Empower the World (ETW) convened its annual meeting and reunion at Archbishop Ndingi this morning. It was the best so far, although many of our current or past sponsored students were not there. I was most pleased that almost all the Mji kids were with us—on time!!! There were some 65 from form 1’s to 7 or 8 years out of university
Each year there are a few more who have finished their education, either university or technical college and ready to embark on their careers. Yes, jobs are hard to find but many graduates are employed—maybe not in a dream job, but self-supporting. Several people spoke, telling their stories of how they began in poverty and despair of ever going to high school. Kizito, now a program developer for Safaricom, the biggest phone network in Kenya, spoke having completed high school, but having no hope to attend university. When someone agreed to sponsor him he was determined to be tops (he graduated #1) at university. Even then it was a problem getting a job. In the 7 or 8 years since, he has held 5 jobs, each better, more interesting, more challenging and much better paid. Later I heard several people saying his talk had been truly inspirational.
Kennedy spoke briefly of his family’s being victims of the post-election violence during his 2ndyear of high school. He was sponsored to complete his high school in a different area, worked very hard and was sponsored to medical school. From the time he and I first met, he had told me of his dreams to be a doctor and to open a clinic in his home area, where medical resources are scarce. He told us that just this last year he achieved his dream, I was stunned. He’s not yet 30! The clinic is small, but growing. He’s interviewing new med school grads, looking for others who understand poverty and what it’s like to be too poor to afford medical care. He married a fellow med school graduate, who works together with him. I’ve asked him to write his story for our 2019 newsletter, which will be out in late November. It’s a beautiful story of a tall young man who wanted to be of service to his community.
I wish I could communicate the lights in the eyes who told a small break-out group how they felt when they learned they could go to high school. Many have written eloquently about the crushing poverty of their families and the almost disbelief when the word came, “Empower the World will sponsor you.” That’s Kenya Help here in Kenya.
We had a lovely catered lunch of traditional foods, really delicious. We sat around on the small porch or on the grass, people meeting for the first time or renewing friendships, networking with those of common interests and skills. While the turnout was not what we had wished, much was accomplished!
Heretofore, I had thought building St. Francis Girls was the big achievement of Kenya Help, but I see now that establishing this family of young people, each having a beginning in poverty, many growing up with a single parent or even an orphan, is even more important. I can see this organization growing and eventually becoming self-sustaining. Already those who are able have begun to donate to help others. As I’ve written before, helping strangers is a pretty new idea here, but many of our beneficiaries “get it” that they were sent to school by strangers, whom they will probably never meet, and they want to “pay it forward.”
My sense and belief is that we ETW is still a “child”, a dream of Fr. Kiriti, Hillary and mine, but it is a healthy child, eager to grow. Two of our early sponsored university students, Kizito and Mithlet are members of the board and were the big planners, along with Hillary, of this meeting. Mithlet graduated in accounting and business practices (I think that’s the second field), but has not yet found her dream job. Undaunted, she is back in school, earning a CPA. She’s an amazing person, so full of energy and a wonderful advocate for ETW.
As things wound down, suddenly Cyrus appeared. He has been doing an “attachment” for his medical degree in an area very far. He told me he’d had to take a flight to Nairobi even to arrive at 2 pm. So great to see him and to see all the Mji kids there, like true brothers and sisters, enjoying being together.