• ashirk@gmail.com
  • Kijabe, Kenya
On Birthdays

On Birthdays

As we first moved to Kijabe, we knew well what Arianna’s role would be, but I didn’t have a clear plan. I took Swahili lessons, hung out around the corporate affairs department, wrote a history book on the Hospital, joined Bible studies, went for lots of mountain bike rides, and made sure the girls got up and down to school every day (4-6 trips back and forth when they were little!). Then, a friend asked if I would take over the task of creating a fundraising organization called Friends of Kijabe. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do, so I made a call to Arianna’s uncle John. He knew the right people to ask for help. Less than six weeks later, we received our foundation documents from the IRS and we were up and running. We received our very first donations in April of 2016.

The journey with Friends of Kijabe has been one of learning to lead, learning to follow, and learning to trust. So many of our friends and family are an integral part of the mission, I am continually amazed by their generosity. There have been many times I’ve cried tears of joy when needs were provided for. I’ve seen people be generous when I thought they would have nothing to give – like the students who donate a portion of their first paychecks, or our friend’s son who created a sports magazine and gave the profit to help Kijabe. Our home church, LCVH in Birmingham, has been amazing. Our Kenyan donors are a sign that we were helping in a good way, honoring those we seek to serve. Things that seemed impossible five years ago have come to pass, and we’re starting to dream even bigger dreams. Sometimes I think God likes nothing more than to exceed our wildest expectations.

Below is a summary of the first 5 years and what is ahead. Hope you enjoy!

Let’s Celebrate!

Friends of Kijabe turned 5 this month!  What have we accomplished in these 5 years?  

We supported Kijabe medical infrastructure to treat 500,000 outpatients, provide 50,000 surgeries, and directly subsidized care for 1000+ patients.  We finished the Elimu education housing building, upgraded the labor and delivery suite, purchased equipment for pediatrics, pathology, and radiology, and are nearing completion of a new operating theatre complex.  We sponsored education for 20 students at Kijabe College of Health Sciences.  We provided higher education for healthcare providers in Pediatric & Adult Emergency Medicine, Audiology, Opthalmology, and Palliative care.  During times of crisis at Kijabe, the doctor’s strike of 2016-17, and the pandemic of 2020, we provided $80,000 and $250,000 respectively, which enabled the hospital to keep doors open and continue serving.  All in all, we have raised $2.2 million, granted $1.9 million, and have $0.3 million in savings as restricted and endowed funds.  All that this was accomplished at $61,660 in overhead, a cost ratio of less than 2.9%.  

When I use the pronoun “we,” I am talking about the global network of generous friends who love Kijabe Hospital and have chosen to support the ministry financially.  It started with a handful of people and has now grown to 65+ donating monthly, 150 giving year-over-year, and many more making one-time gifts.  Friends of Kijabe are across the globe – Kenya, America, Australia, Canada, the U.K., Germany, and Hong Kong.  Some are doctors, pastors, or business leaders.  Others are stay-at-home moms and dads (like me!), retirees, or university students. Most have strong ties to Kijabe, either they grew up in or near Kijabe, visited or volunteered, or have a good friend/family member serving at the Hospital or on the board.  

Multiple churches have joined in faithful giving – Lutheran Church Vestavia Hills in Birmingham, Redeemer Presbyterian in Memphis, Morro Bay Presbyterian in California, Elevation Church in Charlotte.  

All are vital to the ministry, none of the work could happen without amazing friends.  Thank you all, and thank you always! 

Today is Day 1

While we are so proud of these achievements, we must remember that today is Day 1.  Today, a patient will come to Kijabe hospital without health insurance or family support.  Today, a nursing student will consider dropping out of school to help his family tend livestock.  Today a colleague in a remote part of Kenya will ask about transferring a complicated patient and the in-charge will have to say yes or no.  Today, the leadership team will discuss building a new outpatient center, chapel, NICU, and oxygen plant and consider whether plans are achievable.  Though amazing things have happened over the past five years, each morning we start again.  We seek God’s will and trust that if we say yes, in faith, every need will be provided.  

We balance faith with wisdom, seeking to make promises we can keep because the stakes in healthcare are literally life and death.  Half an ultrasound machine cannot diagnose a heart defect.  Half an oxygen system cannot sustain the ICU.  An operating theatre without lights and anesthesia machines is not fit for surgery.   We want to honor the sacrifice of those giving and honor the Kijabe Hospital leaders as they seek to feed multitudes with a few loaves and fish.  In all endeavors, we will count the cost and commit to action only if we believe success is likely.

What do the next 5 years look like?  The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know!  

John Richter, Friends of Kijabe board chair, often reminds me about the importance of unrestricted giving for this reason.  Events will happen that we could never predict.  Opportunities will arise that we never could dream.  The best we can do is to prepare for what may come with as much flexibility as we can allow.  I’m thrilled that more than half of giving in 2020 was to our general Friends Fund, this is a great sign for moving into an uncertain future with confidence.  

Dream Big

By year 10, April 2026, we would love to see Friends of Kijabe achieve the following: reach $10 million in giving, with 180 people giving monthly and 1000 giving annually which would allow us to:

1. Finish and outfit the new operating theatres. (Complete by year-end).

2. Construct a new chapel. (Plans are in motion, more details to come in the next months).  

3. Double the capacity for the neonatal ICU.  

4. Install a high quality oxygen system to meet the forward-looking needs of the hospital.  

5. Make massive investment in education: provide 50% of the sponsored cost for surgical/anesthesiology education and sponsor 25 KCHS students/year.

6. Triple vulnerable patient funding to a target of 7% of the hospital budget going toward care for the poor.  

7. Move toward energy independence with a solar power system.  

8. Construct a new outpatient center, including updated lab, diagnostics, A&E. (top-center of picture below).

9. Develop a hub-and-spoke model with 5 new satellite clinics.  

10. Grow Friends of Kijabe endowment to $1 million.

These are huge dreams, but if our friends prove faithful and we move forward in the Lord’s will, they will come to pass. All of God’s promises are as good as done!

Would you like to continue on the journey that is unfolding at Kijabe?  If the answer is yes, please keep us in your prayers, keep us in your hearts, keep in touch, and let’s see what God can do!