Moses Bomett: Hopeful Africa

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By his own account, Moses Bomett is a man with a foot in two countries a world apart. Born in the United States and raised in Kenya, at age 24 Bomett has spent exactly half of his life in Africa and half in Iowa.

That gives Bomett a unique perspective on philanthropy, social services, global relations, and giving back to the places he loves. At age 16 and a junior at West Des Moines’ Valley High School, he started an organization to send books and other resources to schools in Africa. He continued the organization as a student at Iowa State.

“America is the land of opportunity,” Bomett says. “People don’t fully grasp what that means unless you come from another country.”

His organization, Hopeful Africa, has been active in some capacity for eight years now. To date, it has invested more than $100,000 in seven schools in Kenya, providing more than 5,300 books, 27 computers, and more than 140 student scholarships – and it annually supports 18 teachers in an effort to drive down the high student-teacher ratio there.

“Those are the big numbers,” Bomett says. “There’s one more thing I want to share when we talk about the impact in Kenya, and this you cannot capture in any numbers. There’s a motivational aspect, knowing that there is someone, some people thousands of miles away – you might not have met them, you might never meet them – but they believe in you and they want you to succeed. They want to invest in you. It’s impacted test scores, it’s impacted attendance, it’s impacted the morale of the teachers to teach, just knowing that ‘We have a partner. We have someone behind us.’”

Bomett (A) is a 2013 ISU grad with a degree in economics, political science, and international studies. He graduated knowing he wanted to work in the nonprofit world, and he recently received a master’s degree in public administration from Drake University. For the past two years, he’s worked at the Bernie & Berniece Baker Boys and Girls Club at Amos Hiatt Middle School on the northeast side of Des Moines. Hiatt has a multi-ethnic, diverse enrollment; the school’s minority enrollment is 86 percent of the student body, compared with the state of Iowa average of 21 percent. Bomett counts refugees, students for which English is a second language, and many different cultures and countries represented at the school.

As director of the Baker Club, Bomett oversees all of the daily programming – from cooking programs to fitness to games to homework help and literacy – and hires the staff. The club provides programming after school, during the summer, and over school breaks, serving a full third of the school’s enrolled students.

In both of his nonprofit worlds, Bomett sees a parallel thread in Iowa.

“Once people hear our story, once people see the work we’re doing, the next thing they say is, ‘How can I help? How can I be a part of this? Where do I start? What can I do?’ And that to me speaks specifically here in Iowa and in this Midwest region that there are pockets of opportunity and resources that are untapped. There’s a lot of spirit of helping each other, supporting each other.”

Bomett is passionate about providing life-changing opportunities to kids, both in Iowa and in Kenya.

“I’ve been asked, ‘Where does it feel like home?’ And I say, ‘I don’t know. I’m a son of both worlds.’ I give back to Des Moines and to Africa. It can be doom and gloom, but that’s not the story I want to tell. I see opportunities every day. It’s not a desolate story. It’s a hopeful story.”

Learn more at www.hopefulafrica.org

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