Starr, BU bring Christmas to Kenya

StockingsBy Claire Cameron

President Ken Starr, along with the Kenya Women’s Leadership team, will be sponsoring the Starrs’ St. Kizito’s Christmas Project.

Over the past three years a small group of women have traveled to Africa to spend time in the slums of Kenya helping out with a small school called St. Kizito’s.

For the first time the Baylor community has the opportunity to bring Christmas to that school in Kenya. Students, faculty, staff or members of the community can buy a Christmas stocking for $27 plus $2 for shipping costs and the money will go toward buying gifts for a particular child at the school.

The money will also go toward purchasing a few everyday essentials such as a toothbrush or socks.

The group hopes to sell 109 stockings by the end of the month. The stockings will be sold after university Chapel services in the lobby of Waco Hall the rest of the month and anyone who wants to sponsor a child or who has any questions can email Hayley Gibson at

Melanie Smith, the international student relations coordinator, said Starr organized the project.

“Last year President Starr visited Kenya and, while he was there, visited St. Kizito’s learning center and he saw the children and wanted to do something for them so he came up with this ideas,” Smith said.

Each stocking has the picture of the child being sponsored along with their name and their living situation. The child in Africa will receive the name of the person who sponsors them unless the donor wishes to remain anonymous.

“It great to have a president with a big heart who cares about these kids in poverty across the world,” Smith said.

The team has visited Kenya the past three years and every year visit St. Kizito’s.

“Once you see the face of the child, it’s hard not to try to do something for them and this is a fun way to let others share in making a difference,” Smith said.

Julie Carley, co-director of the project with Smith, said she loves seeing students get involved with the project.

“It’s neat seeing the lights go off in lives of students,” Carley said. “How gifts can be used to make a difference.”

Houston senior Meagan Volquardsen is part of the Kenya Women’s Leadership Team and has gone to Kenya twice with the group. She said she will sponsor a child.

“Going to Kenya for me was one of those experiences that shakes you to your core,” Volquardsen said.

Volquardsen said she had visited the learning center before and loved meeting with the kids and the adults who worked for the school.

“There is a different thinking over there from over here in America where there are social standards,” Volquardsen said. “Over there it’s gone, they love you for your soul and want to share everything they have with you.”

Volquardsen said her experience in Kenya was why she planned to sponsor a child.

“In Kenya it was a love I had never felt before,” she said. “It was a whole different way of seeing the world. It’s just people can watch movies, but when you start talking to people while you feel emotions that’s when the real awareness begins.”

Volquardsen said she hopes more people get involved with the project.

“Education is key,” she said.

Houston sophomore Brooke Peery is also part of the Women’s leadership team and is helping out with the project.

“Going to the St. Kizito’s was amazing,” Peery said. “The second we got there the kids were all over us giving us hugs and kisses they were so hungry for love.”

Peery also plans to sponsor a child.

“One of my favorite memories is the last day we visited the school there was a foot-washing ceremony for us and I asked one of the boys at the school why they were doing this and he said ‘because we want to show you love like God first showed us.’ It blew me away,” Peery said.

She said visiting the school changed her life.

“This project connects people across the world,” she said. “It gets us to slow down and presents an opportunity to bless children.”