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Starfish Africa

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

*Starfish Africa Homepage

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By Bob Odalo, Daily Nation

As the young boys and girls dug trenches and cleared bushes to help build a brick house for a lucky villager, none of those present had a clue that the labourers were some of the brightest primary school leavers. They all came from poor backgrounds and despite scoring highly in KCPE examinations their high school education could not be guaranteed until a helping hand came knocking.

Today, these students consider themselves as members of one big rainbow family brought together by a young US Iraqi marine Peter Kingston, who saw action in Iraq. Mr Kingston, 29, runs Starfish Africa, an organisation that has managed to secure uninterrupted secondary and university education for students under its guidance.

The students in turn give back to the community. Every holiday they dedicate a week of community work in rural areas.

They serve the community in environmental conservation, building houses and cleaning public hospitals. For the first time since he started Starfish Africa about five years ago Mr Kingston recently found time out to be with the students as they took part in a week long community work in Narok district. The US Marine had just returned from war torn Iraq where he served his country for two years.

A beneficiary

In Narok he was not armed with weapons, but a shovel, a wheelbarrow and a broom as he led his troops in painting and cleaning up Naroosura area. Joy Muthoni, a beneficiary the programme, is a student at Starehe Girls Centre. The scholarship and community activities have helped to open up her mind to the realities facing the country.

“When we visited the Ereteti community in Kajiado, I learned new skills which I can apply in my daily life. We were able to interact freely with the Maasai community which lives there. I was able to learn their culture which was very interesting. They were very nice and very caring to us,” said Muthoni.

Mr Kingston founded Starfish Africa in 2004, a year before he joined the US marine corps. He left the army last year after realising the dreams that made him enlist. “I wanted to join history books as having played a role in helping my country restore peace in Iraq. I was officially released in October. Now I want to dedicate my efforts in fulfilling my other dream of helping Kenyan students from poor backgrounds to secure uninterrupted education,” he said.

Two weeks ago Peter, his wife Kerry and Starfish Field Officer David Omondi were in Naroosura division — the home area of Loreto Girls form one student Jane Soit. They cleaned the compound and gave the local dispensary a new coat of paint. All the 40 Starfish students took part in the week long camp.

Starfish Africa recently started a mentorship programme which hopes to keep students in touch with Kenyan professionals. Kingston, the fourth born son of US High school teachers William and Beth Kingston first came to Kenya in 2000 as a 19-year-old Princeton University student.

To read the rest of the Daily Nation's piece on former Princeton soccer player Peter Kingston and Starfish Africa, in its entirety, please click here.

*Five former Princeton student-athletes currently sit on the Starfish Africa Board:

Rob Currey '03 (football)
Pete Kingston '02 (soccer)
Brian Mickus '03 (sprint football)
Graeme Rein '02 (soccer)
Trevor Smith '03 (tennis)