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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” (www.packforapurpose.org) 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 tracey@ota-responsibletravel.com for more information about how you can directly transform a young Kenyan’s life today.

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How a Ugandan Student Found a Sponsorship Opportunity

How a Ugandan Student Found a Sponsorship Opportunity

If you have been following this blog for some time, you may remember a post from Jared at the end of 2012.  Jared was a 27-year-old Ugandan, volunteering at a palliative care clinic, but by 2012 he realised that volunteering wasn’t going to pay any bills and so he started contacting several companies asking for employment, including us at OTA.  The employment market is tough however, and he wasn’t successful.  Also his heart wasn’t totally in it – he would much rather go back to university and complete his Public Health degree.  The cost of university fees made this dream impossible, so Jared requested some assistance.  He compiled a request letter and his previous results which we published on this blog to see if anyone might be able to assist.  No one was more surprised than us when Bev answered the call!  And so we connected Jared and Bev directly to organise the sponsorship.

A university education is life-changing in East Africa but many young people miss out because of the expense.  Finding a sponsor is an incredible opportunity for a young person to break out of the poverty cycle, developing themselves and also their country.  Of course there was a bit more to the story than the abridged version above describes and so this article offers three tips to ensure your sponsorship is effective and legitimate.

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  1. Ask for references

Jared and Bev were connected through us.  Bev had travelled with Tracey in 2009 for five weeks from Beijing to Istanbul – this journey undoubtedly built a high level of trust between the two.  And Jared had been communicating online with Francis and Tracey as well as having the opportunity to meet in Kampala.  Sending school fees to random email requests is fraught with danger, but being able to check with a trust-worthy source means you can be confident that your money is headed in the right direction.

  1. Conduct regular check-ups with the university

The student should be sending the sponsor regular updates of their academic progress.  In Bev and Jared’s case, the updates flew thick and fast as they also got to know more about each other’s lives, families, and cultures.  This is not necessary but receiving the results at the end of each term or semester means there is some accountability for the student to make the most of the opportunity.  If the sponsor has the name of the university, it is sometimes also possible to check directly with the university that the student is attending classes and performing well.

  1. Be aware of requests for “extra assistance”

During 2013 Jared’s bike lost its gears and needed repairs.  Jared rode fifteen kilometres to university and found the bus cost too much.  It wasn’t until he asked for help to repair the bicycle that Bev realised more help was needed.  Since then she has sent him a monthly allowance and also ensures he can attend conferences or other university activities.  However, she is quick to stress that Jared is not a “taker” – he contributes by getting holiday jobs as a laboratory assistant.  Also she has never heard from any of Jared’s friends or family members asking for her to assist them.  This can sometimes happen where sponsors get bombarded with requests from the rest of the family asking for more.

This year, Bev came to Kenya and Uganda both to see the sights and to meet Jared in person.  The emails the two exchanged over the 18 months had brought them close enough to call each other “mum” and “son”.  Now there was the opportunity to travel together so Jared could see more of his own country and get to know his benefactor.  After the safari, Bev spent a week in Kampala seeing Jared’s life – they visited the university, met his family, saw plenty of hospitals (Jared is studying Public Health after all!) and also did the tourist highlights of the city.  The relationship was cemented and Jared can continue his studies as well as take on extra-curricular activities such as attending the East Africa Health Conference in Tanzania.

How a Ugandan Student Found a Sponsorship Opportunity; OTA Kenya Safaris www.ota-responsibletravel.com

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