Larry Barnett, Rotary Club of Barrington

A friend’s tale of tainted drinking water in Kenya spurred Larry Barnett to action. The original plan was to drill a few deep wells. His efforts are now transforming lives.

Larry Barnett was not a Rotarian several years ago when a fellow church member spoke about his brother who died from typhoid in Kenya. But he was inspired. He joined the congregation’s efforts to provide the community with clean, safe water.

He also suggested that his Rotarian co-workers get involved. The club agreed, and Barnett in 2008 became a member of the Rotary Club of Barrington. Under his leadership, the project has expanded into an overall community development program for the Usonga Location in Western Kenya. A dozen suburban Rotary Clubs have signed on as partners and Rotary International has kicked in matching grant money.

The multi-pronged program so far includes drilling five deep wells; building and stocking a health center; delivering 20,000 used texts and library books; creating scholarships for poor and orphaned children; and installing solar panels to power classrooms and the health center. The ultimate goal is for the community to be self-sustaining rather than rely on aid, says Barnett, who has traveled to Kenya five times.

Next up, Barnett hopes to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with his son, Brad, to raise more money.

“The concept of climbing is cool, but knowing we could potentially drill more wells would be really great motivation,” he says.

Follow Barnett’s work at

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