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A real cross-cultural experience

Tarah Korir knows much about building bridges between very different worlds. Growing up in St. Clements and attending Elmira District Secondary School as Tarah McKay, today she splits her time with her husband Wesley Korir’s family in Kenya.

The couple met when they were at the University of Louisville, where they were both runners. Early on, they started the Kenyan Kids Foundation, which helps with schooling costs for children in the area where Wesley hails from. Next weekend, they’ll be holding a local fundraiser with a Kenyan feel to it in support of the foundation. The Kenyan-style market will be taking place May 4 at Calvary United Church in St. Jacobs.

“The idea is that we will have different blankets for different items and sell them Kenyan-style where you can go up to different blankets and buy whatever you want. You’re essentially making a donation to the Kenyan Kids Foundation. You’ll go home with something, as well as making a donation,” Korir said of the event.

During the Kenyan market fundraiser on May 4, Tarah Korir plans to introduce a self-published children’s book “Grandma and Gogo,” featuring her daughter McKayla. [elena maystruk / the observer; Submitted]
During the Kenyan market fundraiser on May 4, Tarah Korir plans to introduce a self-published children’s book “Grandma and Gogo,” featuring her daughter McKayla. [elena maystruk / the observer; Submitted]
Along with attending the sale, residents can also donate items prior to or during the event. All items will then be sold at the makeshift market, with proceeds going to the foundation.

The organization has undertaken various projects in the Cherangany Constituency of Kenya, including providing high school scholarships to about 100 students. More recently, the group has started sponsoring nursery school teachers, running the foundation about $500 per year. The couple is also in the process of receiving charitable status for their organization in Canada.

“Primary education in Kenya is free, but nursery school you have to pay for and high school you have to pay for. We offer high school scholarships, and that’s about $350 a year. One thing we notice is that it’s really difficult to find poor students that receive good marks. If the parents are truly poor they may not have the money to take them to nursery school so then when they start primary school they are already at a disadvantage. Or they may not be able to get into primary school if they don’t know the basic skills,” Korir said.

These are just some of the projects that require funding within the foundation, she added.

Korir also hopes to unveil her self-published children’s book at the event. “Grandma and Gogo” tells the story of the couple’s daughter McKayla, 2, and her experiences in both Canadian and Kenyan cultures through her time with two very different grandmothers: her father’s mother in Kenya and her mother’s mother in Canada.

The short book goes through a comparison of McKayla’s everyday activities in both countries, from what she eats for breakfast (cereal in Canada and chai in Kenya, for example) to how she plays and where food comes from.

“What I want to get across with the book is that although she grows up in two different worlds she is accepted in both and she enjoys both equally,” Korir said.

“It’s emphasizing that different cultures may have different ways of doing things, but no one is better than the other. In order to show this I show it through her eyes by showing her interactions with her grandmas.”

Korir hopes that the simple comparisons of life in both environments can help children understand and accept kids from different cultures, and uses real photographs with her text.

“I thought about illustrating it at one point but then different people told me that they like the authenticity of seeing a real child,” she said.

“Classrooms are becoming more multicultural and I want kids to not be afraid of differences and know that there is more than one way to do something.”

There will be copies available for purchase at the fundraiser on May 4 and more can be ordered. All proceeds from book sales will also be donated to the foundation.

Event organizers are asking people to drop off donated items at the Calvary United Church, 48 Hawkesville Rd., on Thursday May 2 from 7-9 p.m., Friday May 3 from 7-9 p.m., or Saturday May 4 from 8-10 a.m.


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