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Overland Travel Guests Pack School Supplies to Make a Big Impact on Kenyan Students

Overland Travel Guests Pack School Supplies to Make a Big Impact on Kenyan Students

This post first appeared on Pack For A Purpose:

When Bryan and Jade landed carrying their full business class luggage allowance we were overwhelmed with their generosity, as well as their family and their friends’.  Their personal belongings for the safari were about a quarter of their luggage and the rest was stationary, clothes, and even some tablets (IPads, not medication!) for us to distribute to the community projects we support. We took Bryan and Jade to Amani Kibera so they could see for themselves the impact they were making on the community. For us, that is the real highlight of Pack for a Purpose: being able to take guests to the projects where they can make their donations in person and meet the beneficiaries.

Bryan and Jade are not the only guests who have come laden with supplies for Kenyan communities. Sheila had been sponsoring Ndunda’s education for some time before she and her friend Christine came for a safari in Kenya and then to Botswana. Ndunda lives at Kiota Children’s Home, one of the projects we support, and we worked a visit into Sheila and Christine’s itinerary. They had brought a pile of stationary, not just for Ndunda, but enough for all the children in the home.

Amani Kibera has a community library and relies entirely on donations of books to fill the shelves. Their primary focus with any funding or grants they receive is to buy the Kenyan syllabus texts as many children in the Kibera slum cannot afford their own copies. All other books, both fiction and non-fiction, have been donated by well-wishers. It’s really important to give children access to books other than their textbooks as it is not common to have books in the home. Kenyan children have to work a bit harder to get an interest in subjects not taught at school or to pick up a novel and get lost in the fantasy. Having such books available at the library gives them these opportunities and can open up the wider world to them.  Tom brought books when he visited and so did the McDonnell and Wedeen families.

Even people who have not booked a safari with us have got in touch with us because they wanted to Pack for a Purpose. Given early starts on most safaris and odd flight times, we sometimes don’t get to meet these people in person but it’s lovely to walk into a hotel and receive a suitcase full of toys for Amani Kibera’s childcare centre or bags of stationary and arts and crafts supplies for Kiota.

Jackson was so inspired by the project he visited that a couple of years after his safari, he raised and sent us money to buy smart phones in Kenya. This gave the project leaders the ability to communicate more effectively with the world about their work and also use the DuoLingo app to learn English.

The benefit to the projects is immense. When every penny of funding and donations goes towards school fees, food and necessary school stationary, it is such a treat for the children at Kiota to get some art and craft supplies. The education system in Kenya is largely rote learning so getting such materials gives the children an opportunity to explore their own imaginations and develop creativity they might not get at school. Plus it’s fun, which is also important for these children who have had a pretty tough childhood.

Bringing stationary and other school supplies to Amani Kibera means they can distribute them to needy families who barely have enough money for school fees.

The projects benefit from Pack for a Purpose because they are able to specify exactly what they need and guests can bring those things. After this current COVID-19 crisis, everyone will have suffered in the economic downturn and especially those with less than the average person. We have unfortunately had a few of our sponsors cease their sponsorship of a Kenyan child’s education due to their own financial hardship in the current circumstances. When this is all over and we can travel again, any school supplies that can be brought to assist families as they scrape together money for school fees, uniforms and text books will be a great help.

Three For Free!

Three For Free!

Are you planning a safari in Kenya next year?  OTA is offering a free city tour with every safari taken between February and June 2021.  So book your Kenyan safari with OTA today to enjoy this incredible bonus.

All safaris that are booked for the period beginning 1 February through to 30 June will enjoy a complimentary day trip around some of Nairobi’s highlights.  The first stop will be the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage where the baby elephants come in from the park for feeding time.  Their keepers introduce each elephant and tell the story of how each one came to be at the orphanage.  (Read more about the Elephant Orphanage here:

Next is the AFEW Giraffe Centre (  The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife hosts about a dozen giraffes at Nairobi’s Giraffe Centre where you climb up to a platform to be at eye level with these beautiful creatures.  You can feed them and even get a big sloppy kiss if you are very keen!

In the afternoon we head to Africa’s second-largest slum, Kibera.  Amani Kibera is a community-based organisation working towards peace and development in the slum.  Started by a team of young people following the traumatic post-election violence in 2008, Amani Kibera is committed to eradicating the tribalism that erodes Kenyan society.  They promote peace through three pillars: sport, education and economic empowerment.  You will have the opportunity to visit the public library they have established as well as the youth economic empowerment project where you can lend further support by purchasing some of the handicrafts the young people produce.

Valued at $135 per person this tour of Nairobi gives you the chance to see the positive work being undertaken in the fields of conservation, education, and youth empowerment by various organisations.  And it’s yours for free when you book your safari with OTA to travel between February and June 2021!  Contact today to start planning your Kenyan adventure.

Make a Tremendous Impact and Transform a Life Through Education

Make a Tremendous Impact and Transform a Life Through Education

While I might have a few issues with the aid and development industry in countries like Kenya (who arguably does not need foreign aid, just good governance and accountability), the incredible impact of sponsoring a student’s education is something I whole-heartedly support and emphatically encourage people to do.  The cliché that there is no greater gift than education resonates as fact in developing countries and there is no shorter, sustainable way out of poverty than going to school.  If you want to assist those less fortunate, then sponsoring a student is the most effective way to ensure you make a real difference.

At Kiota Children’s Home, 20 children receive support from Dutch and Australian sponsors.  In September, we were fortunate to introduce Sheila to Ndunda, who she sponsors.  Ndunda’s story is sad, but not unusual – his parents abandoned the children and he was found with his younger brother picking through the garbage dump when he was only 5 years old.  Since arriving at Kiota, he has learnt social skills (although he is still very shy), has been able to attend school and has access to counselling.  He has a chance at a decent future now.  Moreover, when Sheila visited with her friend Christine, they “Packed For A Purpose” ( and were able to bring specific items needed at Kiota – pens, exercise books, coloured pencils, etc.  There is more than one way to give!

In September, we were fortunate to introduce Sheila to Ndunda, who she sponsors

In September, we were fortunate to introduce Sheila to Ndunda, who she sponsors

Jared wanted to return to university to finish a Bachelor of Public Health after his first sponsor was no longer able to support him.  Thanks to Bev, he is completing his degree this year.  Bev travelled to Uganda last year to meet Jared and spent time with his relatives, seeing his life.  From the first time I met Jared in 2012 to the time of introducing him and Bev in 2014, I saw a remarkable change in him.  He seemed to have grown, which for a man in his mid-20s was unlikely.  But he stood up straighter and had more confidence.  Regardless of any academic results, just this change in demeanour will surely take him further than the shy boy of two years previous.

Bev and Jared's relationship was cemented during Bev's travels in Uganda and Jared can continue his studies as well as take on extra-curricular activities

Bev and Jared’s relationship was cemented during Bev’s travels in Uganda and Jared can continue his studies as well as take on extra-curricular activities

Pauline travelled in Kenya in 2014 and, upon learning the plight of girls in education, wanted to sponsor a young woman.  Sylvia is a Maasai girl who achieved excellent marks in her primary school exams, but her prospects of getting to secondary school were slim to none.  The primary school she had attended had largely waived her fees in the knowledge that her parents were extremely poor but that Sylvia was very bright.  A secondary school would not make the same allowance.  Enter Pauline, and Sylvia is attending boarding school in Narok, the closest town to her family yet still 100km away.  She now has the opportunity to avoid an early marriage and a life of walking miles to fetch water and firewood.

Education is life-changing and we are committed to affording as many students the opportunity to go to school as we can.  In Melbourne, Australia we hosted a fund raising event in May 2015.  Guests were invited to sponsor individual students or make a one-off donation.  The money we collected from the donations has been given to the Titus Ngoyoni Memorial Primary School to replace the desks and chairs, which are in severe disrepair.  We intend to make the Melbourne event an annual one so we can continue to raise funds for needy schools and homes.

The money we collected from the donations has been given to the Titus Ngoyoni Memorial Primary School to replace the desks and chairs, which are in severe disrepair

The money we collected from the donations has been given to the Titus Ngoyoni Memorial Primary School to replace the desks and chairs, which are in severe disrepair

Of course there are still plenty of students who would benefit from sponsorship.  Susanna is a Maasai girl from the same area as Sylvia who is starting secondary school this year.  Winnie is a young woman in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, who has two more years of secondary school to complete.  There are children at Kiota Childen’s Home who require support for primary education.  Mara Explorers Camp in the Maasai Mara works closely with their local community to identify students in need.  And Sunrise of Africa School in Kitengela has 30% of their students attending on scholarship due to the generosity of donors.  There is even a single mother working in our local bar trying to raise money to finish her nursing degree.  In Kenya there are 91 registered nurses and 64 enrolled nurses per 100,000 people.  Compare that with Australia where there are 1195.8 nurses per 100,000 people – and Australia claims to have a health care crisis!  Sponsoring a nursing degree would not just impact the student, but all the extra people who can access her care.

Susanna is a Maasai girl from the same area as Sylvia who is starting secondary school this year

Susanna is a Maasai girl from the same area as Sylvia who is starting secondary school this year

The value of education in Kenya

Education is most needed in rural communities where schooling costs are twelve to twenty times as much as the monthly income of parents, despite the abolition of secondary school fees.  The costs are for uniforms, shoes, text books, stationery and boarding fees.  This means secondary school is out of reach for the poorest households and early marriage for their daughters is seen as a much more immediate way out of financial strife through the dowry payment.  In Kenya, one in ten young people never complete primary school and so struggle to find well-paid work.  Thus there is 60% youth (18-35 years) unemployment.  When you consider that an average wage earner supports about a dozen family members, the impact of an education that can secure a job is huge for a whole community.  Yet, one million children are still out of school in this country.  While this number is only half of what it was in 1999, it is still the ninth highest of any country in the world.

While committing to an ongoing sponsorship of a child can seem a little daunting, the relationships we have seen forming between sponsor and student are far more rewarding than anyone imagined.  Of course, it is important to be updated on the academic progress of the student, but a personal connection is also possible and can be amazing – as evidenced by Bev and Jared mentioned earlier.  If you are interested in connecting directly with a student who needs sponsorship, do contact us.  We are committed to ensuring students get the education and resources they need to succeed and also to enabling you to have the accountability and connection you are looking for.  Email for more information about how you can directly transform a young Kenyan’s life today.

The Best Location to See Giraffes

The Best Location to See Giraffes

The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) in Kenya conducts conservation work throughout the country.  But, by far, their most famous project is the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi.  One of the most popular tourist attractions in Kenya’s capital, the Giraffe Centre gives us the opportunity to come eye-to-eye with these gentle, graceful creatures.

Giraffe Centre, Nairobi; OTA Kenya Safaris

As you mount the stairs, a ranger issues you with a handful of pellets.  Now that you are at eye (and mouth) level with these giants, you can see up close their beautiful long eyelashes and long blue tongue.  They hungrily eye off the pellets and if you are a bit slow in feeding them, you may receive a gently head-butt as a reminder.  And if you are super-keen to get personal with them, simply pop a pellet between your teeth and get a big sloppy giraffe kiss!

The centre is home to Rothschild Giraffes and the AFEW has a breeding program to prevent this endangered species from becoming extinct.  They also conduct conservation education for Kenyan youth and teachers.  Your entry fee as a tourist goes towards this work and helps the AFEW offer free entry to Kenyan children.  The staff also present information sessions at various times throughout the day for visitors, so while you are there be sure to ask them to let you know when the next session is.

The giraffes have a large acreage on which to roam and at the other end of the land is the Giraffe Manor.  This high-end accommodation offers a unique experience for a city stay, with the Manor lawns extending out to the acreage.  There are no fences, giving the giraffes free reign over the space.  And they take advantage of it!  It is not uncommon to have a giraffe pop its head through the window while you are enjoying breakfast or afternoon tea.  You think that only happens for the promotional photos, but believe me, it happens when the camera isn’t there as well!

Do you fancy sharing afternoon tea with a giraffe, or perhaps getting a kiss from one?  OTA can help you plan your Kenyan adventure, so contact us today:

Giraffe Centre, Nairobi; OTA Kenya Safaris

Interview With Rebecca Lolosoli, Chair of Umoja Women’s Group

After visiting Rebecca several times over the course of a year, OTA interviewed her in September 2013 to share her story of Umoja Women’s Group.  She founded Umoja in 1990 to help Samburu women suffering from domestic violence and other abuses find a safe refuge.  Over the decades she has met incredible opposition from the Samburu men, but against the odds she has established a haven currently housing 58 women and recently ran for a political position in her community.

My name is Rebecca Lolosoli. I work with Umoja Women’s Group which was started in 1990.  We started a women’s village and in 1990 we had three women; now we are 58 women.  It’s a village where women run to, like a shelter for the women.

We are fighting for the rights of women, the rights of weak families, and the rights of girls.  Samburu women don’t have rights.  So we fight for our girls to go to school, to choose their husbands and to own anything like land and livestock as any other human being can.  This village is the shelter for women where women and girls run to during their problems, such as early marriages, early pregnancy, and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  We also try to help those girls that get pregnant before FGM because their baby will be killed so we try to protect the girl and protect the baby.

OTA's Turkana Festival Tour in Kenya

And now also the women work fighting for peace. We need peace in Kenya and we want to have peace with other communities like our neighbours – the ones who are fighting with Samburu: Borana, Turkana, and Pokot.  So we think the women are to bring these changes of peace and we want to network with our neighbours (the Borana, Turkana and Pokot).  We want to visit each other and try to see how we can bring peace between us because we are the victims.  It’s always the women and children who are the victims.  That’s why we have to think again about peace because there’s no development without peace and that’s what we are trying to do with Umoja Women’s Group.

OTA's Turkana Festival Tour in Kenya

You can visit Umoja Women’s Village at Archer’s Post, near the gate of Samburu National Reserve.  Rebecca also runs a campsite close to the village where tourists visiting the Reserve can stay.  The proceeds from the camp support the women in the village and their ongoing fight for women’s rights in the Samburu community.  Visit for more information.

OTA is running a nine-day safari from Nairobi, Kenya to the Lake Turkana Festival via Samburu National Reserve and Thomson’s Falls in June.  The Lake Turkana Festival is one of the cultural highlights on Kenya’s calendar.  It includes game viewing in Samburu National Reserve in Kenya, visiting outback towns Maralal and Marsabit, and visiting the extraordinary cultural festival in Loyangalani.  Ten communities in this remote corner of the world coming together to celebrate their differences – don’t you want to be a part of that?!  Visit the website for more information for more information, or check the Event page on Facebook

Slum Tours – good or bad?

The image of a group of affluent white tourists with intrusive cameras staring at poor people is reasonable cause to be outraged at “Slum Tourism”.  As community engagement and responsible travel become more popular principles, so the slum tourism concept gains strength.  This article will describe what this concept is; examine its benefits and pitfalls; and give tips on how to participate in such tours ethically and responsibly.

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures

Amani Kibera is a community-based organisation who have a number of projects working towards peace and assisting young people in the Kibera slum. Guests can visit their library and other projects and learn how the projects change lives.

Slum tourism, as the name suggests, involves visiting impoverished areas or slums in developing countries.  The key countries where one would find these tours include India, Brazil, Kenya, Indonesia and South Africa.  Although the concept began in London and New York in the late 1800s, it was during the 1980s in South Africa that it started becoming more prominent.  Black residents organised “township tours” to educate the white local government officials on how they lived.  The tours started to attract international tourists wanting to learn more about apartheid.

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures

Enjoying lunch in a local restaurant in Kibera slum

Despite these positive intentions, some township or slum tours have devolved into little more than another safari, voyeuristically looking out the bus window at the squalid conditions, turning poverty into entertainment.  Watching people struggling for their basic needs does not really help anyone and, it can be argued, it robs those people of their dignity.  Tour operators are seen to be essentially exploiting the misfortune of others.  Often tour operators do not give back to the community and fail to seek consent from the residents to treat their home like a zoo.  It also encourages a hand out society if donations are not controlled – tourists randomly throwing money and sweets out the window teaches children that they don’t need to go to school, rather they can trail after tour buses waiting for the riches to rain down.

Korogocho, Nairobi, Kenya, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures

Silverplate School in Korogocho slum/ the school was set up by Lucas who saw large numbers of children picking through the local dump site instead of going to school.

But it doesn’t have to be all bad; there are benefits to these tours, both to the communities and the travellers if conducted with the right attitude.  Often the tourists wanting to participate in a slum tour are from developed countries and have never seen such destitution.  It increases awareness of poverty and issues around poverty, making it a real concern rather than something that happens in a far off land of no concern to them.  Many tourists often come to the slums to put their life into perspective (see #firstworldproblems).  For travellers, it is a chance to see how people live and how hard they must work to provide for their families.  It is also good, however, to see that slums and townships are not just places of destitution and misery, but are actually vibrant communities with shops, schools, laughter, and optimism.

Korogocho, Nairobi, Kenya, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures

The students pay what they can, but for Lucas the priority is for them to get an education.

The tours give an opportunity for the local economy to benefit.  Travellers can buy lunch, use a local guide and buy souvenirs from craft-workers.  Employment and income for these people usually results in their profit being invested back in the community, creating a flow-on benefit.  Many slum tours are organised by community-based organisations with the intention of creating jobs and extra income for residents.  During a slum tour, travellers can donate directly to those in need (rather than having half their donation lost in “administration costs” when donating to large NGOs at home).  There is the opportunity to visit community projects, schools, and other non-profit organisations.  Donations can be in the form of money or goods such as stationary for schools or clothes for an orphanage.  Many travellers feel more inclined to donate after experiencing a small slice of day-to-day life in the slums.

Korogocho, Nairobi, Kenya, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures

Being from the area himself, Lucas is able to work with the community to garner support for the school and encourage families to ensure they send their children.

So if the bad effects are so bad, yet the good effects are so good, how does one decide whether to participate in a slum tour or not?  Here are three key things to look for in choosing your slum tour:

  1. Are local guides being employed?
  2. Does the money you pay for the tour go back into the community?
  3. Does the operator genuinely support the community?

You should ask plenty of questions of your tour operator to ensure they are ethical and responsible in their conduct of slum tours.  A few considerations you should ask about include:

  • The size of the tour group – a big group is very intrusive and there is no way you can have proper interaction with community members while small groups can interact respectfully with residents.
  • Is it a walking tour or will you be travelling in a bus, just clicking your camera from the window?
  • How much is the community involved in working with the tour company?

The Boston’s University’s paper on “poverty tourism” says that slum tours should be conducted in” a well-established collaborative and consensual process”, much like the “fair trade” process.

Sharing the challenges, dreams and aspirations of communities provides the opportunity of getting connected with our global village.  Participating in slum tours need not be a voyeuristic exploitative process, but can be a mutually beneficial relationship between visitors and residents.  The opportunities to connect to further the relationships for capacity development or simply facilitating donations are aided by the direct interaction slum tours can provide.  It is just important to ensure you use ethical, responsible tour operators who work with communities rather than just use them for their own gains.

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, OTA - Overland Travel Adventures

Kids playing in the school yard in Kibera, Nairobi’s biggest slum

Silverplate School

Last week, my friend Celia introduced me to Silverplate, a community school in the Korogocho slum in Nairobi’s northeast.  The principal, Lucas, established the school when he realised that children were picking through the nearby dumping ground to find goods to sell rather than getting an education.

Lucas is amazing, as are all the teachers who work at Silverplate.  The salary Lucas can afford to pay the teachers is very little, and in December, just before Christmas, there was no money to pay the teachers at all.  Yet they are all back this year with all the passion and enthusiasm needed to teach dozens of primary school-aged students.  One of the things that really impressed me about the teachers was their immaculate presentation.  Despite the fact they are teaching in a small community school with little facilities and leaky roofs for little or no money, they are dressed in impeccable suits.  Even their shoes are clean despite probably having had to walk along dirt paths to get to school.  To me, it illustrated the pride they have in their jobs and they are dedicated to educating these children not just in maths and English, but also in how to conduct oneself regardless of your station in life.

Nursery Class (4-5 year olds)
Nursery Class (4-5 year olds)

Currently there are 380 students and 11 teachers.  That ratio isn’t bad for an African school …. until you see the size of the classrooms.  Desks that look like they should accommodate two (or three at a stretch) students, seat four, five and even six students in the younger classes.  The school caters for students from nursery to class 7, but there are not enough classrooms.  So the class 7s and 6s share a room, 5s and 4s share, 3s and 2s, 1s and preps, then the number of nursery students means they have their own room.

Class 6 has the left side of the room and class 7 the right side - not all class 7 students have returned to school, so Lucas (standing at rear) will head out next week to find them and bring them back.
Class 6 has the left side of the room and class 7 the right side – not all class 7 students have returned to school, so Lucas (standing at rear) will head out next week to find them and bring them back.

Most of the classrooms are in a concrete building, except for the class 2 and 3s who are in a tin shack.  Although they do have more space (about twice what all the other classes have), the roof has holes in it.  While I was visiting, we were “blessed” with some rain, and lessons had to stop in that classroom as students huddled under the sealed patches of roof.  The best building on site is the toilet block. When Silverplate was first established, the children just had to go in the bushes behind the classrooms.  But a group of Irish visitors pledged to build a toilet block and now that is what dominates the school.  It is clean and encourages good hygiene and has been a very important contribution.

The whole school: The tall building in the centre is the toilets, to the right of that is the tin shack for class and 3, and the long building at the back is the rest of the classrooms
The whole school: The tall building in the centre is the toilets, to the right of that is the tin shack for class and 3, and the long building at the back is the rest of the classrooms

Lucas introduced me to every class and I was greeted with songs and clapping and general happiness.  With the class 6 and 7s a map was retrieved and students were asked to identify where Australia was.  They got it.  The older classes who can speak English asked plenty of questions about Australia and how it is different to Kenya.  Some very intelligent questions came from the students, which seemed somehow incongruous with the environment … but definitely proved that Lucas and his team are doing great things!

Class 3 and 4
Class 3 and 4

Silverplate charges 200 Kenyan shillings per month for a child’s education, which is approximately US$2.50.  Recently they introduced a school uniform – uniforms are very important in Kenya’s education system and some schools will even turn away students who cannot afford the uniform …. but that’s a whole different rant for another posting about inconsistencies in the approach to education.  The uniform at Silverplate costs 1000 shillings (approximately US$11.50), but Lucas understands that for some parents this is beyond their means so he is flexible.  Nearly every student however was wearing the uniform, but whether it was because Lucas donates uniforms to those who cannot afford it, I’m not sure.

The school fees again seem like such a small amount, but still parents or guardians cannot afford to pay.  Many of the students at Silverplate are orphans and so they are looked after by guardians.  The only problem is that guardians do not have the same interests of the foster child in their heart as those interests of their own children.  And so the foster children are often neglected.  Instead of spending money on a foster child’s education, the guardian would rather that child earn money for his keep.  So they are either kept at home doing chores (fetching water, wood, preparing meals, cleaning the house, looking after the babies, etc) or sent to the dumping ground to find items to sell to earn money.  This is beyond the pale for Lucas, as he values education above all else.  His mission is for every child to have an education no matter what and so many of the students do not pay to attend Silverplate.  He would prefer to give free education than have a child miss out.

At school the children receive lunch as well, the cost of the food is supposed to be covered by the school fees.  Many community schools in Kenya have a similar feeding program, ensuring children get at least one meal per day.  And the generosity was overwhelming – Celia and I were invited to eat with them as well.  That is Kenyan hospitality and it’s impossible to refuse.

Lucas has plans.  This year he is going to work with the hospital to get free medical treatment for the students and their parents.  He is requesting doctors to volunteer their time to take care of people in his school’s community.  He is also working with Celia to develop peace building programs in the community.  With the upcoming elections, the slums are the most likely places for tension to explode, so building a sense of harmonious community spirit is very important.  Lucas is looking beyond just providing education to a few poor children; rather he wants to empower and bring together the whole community through education, health, and other programs so they can support one another in times of need.

Next week will be the third week of school.  To my untrained eye, the classrooms looked full enough already, but Lucas assures me there are still more students who have not yet come back after the Christmas break.  So next week we will find him at the dumping ground, seeking out his students, both old and new.


If you would like to contribute to Silverplate School, please contact me at and I will connect you with Lucas.  Thank you!

One candle can light thousands more; and still it gives light

*** Update 6/1/13: I’m so happy to announce that tomorrow Jared will be sitting in class!!  One amazing woman has offered to pay Jared’s tuition this year and for that I am so grateful …. as is Jared of course!!  It’s such a great start to the year, and has filled me with hope and optimism for 2013.  So now I wish Jared well in his studies, and a massive heartfelt thank you to Beverley for responding to this blog post (I was just happy that someone was reading my blog, let alone taking action :)).  The smile has not left my face since I heard this news!


Original post 21/12/12:

Jared wrote to OTA several months ago, looking for volunteer work.  I was immediately struck by his determination and integrity and was sorry not to be able to employ him.  However, I have pledged to assist this tenacious young man in any way I can.  After a couple of disappointments in the employment world, he has resolved to return to university to complete his Bachelor degree in Public Health.  Here is a letter from Jared to tell you more about his aspirations for the future and how he plans to achieve them.  If you are as inspired as I am by this guy, please contact me at and we can make a plan to help this young man fulfil his ambitions.

Between 2003/4, while in my break after completing my O Levels, I witnessed MSF (Medecins Sans Frontiers – Doctors Without Borders) doctors attending to IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) casualties in a make shift health facility next to Lango College, Lira (Uganda). Their selfless act coupled with the risk they were putting themselves in by staying in an insecure place inspired me to want to be a doctor. So I could also do the same kind of humanitarian work for my people who need medical attention, just like them. And that is what I applied for after my A Levels. Unfortunately I did not get the points required. However, I still managed to qualify for a scholarship for a diploma in clinical medicine with orthopedics.

Now am a qualified clinical orthopedic officer, peace has returned in the northern part of Uganda which happens to be my ancestral home and I have relocated to Kigumba where my late dad bought land. Most humanitarian organisations like MSF have rolled out and moved elsewhere. The world is experiencing an economic slowdown; many youth are either unemployed like me or are getting laid off.

After spending over a year and half with no employment save for the few volunteer services I have been a part of, I decided to enroll myself in Bachelor of Science – Public Health program at Victoria University in Kampala. I didn’t just decide to do a degree; I got the motivation to go for it when I saw a gap in our health system that has created a great need, to which Public Health practitioners are best suited to respond. I have witnessed with grief the sickness of our health system here in Uganda. Surely there is a big challenge to revolutionise our health system if we are to ensure a healthy nation as well as prepare for the growing population. There are inadequate human resources, shortages of essential medicines, poor health financing and prioritizing practiced by the government, the poor leadership and governance within our health sector, the almost non-existent information system, poor service delivery practice and the failed state of health infrastructure. I have noted with concern that all these six building blocks of the health system need to be revamped. I know and strongly stand by it that health is a basic human right.

Pushing myself through campus has been, and still is presenting a tremendous challenge from paying for tuition right up to commuting daily to university. Currently my tuition is US $2800 a year and I would like to continue, beginning from second year thereby meaning I am left with two years to complete. The fact that I have no source of revenue leaves me in a very difficult position and I have resolved to solicit for funds from generous well wishers to see me through school. Presently I have not collected anything but I have had a talk with the University and they are willing to consider giving me a 25% scholarship should my results be compared against my class and I am found to be one of the top of the class.  These are the kinds of negotiations I can make to reduce on my total fees.  I have also applied for a student job with the campus and await their response. In the event that it is a success I will be able to cover some part of my tuition. I am humbly appealing to you to help me raise this money so I can earn my degree and use it to give back health to my community and people and also improve on my standard of living.

Jared Opio

This is a copy of Jared's transcript from his first year of the Bachelor of Science - Public Health

This is a copy of Jared’s transcript from his first year of the Bachelor of Science – Public Health

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