“A Sponsorship Becomes Real” by Carolyn Jenkins
Finally, after years of being a part of Kenya Keys, helping with fund-raising events and promoting the cause, I was able to travel to Taru village in Kenya with Directors Rinda and Brent, and six other interns from the U.S. Until going on this trip, I had hesitated to sponsor a student because I wanted to be able to meet in person the student I sponsored. Knowing I would have an opportunity to meet my student when we visited Kenya, I signed up to provide a sponsorship. For me this involved paying the school fees for my student’s junior and senior year in secondary school. Before I left for Kenya, I received a picture of my student, Margaret Chizi Lewa. Holding onto this photo, I hoped that this young girl and the power of this sponsorship would become real to me once I became familiar with Margaret’s life. Little did I know at that time that I would spend a lot of time with her and eventually visit her home and meet some members of her family.
I first saw Margaret when we initially visited Taru Girls Secondary School. In honor of our visit, several students performed at an opening ceremony. Margaret and a few other girls participated in a role-play emphasizing the importance of education for girls. I immediately recognized Margaret from my picture.
After the ceremony, I introduced myself to Margaret. She was very shy and reserved during our first meeting. I wondered what she thought of meeting a stranger who wanted to be involved in her life. Fortunately, I was able to interact with her four more days, and this made all the difference. As interns, we returned to Taru Secondary Girls School to teach lessons designed to inspire the girls to stay in school. Each time we went to the school, I made sure I spoke with Margaret. As the week progressed, Margaret became more talkative and our relationship continued to develop. I was able to interview Margaret on the last day we visited her school. During the interview she spoke of her parents and her home. The school setting was something she seemed to love. She disclosed that at home she did not have enough food to eat; at school she was guaranteed two meals a day. It was difficult to hear that food was so limited at her home.
As we said goodbye to one another, she asked if I could come visit her family. Her home was very close to the school, so I told her it was a possibility. I also knew that Brent and Rinda encouraged home visits.
The following Sunday, I was able to visit her home along with several other interns and staff. As we drove up to Margaret’s compound, she, her uncle and several of her cousins, greeted us. The compound was different than anything I had ever seen. There were several Duruma mud huts scattered around the compound. There were banana trees and several elevated huts for goats.
Margaret explained that her grandfather had five wives and all of the families lived on the compound. As we walked around the compound, I met Margaret’s grandmothers and more cousins. I was curious about the construction of the mud huts. They seemed to almost have grown out of the earth, but yet they were sturdily constructed and obviously built to accommodate the most basic needs.
Margaret showed me her hut where she, her parents and 3 siblings slept. There were two beds, one for the kids and one for her parents. She did tell me that she often slept with her grandmas.
Walking around the compound was illuminating. Margaret’s life was so different than mine, but I felt such a connection to her.
One of the most moving experiences of the entire trip happened shortly after our tour of the compound. As we sat outside one of the mud huts, Bill, a Kenyan videographer for Kenya Keys showed Margaret a video he had created just days before. He had interviewed Margaret at Taru Secondary Girls’ School. In the interview, she spoke of how much she appreciated being in school. She told the story of how she had to stay out of school for one year because she could not pay the school fees.
I watched Margaret as she viewed the video. I was surprised to see her cry, mainly because we had heard some very sad stories on our trip to Kenya, but I had never seen any students, staff members, or teachers cry while telling these stories. Yet, Margaret was crying. When we were alone, I asked Margaret why she was crying. She said she was sad just thinking of the year she could not attend school. I was profoundly moved by her feelings about attending school. At that moment the sponsorship was real to me!
After playing a ball game with all of Margaret’s cousins, we said our goodbyes. It was such a privilege to spend time with Margaret and some of her family members. She lives on the other side of the world, but I will keep her close to me as I think of her working hard in school to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher.