Abdi Lidonde, founder of the Beverly School of Kenya, was born and raised in Kenya, the eldest son of 25 siblings. His impoverished family often did not have even the most basic necessities and his mother, Beverly, who was often ill and had only a first grade education, fought hard under the most difficult of circumstances to assure her son received an education and was able to graduate High School. “Even if things were not the best,” Abdi says, “my parents had a vision that education and encouragement were the keys to taking us out of poverty.”
Later, by chance, Abdi was given an opportunity to come to the United States andobtained his degree from Worcester State College while working nights as a custodian at the College of the Holy Cross. Settling in Worcester, Abdi has raised a family of 5 and is supervisor of the Holy Cross physical plant department, where he has now been a familiar figure for almost 30 years.
Although primary education is now free in Kenya, the need to pay for books, uniforms and transportation still makes it impossible for many children to attend. In addition, the onslaught of HIV/AIDS, as in all of Africa, has orphaned millions of Kenyan children in a culture that traditionally depends on extended family, further complicating the ability to provide even basic education. Moreover, there are simply not enough classrooms, even for those who can afford it, and thousands still must be turned away, particularly at the High School level.
Following his mother’s death in 1999, the idea of creating a school emerged as a natural outgrowth of Abdi’s own upbringing and gratitude. He began to talk to friends and colleagues about his dream for the Beverly School, and in 2004 informal discussion crystallized into a 501c3 organization, The Beverly A. Lidonde Education Corporation. Joined by childhood friend, Alice Mudiri, now Executive Director and in charge of day-to-day operations at the Beverly School, Abdi has worked tirelessly to refine, promote and fundraise for his dream of a better life for the children of Kenya. And as a result the Beverly School of Kenya opened its doors in 2011.
The full primary through High School boarding school sits upon a 40-acre tract of land, in the rural community of North Kinangop, 60 miles north of Nairobi. Including classrooms blocks, dormitories and a community center, the school also boasts a new state of the art Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics center, the Gelfand Science Complex. In addition, much of the land is being cultivated, providing not only food and income, but also valuable opportunities to learn and employ up to date agricultural techniques.
To date the school is home to over 80 children, ages 6 to 16, with plans to expand and eventually house over 300 students. These children come from all over Kenya, some from the most impoverished and marginalized of circumstances. Many of these children are attending school, playing and creating friendships without wondering if there will be enough to eat today for the first time in their lives.