Community leaders are planning an trip this summer to Marsabit, Kenya, according to Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas. He said the city council approved a recommendation a year ago to join with Marsabit in the sister-city international-partnership program, but money was not available to pay for a trip.
The mayor added that he will present the trip plans to the council again this year, but if money still is not available, he will pay for his plane ticket out of his own pocket. He said the trip currently is scheduled for July 19-31. Roundtrip tickets cost $3,500 a person, he said.
“Marsabit is a little bit larger than Hinesville,” Thomas said. “I think it’s like a combination of city and county governments. The primary purpose of this trip would be different than other trips. They don’t have the economic infrastructure to establish an economic exchange like we have with our sister city in China. This would be more of a social and cultural relationship.”
Thomas admitted he doesn’t know a lot about Marsabit, having never been to Kenya. He said Dr. Peggy Rayman, school nurse for Lewis Frasier Middle School, suggested partnering with Marsabit as a sister city last year after she returned from a mission trip there. He said Rayman is coordinating fundraising and publicity efforts for the July visit. He does think the trip will take place this year, paid for with participants’ own funds and donations of others.
Rayman said planned fundraisers include a formal dinner hosted by the mayor Feb. 15 at the Performing Arts Center in Flemington. The dinner, called “A night to remember,” will include a fashion show of West African attire, she said.
On April 5 and May 31, Hinesville and the 92nd Civil Affairs Battalion on Fort Stewart will host 5K run/walks in downtown Hinesville. On April 26, she said the mayor will host a gospel choir concert titled, “Let the nations be glad.” That event also will be at the Performing Arts Center.
Rayman hopes to get at least 20 Hinesville residents to take part in the Marsabit trip. That way, she said the people there will get to meet a better cross-section of citizens. She hopes for participation by choir members, teachers and medical/dental personnel. She said choir members are sought because music often crosses over language and cultural barriers, opening doors for communication. Teachers would participate in a workshop with teachers in Marsabit, and medical/dental personnel would be partnered with the Kenyan Christian Medical and Dental Association, she said.
“Marsabit is a little like a town in the Wild West in the early years of our country’s development,” Rayman said. “It lies in the northern part of Kenya, which during the British occupation was called the Northern Frontier. It was not developed because at the time, it held no strategic interest to Great Britain...
“Marsabit lies in a region that could be of great benefit to the United States or a great thorn in our side. Right now, most of the citizens of Marsabit are very friendly and eager to meet Americans. But it does lie in an area that has potential to be radicalized by Al Shabaab (a militant group based in rural parts of southern Somalia). Having good, solid, citizen-to-citizen relationships is the key behind the whole sister cities international program.”
Rayman, who has a doctorate in missions, said missions are her life’s passion. This summer’s trip to Marsabit will be her 19th mission trip and her sixth visit to Marsabit. She has made trips to Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Benin, South Africa and Kenya.
She said sister-city partnerships involve local governments, business and a variety of citizen volunteers. The sister-city trip will be different than her previous nondenominational mission trips because this one is citizen-driven. She said the idea of joining with Marsabit as a sister city goes back to 2011 when northern Kenya was going through a serious draught. She said Thomas displayed concern for another nation’s people and a vision for global citizenship.
“Under Mayor Thomas’ leadership, Hinesville is emerging as a responsible citizen of the global village,” Rayman said. “I believe that establishing a relationship with Marsabit is a worth-while piece of that overall vision.”