Burkybile drip irrigation April 3

Carl Burkybile teaches residents of Kenya about drip irrigation. Burkybile will receive the University of Illinois College of ACES' most prestigious award — the ACES Alumni Association Award of Merit.

A longtime former Rantoul Township High School ag teacher will receive the University of Illinois College of ACES’ most prestigious award for his work in the education field in this country and for helping people in need overseas.

Urbana resident Carl Burkybile, who spent 26 years at RTHS, four years teaching at Armstrong Township High School and two years at Paxton High, is being honored for his work with Healing Hands International.

He will be honored Monday, April 8, and will receive the ACES Alumni Association Award of Merit.  

Burkybile became Healing Hands International’s director of agriculture in December 2011. His work involves expanding the network of people and financial supporters interested in teaching hungry people how to increase their food production and preservation.

“In addition to his experience as a high school agriculture instructor and shop teacher, he has served as vocational director and co-authored two agriculture mechanics textbooks.”

He has taken numerous mission trips within the U.S., has helped build a children’s home in Honduras and served the last 20 years as the director of Healing Hands International’s sister organization, Caring for Kenya. Burkybile serves as an elder at Philo Road Christian Church, Urbana, and has been married to Ruth Ann for 50 years They have three children and five grandchildren.

Burkybile recently spearheaded the largest international project undertaken by the 46-club east-central Illinois Rotary District 6490. It resulted in a $194,000 water well project in eastern Kenya, which brought clean water to about 26,000 people and 20,000 animals in four eastern Kenya communities.

Burkybile initiated change to the project through Healing Hands that he helps to direct. He also managed the project, which was financed primarily by Rotary funds. The Champaign club took the lead role.

“No one individual put as much into this project as Carl,” Rotary official Larry Howell, who helped finalize the project, was quoted in the District 6490 newsletter.

A Rotary club in Kenya plus 10 central Illinois Rotary clubs and six other Rotary districts partnered to bring about the project, which took four years.

Burkybile said in the newsletter he was drawn to help with the project for several reasons:

“Meeting people who walked 12 miles or more to get water for survival; learning of the sickness of children associated with drinking contaminated water, and knowing there was a way to prevent it; seeing hunger and malnutrition caused by crops drying up because of a lack of water and knowing through new water sources and survival gardening training with drip irrigation that the situation could be changed; realizing the hours and hours of time that people spent walking for water and thinking how their lives could change if those hours could be spent on more productive things; seeing children who were not able to attend school because their time was needed to walk for water for their families; and learning of people routinely visiting a medical clinic with dysentery, worms, typhoid and parasites from drinking contaminated water.”

The project included a diesel-powered well in Nzawa and solar-powered wells in Masaani, Kithumula and Zombe.

Burkybile helped form Caring for Kenya in 1995. Caring for Kenya helps people there secure clean water, learn how to grow crops and provides medical assistance.

Caring for Kenya also offers a mobile medical clinic that has treated thousands of people for little or no cost. The group also operates a stationary medical clinic.

Kenya suffers from a lack of rain during much of the year.

“We teach them how to raise food in the dry season using composting raised planting beds, drip irrigation and mulching. With a $15 drip kit investment on a raised bed you can raise 100 plants.”

By using 5 gallons of water in the morning and another 5 gallons in the evening, the people can raise enough vegetables to feed a family during the dry season.

During the dry season, as the reservoirs dry up, the water gets dirtier. The water is often contaminated with bacteria and parasites.

The water filters brought by the Caring for Kenya group help to remove most of the sand, dirt, bacteria and parasites.

The Urbana resident, who retired from teaching in 2002, has conducted ag workshops in 15 countries via Healing Hands International.