Dinner at the Pipkin’s Hosue
by Turk Pipkin
Photograph by Casey Chapman Ross
IN THE WHIRLWIND WE CALL MODERN LIVING, it’s challenging to line up friends for dinner on any particular night, but occasionally the stars align. In this case, it was for a group of old friends who share our deep ties to Kenya. And with a couple of newlyweds in the mix, we were all fired up to celebrate.
In the dozen years that Christy Pipkin and I have been pursuing The Nobelity Project’s education and conservation work in Kenya, Sarah Evans of Well Aware and Zane Wilemon of Ubuntu have been frequent co-con-spirators. Also joining us for dinner were Zane’s wife of just a few days, Amal Safdar, and our great friend from Kenya, Emily Sile-Twitchell, who is also a board member of Well Aware.
Between the six of us, we’ve worked with tens of thousands of young people in rural Kenya, building schools and water systems, and caring for those in deep need. Clearly, we had a lot to talk about.
Christy and I are not averse to cooking a full meal while friends are hav-ing a welcome drink in the kitchen, but this was not a dinner that called for conversation over cooking, so a big poached salmon filet and side dishes were ready for the table when everyone arrived.
Close on the heels of a busy workday, we kicked things off with espresso martinis (chill double espresso shots in the freezer so they don’t melt the ice, add Tito’s or Patron, a little Patron XO Coffee Liqueur, Frangelico, and ice, and then shake).
Wedding talk was our first order of business. Zane and Amal took turns describing how he’d surprised her a few days earlier by switching their morning workout to a surprise wedding with a quick honeymoon at Hotel Saint Cecilia. The tag-team descriptions were great, but the joy on their faces was even greater.
To celebrate, I opened a magnum of The Turk Wine, our big and bold No-belity Project Cab/Syrah made by Austin Hope and his Paso Robles winery, Treana. Turning wine into water for schools in rural Kenya, The Turk has already funded a number of school water projects, and will soon help fund three more in partnership with Well Aware.
As we toasted, I gave Sarah a report on my visit to those three schools just two weeks ago. One of those projects is a deep well, or borehole, as they say in Kenya, so Sarah, Emily and I were eager to discuss our new hydrology report. I thought the report looked good, but Sarah said that they were ordering a second test because Well Aware has never had a failed water project and they want to keep it that way. Better safe than sorry.
We were all seated for dinner by the time we began discussing the drought in Kenya and each of our upcoming travel plans. Zane is flying over in a cou-ple of weeks, and even though I’d just returned, Christy and I are returning with a group in a month to open several new projects, including a gorgeous library built inside an abandoned water tank.
Emily and I had just gotten a great report from Konyit Primary, a rural school near her parent’s home that The Nobelity Project helped rebuild from the ground up. A recent report showed improving grades, new infrastructure funded locally and, at long last, power lines connections.
Over dessert, Zane caught us up on the re-branding of their nonprofit under the name Ubuntu. Working with Whole Foods, Zazzle and other partners, Ubuntu empowers lives through pediatric health and education programs, with funding from the sale of their Kenyan products. Zane was excited to tell us that Café Ubuntu coffee would be on the shelves at Whole Foods starting in May.
Everyone we work with in Kenya is affected by the ongoing drought in East Africa. Toward the end of the evening, we talked about the 100-ki-lometer camel walk I’d taken across northern Kenya to see the effects of the drought first-hand. Walking with the founders of the Milgis Trust, we were led by 30 Samburu warriors and 45 camels on a six-day walk that included a 5,000-foot climb over a mountain (a severe test for me, the old guy in our group).
Sarah, Zane, and Amal were all eager to take a shot at this epic journey, but Emily, who of course knows Kenya better than any of us, looked at us like we were crazy.
Suddenly we realized hours had passed. Sarah and Emily had sitters to relieve, and Zane and Amal… well, they’re newlyweds.
As we parted, we all vowed to do this again. Maybe we’ll all see each other in Kenya.
Turk Pipkin and Christy Pipkin are founders of The Nobelity Project, which bridges gaps in education in East Africa, Latin America, and the United States. Turk is also the director of three Nobelity Project feature films, “Nobelity,” “One Peace at a Time” and “Building Hope—the Story of Mahiga Hope High School.” Their dinner guests were Sarah Evans, founder and executive director of Well Aware, Zane Wilemon, co-founder and executive director of Ubuntu, Amal Safdar, partner and director at Pershing, and Emily Sile-Twitchell, board member at Well Aware.
Read more from the Travel Issue | May 2017