“Kalimbo and the Association of Little People” by Rinda Hayes
It was 2007. We’d been working in Kenya just two years when we were asked to meet with a student “desperate” to see us – he had come by Joseph’s home over and over to plead his case. A college student. He must see us.
And there he was, Kalimbo Makala – breathtakingly small – not the college student I had expected. He didn’t waste a minute launching into his plea: he’d been promised a sponsorship by a woman, Robyn, he’d met a year ago; a good woman who had come on an expedition from the U.S., who said she would support him in his dream to become an accountant and then a CPA. She had paid the money to the NGO (charitable organization) that had brought her to Kenya. But even though the transfer of money was confirmed, they denied having received it!
Kalimbo was a small young man, but his dismay was huge. “The money has been taken!”, he said. The organization denies they ever got it. Robyn said yes, indeed they did get it. Now I am stuck! I cannot proceed to school! I must get there! Can Kenya Keys please help?”
Apparently this had happened twice to Kalimbo – money sent by Robyn in his behalf never reached him. Now Robyn said she could not keep sending money to this “black hole”, and who could blame her? Kenya Keys director, Joseph Mwengea, had tried to retrieve the money, but to no avail. I contacted Robyn, who I happened to know. I told her if she would be willing to come on as a Kenya Keys sponsor, we could pay the sponsorship directly to the college where Kalimbo had been admitted. He could finally start school. She kindly agreed.
Kalimbo studied accounting for years and did become a CPA. His sponsor Robyn stuck with him for six years, once she saw the money was going where it needed to. Yesterday we had the privilege of seeing the results of that sponsorship. Eleven years later, Kalimbo tracked us down and came to the hotel to see us. Our hearts swelled with the joy of seeing him again. The story he told of his life matched others that we’ve heard on this trip. His success has been amazing, the trickle-down effect of his sponsorship beyond imagination.
He, a young man who came from illiterate parents, has started a business of his own – a supplies business that moves goods from the port of Mombasa. He also works with a company called Helping Hand Africa. He also sponsors two siblings in school and he has become an officer in the Kenyan Association of Small Statured People. In American this association is called The Association of Little People. They gather yearly to support each other, have professionals evaluate and treat them for illnesses most commonly seen in dwarfs and little people and they are trained as advocates of people with special challenges.
Because of Kalimbo’s effective advocacy for the disadvantaged, the county government has agreed to send him to the U.S. next year to attend the week-long conference for The Association of Little People. “Can you believe I will be coming to the U.S.,?” he asked. And truly, it is amazing. What else had he accomplished? He was the Chairman of the Board of Management of the primary school he once attended. He would leave his mud hut early each morning to get there. He had helped fund a classroom there last year.
We hug good-bye. He promises he will come to the conference being held for Kenya Keys Alumni this week. “I will be there,” he says with a grin. “We must support each other. We must mentor the younger students. It is our responsibility.”For a small man, he has accomplished huge things. “It’s all because of Kenya Keys”, he says. “ You rescued me when I was desperate. I could never have gone to school. Never!”
Do we have to push these students? Almost never. They drive into their futures with more determination and stamina than we could ever imagine.
Thank you to Robyn, who stuck with Kalimbo despite the early challenges. He has magnified your investment in big ways.
Rinda Hayes is the co-founder and director of Kenya Keys. She has dedicated the last 13 years of her life to developing and growing this amazing organization, changing the lives of hundreds of young Kenyan students, their families, and their communities.
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