of money and didn't know anyone in the United States, Mr. Lidonde was confident he would raise enough money in his newly adopted home to build a school for impoverished kids in Kenya, his native country.
Today, about 100 students attend The Beverly School, a $4 million to $5 million educational complex that sits in a remote and rugged region of Kenya.
Now, Mr. Lidonde, who lives with his family in Sutton, is hoping to raise another $150,000 to build a medical clinic for the students and staff at the boarding school, which will also be open to nearby villagers.
"Amazing, amazing, amazing," Mr. Lidonde said. "People have been very generous to this project. It is the pride of Worcester."
The Beverly School is on 40 acres in the North Kinangop area — about 60 miles northwest of Nairobi, Kenya's capital. It is named after Mr. Lidonde's mother, Beverly, who thought so highly of education that she would walk her son every day to St. Clevers Catholic Primary School in Kenya's Kakamega District.
The school was many miles from the Lidonde family home in Shikoho.
"I do think my mother would be very happy," Mr. Lidonde said. "She thought education was very important."
Mrs. Lidonde died in 1999.
Mr. Lidonde was one of 26 children in an extended family.
His father, Elijah, was a postal service worker, whose salary barely covered the family's expenses.
After graduating from high school and working for a time beside his father, Abdi Lidonde decided to come to America.
He settled in Worcester, landed a night custodial job at the College of the Holy Cross, and enrolled in Worcester State College, from which he earned a history degree.
With the encouragement of the Jesuits at Holy Cross, including the Rev. John E. Brooks, president emeritus, Mr. Lidonde set up a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization and began to raise funds.
In January 2011, Mr. Lidonde realized his dream, with about 35 students enrolling in his new school.
With sponsors from all around the country helping out, the school has become a premier training center in Africa for kids interested in science, technology, mathematics and engineering.
The school has been so successful that six students have been invited to participate in Massachusetts' state science fair next May at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.
Mr. Lidonde said the students will stay with the families of supporters in Central Massachusetts.
During the two-week trip, tours of local companies are planned, and Mr. Lidonde hopes to take the students on visits to Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Though school officials have accomplished much, they are "cautiously" expanding.
Another 100 students might be admitted next January, and officials hope the school will serve about 1,500 primary and high school students in a couple of years.
Mr. Lidonde said officials want to make sure they have enough resources for the students.
"We're measuring every foot," he noted.
The school operates like a self-contained village, with staff living on-site.
That's why adding a clinic is so important, Mr. Lidonde said.
"The school is in the middle of nothing," he said. "Many of the children have never seen a doctor."
Funding is also needed for a school bus, and officials would like more money for scholarships.
Children from about 30 families now attend the school at no charge.
"He's done a good job of helping a lot of poor kids in Kenya," said Peter Caruso, first vice president at Wells Fargo Advisors.
Mr. Caruso and his wife, Lilly, are hosting an upcoming fundraiser for the school at their West Boylston home. About 100 are expected to attend.
Mr. Caruso said he became aware of Mr. Lidonde's efforts when the Kenyan native received a local award a couple of years ago.
Even his children, Ava and Stephen, have become excited about Mr. Lidonde's work, sending valentines to the students.
"There's nothing around that school for 40 miles," said Mr. Caruso. "So the clinic will be very important."
Mr. Lidonde said that area residents interested in the school may visit its website at www.beverlyschoolofkenya.com.
I have just read about Beverly Schools and I must say that I am so impressed. I have visited the website and it is quite commendable. I live in Nakuru but I have never heard about this institution until now, thanks to internet!
I would like some clarification on a few issues:
a). Is the school run with strong christian virtues especially Catholic faith? (I am a staunch Catholic).
b). What are the rates in terms of fees? I have a daughter in Std. 7 and I would really like her to join the school after her KCPE later next year.
I intend to visit the school and see for myself what is on the ground. Thanks for the good work and I hope to be a parent in the school in the near future, God willing.
Thanks and regards,
Commendable Work Abdi. Not surprised at all and the sky is the limit.
Why is this school in Central and NOT western? How many Centralites are building schools in western?
Charity begins at home.
Sifuna, the school is in Kenya, somewhere in Kenya. Mr Lidonde is the kind of Kenyan who see Kenya in the eyes of a patriot, not a Luhya like you who associates himself with tribalists like Madvds, Wamalwa, Watengula, Rahira, Namwamba, Jakoyo Midiwo etc.
Mr Lidonde is a beneficiary of a Kenyan who has grown up and sanitized himself from the ills of tribalism and regionalism. That's how America has benefited him. Bungoma, Kachamega, Butere, Vihiga etc is a home to Kenyans of all shapes and size, investing heavily there. Am one of those investors. Call me Njoroge Lidonde. Never a tribalist. You need Jesus, Sir Sifuna.
Give me a break. You can sing that on the mountain. Fact: Kikuyus are NOT going to build schools that educate Luhyas. Fact: Kikuyus are not going to vote for a Luhya.
Fact: Kikuyus; including the president will vote with Kikuyus against Lidonde whne push comes to shove. Stop this nonsense that you are nationalists. Kenya is a tribal state. When you are done chasing Kikuyu skirts and are down and broke (taken to the dry cleaners, you stealthly find your way to Western).
Why has the Kikuyu Elite not appointed Wamalwa or Madvd after the effort they put in to destroy Raila?
Invest in the Kakamega where your mother bent her back to see that you had food as a kid; improve her lot. Kikuyus have had a looooong head start - looted Kenyas resources for a very long time. Stop this stupidity. Even in America: Jews line up along Jews - go to New York: Little italy, Jamaica etc. I live in America bro; so style up. Charity begins at home. When Obama talks about action committees, what the hell do you think he is talking about? Mjinga ni wewe- being used by Kikuyus.
Am investing in Western, heavily. I hope Kikuyus can vote for you to lead them.
I am saddened by the turn of events about the school. Mr. Sifuna, please note that Bwana Lidonde decided to built the school a place where even the locals have not built one. He has worked so hard to bring it up and all he needs is a pat on the back, not to start a tribal war. I am from Nyandarua, and when I met Abdi, I asked him why build the school there? His answer was simple, it belongs to the Kenyans, not to the Luhya or Kikuyu as you put it. No wonder there is little development from some quarters in Kenya due to jealous neighbors. Show us what you've done in your village and call us to assist. Abdi Lidonde, Hongera and may the Almighty God bless you abundantly.