Shannon’s interview with Sarah
There is an old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”.
I attend school here in Marin County, California, which is in the San Francisco Bay Area, which in turn is a world-wide hub of social enterprise.
In Marin today, we have taken this traditional concept of “it takes a village to raise a child” and applied it to build what are called modern “community eco systems”. Pencils for Africa is a good example of one of these ecosystems:
You contribute to this ecosystem along with students, mentors, interviewees, parents, and board members to revive the spirit of Ubuntu as a community within a community. We also have powerful role models, such as Mr. Chris Mburu within Pencils for Africa. This ecosystem that is Pencils for Africa has helped me and many of my fellow students grow, gain perspective, and strengthen our awareness of African issues.
Ms. Njuru, how would you describe the community eco system for the students in Kenya who are the beneficiaries of HBEF scholarships?
The beneficiaries of HBEF scholarships are children between the ages of 15-18 years, who are bright yet come from needy families and disadvantages communities.
These are children who have completed their primary school education and are now preparing to join secondary school for 4 years schooling.
Being bright, such children are normally selected to join very good public boarding secondary schools in Kenya but unfortunately their social economic background hinder the ability of their parents or guardians to afford the costs associated with learning in these schools.
The Community Eco Systems for HBEF beneficiaries comprises of the following:
(1)HBEF fund which undertakes to pay school fees for the students for 4 years and who hold regular meetings with the students to monitor their progress and provide Psycho Social Support and Leadership Training.
(2)HBEF Sponsors both corporate and individuals who give funds to support the students and who, with the facilitation of HBEF are in close contact with their sponsored children
(3)Students Parents/Guardians who provide a conducive environment for the students during their vacation and who ensure they provide for other resources needed by the students which are outside the scope of HBEF Scholarship
(4)Public schools where HBEF students learn and of whom HBEF is in communication with concerning matters touching on the sponsored students
(5)Local Government Education Officials who assist in facilitating the HBEF Recruitment and Selection process every January to ensure that only deserving students are awarded the scholarships. They also support the fund by availing facilities in which HBEF conducts its Beneficiary Monitoring and Support Visits and are at hand to give advice to the students.
(6)The communities which the students come from which in one way or another are involved in molding and supporting the students in their journey.
Having powerful role models can be a motivating incentive for young students.
A good example of this is that our former Pencils For Africa Editor-in-Chief, Nicolas Meringolo, whom I am still in school with, was inspired by the Pencils for Africa Global Ambassador, Mr. Jackson Kaguri.
Similar to Mr. Mburu, Mr. Kaguri was a hard worker and made full use of the opportunities presented to him. He attended school with one-fifth of a pencil and went on to receive a scholarship to study in the U.S.
Nicolas, honoring and admiring Mr. Kaguri’s example and achievements, created a social enterprise called One Pencil Per Child. He is working with pencil companies and manufacturers to ship pencils to underserved children in Africa so that they may receive an education. Nicolas works in the hopes of creating opportunities for the future Jackson Kaguri’s and Chris Mburu’s of the world.
Ms. Njuru, how are the students in Kenya who are beneficiaries of HBEF scholarships inspired by the powerful role model of Mr. Mburu?
Almost all HBEF beneficiaries identify with Chris by the fact that just like him, they do come from a very needy backgrounds.
Chris’ story is shared with them in the ‘HBEF Students Handout Book’ which is given to every student upon joining the program.
The sharing helps the student identify with Chris and learn that their background should not be a deterrent but a stepping stone to success. They also realize that it is up to them to make the most use of their scholarship opportunity by working extremely hard just as Chris did. In his current role as an International Human Rights advisor, the students know that the sky is the limit for them as long as they utilize their opportunities well.
In 2014, HBEF in conjunction with one of its organizational donors ‘Kenbe la Foundation’ whose theme is ‘kids helping kids around the world’ celebrated the ‘Purple Cake Day’ at Mitahato Secondary School a school at Chris’s Village where Chris and his family were in attendance. The school shares a compound with Mitahato Primary School, where Chris schooled.
Each student had made a flyer indicating their aspirations on it and it was amazing to read from the students that most of them considered Chris among their role models.
Shannon, I surely hope I have answered you as expected.
Wishing you the best in your amazing work at Pencils for Africa!
Sarah Wambui Njuru