WIKS-USA

WIKS-USA, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization, incorporated in Connecticut in 2009. Its goal is to promote quality educational experiences for underprivileged children in Kenya, particularly those orphaned or otherwise rendered vulnerable by the AIDS pandemic. WIKS-USA was formed by Americans who had developed a close personal relationship with Reverend Evalyn Wakhusama, the founder of the Nambale Magnet School, during her time in the United States when she was studying at the Yale Divinity School. Because of the integrity of this relationship, WIKS-USA has focused its efforts exclusively on the support of the Nambale Magnet School: construction, operations, maintenance and capital expansion. We anticipate that this will continue to be our organization’s sole focus in the immediate future.

WIKS-USA is an entirely volunteer-run organization, whose objective is to provide financial and technical assistance to the Nambale Magnet School. Because it has no employees, WIKS-USA maintains exceedingly low overhead costs, consisting almost exclusively of printing, postage and production costs for its informational and fundraising materials. As a result, nearly 100% of the funds that it raises can be used in direct support of the Nambale Magnet School.

Since its incorporation in 2009, WIKS-USA has provided more than $600,000 in operating costs for the school, and more than $300,000 in capital improvements and supplies. Prior to incorporation, our board members assisted in raising more than $475,000 to construct, equip and fund operations for the school’s inaugural academic year. The WIKS-USA board of directors meets quarterly to review and discuss applications for funding, and provides oversight, guidance and other technical support to the school to assist the Kenyans in its operations. WIKS-USA is entirely independent of the Kenyan NGO, WIKS, and can therefore assure its donors that their gifts will be used thoughtfully and strategically to maximize their value.

The U.S. Team

  • Tom Sansone
    Tom Sansone President

    Tom Sansone is a licensed attorney in Connecticut, who has extensive fundraising and leadership experience in the non-profit sector. On a visit to Kenya in 2004, Tom was struck by the plight of impoverished, un- or under-educated children residing in rural areas. Through his friendship with Kenyan Anglican minister, Evalyn Wakhusama,  Tom undertook to help lead the effort to raise funds for the construction, equipping,  and operation of the Nambale Magnet School. Tom attended the groundbreaking ceremony at the school in August 2007, and returned to Kenya again in 2011. He is president of WIKS-USA, Inc., the Connecticut-based charity formed in 2009 to support the education of Kenyan children orphaned or left otherwise vulnerable by AIDS.

  • John Barton
    John Barton Director

    John Barton has recently transitioned from a 20-year career as a business lawyer to a new post with Teach for America in the Bronx, New York. John has extensive fundraising experience, and is a seasoned international traveler, having most recently hiked the pilgrimage route from the Pyrenees to the shrine of St. James in Spain.

  • Ruth Beardsley
    Ruth Beardsley Grants Coordinator

    Ruth Beardsley is a practicing attorney in Bethany, Connecticut. She has long been active in civic and philanthropic organizations on a local and statewide level. She became inspired to volunteer for the project after she visited Kenya in 2004, 2007 and 2011, and saw the difference the Nambale Magnet School is making in the lives of its students, their families and the surrounding community. Ruth and her husband were honored in 2014 for their philanthropic work, including for the school, as recipients of the Alexis de Tocqueville Herbert H. Pearce Award from the United Way of Greater New Haven.

  • Kate Heichler
    Kate Heichler Secretary

    Kate Heichler, an ordained Episcopal priest, serves as pastor of Christ the Healer Church in Stamford, Connecticut as well as Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut. She has been active in the effort to launch the Nambale Magnet School since its inception, helping create publicity and public relations material about the project, including the website and social media.

  • Mary Karoll
    Mary Karoll Grants Committee

    Mary Karoll is a retired elementary school teacher. For 25 years she taught fourth and sixth grade at Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy where she is remembered for her puppet shows and plays. She is an active parishioner at Christ Church in Bethany, Connecticut, where she enjoys teaching Children’s Chapel among numerous other endeavors. Her love of children and keen interest in education attracted her to the Nambale Magnet School, so she joined the leadership team after retiring from teaching.

  • Kevin Merritt
    Kevin Merritt Treasurer

    Kevin Merritt is a Tax Manager at BlumShapiro. Kevin joined the WIKS-USA Board in 2014 after learning about the educational and positive life impacts that Nambale Magnet School has had with its students and the surrounding community. He hopes to one day travel to Kenya to experience the school first-hand. He supports the Nambale Magnet school, “because it’s not just an opportunity for an education, it’s a chance at a new life.”

  • John Parker
    John Parker Director

    John Parker is a retired mechanical engineer. He and his wife, Marilyn, have lived in Kenya for several months each year for the past 10 years, where they support a number of programs that serve children and young adults. They are regular visitors to the Nambale Magnet School. John has served on the governing boards of several community and professional organizations and as president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He is an elder of the Noroton Presbyterian Church and a member of the Mission Team. He is a founding member of the WIKS-USA Board. John “is inspired by the potential for the Magnet School to transform the Nambale community.”

  • Claire Dietrich Ranna
    Claire Dietrich Ranna Social Media

    Claire Dietrich Ranna currently serves as the Associate Rector of the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin in San Francisco. A recent graduate of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, Claire became acquainted with Namable Magnet School while in seminary. While at Berkeley, Claire served as an intern at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, where she worked extensively on community engagement and various food ministries. Claire earned her B.A. from Duke University in 2007 with a double major in Cultural Anthropology and International Studies. She co-wrote and co-produced the documentary film Miss Representation before pursuing theological education.

  • Loretta Smith
    Loretta Smith Assistant Treasurer

    Loretta Smith is a retired college mathematics instructor, tutor and administrator. She was among a group of supporters who traveled to Kenya in 2004 to explore possibilities for collaboration with Evalyn Wakhusama and other mission-minded Kenyan women, interested in discerning how a U.S. team might be involved in the founding and support of a school in rural Kenya. An active fundraiser from the start of the school, Loretta has held leadership positions on the WIKS-USA Board including Treasurer and Corresponding Secretary.

  • Mary Thompson
    Mary Thompson Vice President

    Mary Thompson brings experience in facilities management, event planning, project management, and communications to WIKS-USA. She has worked with local programs aimed at improving opportunities for vulnerable children and with alcohol and drug education and abuse prevention. When visiting Nambale Magnet School, Mary saw extraordinary facilities and flourishing children. At the same time, she was struck by contrast: Nambale Magnet School continues to lack much of what she expects for her own children. She returned with renewed energy to raise funds so Nambale Magnet School can continue to demonstrate excellence and to transform lives.

  • Janet Waggoner
    Janet Waggoner Director

    Janet Waggoner serves as the Canon to the Ordinary for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. She has a background in fundraising and communications; she was Development Director for Marion-Polk Food Share, a regional food bank in Salem, Oregon. In the summer of 2012, Janet and her family spent a month in Kenya, visiting Nambale Magnet School and networking for support of the school. She joined the WIKS-USA Board in 2012. In her own words, “I support the good work of Nambale Magnet School not only to educate the children who are there now, but also to create a model school that can be replicated in other parts of Kenya and Africa.”

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