The surrounding homesteads
of Kiwawa had begun to see John and Sarah and their village of boys as an
important part of life in the valley. John made sure the Kiwawa water pump was
always running, a welcome change as the British colonists had often let the pump
lay broken for years at a time. And after a Karamoja raid left a nearby
homestead cowless, Sarah hand delivered a bag of cornmeal to help the family
bridge the gap. The local elders from the surrounding villages returned the favors whenever they could. A dozen of the strongest men in the valley had recently spent a month showing the boys how to build a traditional Pokot meeting house out of timber, clay, and grass. And for the rest of the dry season, the boys studied their lessons inside the cool red-clay building, grateful to be studying out of the sun. But when the first rains came pouring down, drops began to drip through the thatched roof. A few big drops were all it took to ruin a lesson book, and there were no lesson books to spare. After a particularly wet and buggy rainy season, John had had enough. In 1990 he took the truck over the farthest mountain and returned with the first corrugated-tin sheets the valley had ever seen. For the next three months, classes were cancelled and John meticulously taught each boy how to secure knotty crooked timbers into the sandy ground. Then, hand over hand, he pounded nails through the wavy metal that reflected the desert sun in every direction. By the first rains, Kiwawa school had three metal classrooms. For months villagers gathered from distant valleys to stare at the shimmering roof, the children holding their small hands against the tin, shocked that it was so hot and bright.