NEW ULM - A pitchfork fondue fund raiser will be held at Our Savior's Lutheran Church on Sept. 13 to support the Kikatiti Secondary School in Tanzania.
The fundraiser is being organized by Bill Koeckeritz. Koeckeritz became a supporter of the Kikatiti Secondary School through the friendship of former New Ulm natives, Doug and Linda Dybsetter. Years ago, the Dybsetter's sold their businesses in New Uln and became missionaries. After spending time in New Guinea, they settled in Tanzania. Koeckeritz encouraged the Dybsetters to find a project that Our Savior's Lutheran Church could support. Doug and Linda found a little village school called the Kikatiti Secondary School.
In 1999, the church raised money to help the school put in classrooms. At the time, they had only three classrooms for 63 students, and three teachers that hadn't been paid in several months. The school was about to close.
Doug Dybsetter helps build desks for the classrooms.
"In 2000, some of us went over and spent time there painting classrooms and building relationships, and it started this whole involvement," explained Koeckeritz. He has made three return trips since.
Bill has been doing fundraising for the school since 2000. Since then, the school has grown to about 1,200 students.
In Tanzania, about 70 percent of all children go to school through the primary grades because the education is free. However, as soon as they reach the secondary level, they have to start paying tuition. The numbers drop down to about 1 in 20 kids who can afford to go to school.
"I've been trying to raise money for scholarships so these kids can go to school, and it's been successful," said Koeckeritz. They have raised $250,000 over the past ten years to help the school. There are now thirteen classrooms. They have also built three dormitories. Some of the kids walk up to five miles a day to get to school, so they built the dormitories to eliminate the long walk for the students. Usually, they have about 250 students who live at the school. Tuition ranges from $250 to $400 for a boarded student, and the per capita income is about $600 a year. "The family is devoting a large part of their resources to sending their child to school," Koeckeritz explained. "The kids over there don't take their education for granted; it's a real privilege for them, so that's why it's so fun to go over and help these kids," he said. "This is their one opportunity to get an education and hopefully avoid some of the poverty that they live in."
On Oct. 30, Koeckeritz will be taking another group over to Tanzania. The 16-day trip will include five days on an animal safari. While most of the trips have focused on classrooms and supplies, this upcoming trip will address health concerns. Malaria and cholera are major problems in Tanzania.
"Four nurses and a dental hygienist are going on the trip, and we'll be doing eye exams at the school. We're also going to invite villagers in to get medical exams," said Koeckeritz. Along with the eye exams, there is a great need for eyeglasses for the students. "I bet out of these 1,200 kids you might find 10 pairs of glasses," said Koeckeritz. They are collecting used children's glasses.
Some of the non-medical volunteers will be painting classrooms and dormitories, and Koeckeritz will help with a well drilling project. There is no drinkable water directly at the school, so water becomes a huge issue.
"Right now, the only drinkable water to the village itself is piped in off of a mountain about five miles, and then it becomes a real competition with the villagers," Koeckeritz explained. "If there's a shortage of water, the school has to close." The drilling of the well will cost about $16,000 and a purification system will cost about $10,000.
To raise money for the well-drilling project, Our Savior's Lutheran Church will be hosting a Pitchfork Fondue fundraiser on Sept. 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. The menu will include steak (cooked on pitchforks in a cauldron of boiling oil), sweet corn and other sides. There will be a silent auction with African artifacts and art work as well as donations from area businesses. Live music will be provided by R&B Crossing. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased from Bill and Carol Koeckeritz (276-2211), Jim and Nancy Thomas (276-3925) and Duane and Diane Lambrecht (359-9122).