Changed Forever: Intern Post by Matthew Parkin
Our family has been involved with an educational organization named Kenya Keys for about ten years. Kenya Keys “rescues” children from abject poverty by providing them with scholarship funds for their education. For the past seven years, I have used a portion of my lawn mowing money to sponsor the school tuition fees of a young teen named Kennedy Baya. He is now just finishing college and he is training to become a math and history teacher in the Ibanja Secondary Boy’s School in Nandi, Kenya.
My family prepared for four years for our trek to Kenya. We created over 100 math and reading skill folders, sewed hundreds of women’s hygiene kits, gathered various medical supplies, and prepared lessons on maturation and the miracle of birth. Finally, our family was ready to embark on our journey to teach in the village schools there. We were so inspired by the courage and iron will of these students in the face of such difficult hardship.
We were awe-struck by their joy, hope, and genuine reverence for education. Teaching, playing basketball and soccer, and talking to these students changed me forever. I will never take my education for granted again. I will find joy in each day. I will be positive no matter what obstacle I encounter.
For me, the real highlight was the opportunity I had to meet my student, Kennedy Baya, with whom I have corresponded for over seven years. Kennedy Baya traveled by bus many hours to meet me in Chwele. When I first met him, a sweet feeling of love and humility came over me as I saw a changed man from the picture I kept in my room. I saw a light in him that I have never really quite seen before in a person.
He sat my family down in a circle and graciously explained how thankful he was for the opportunity of receiving his education. I once sent him a letter with pictures enclosed, so I wrote “Do Not Bend” on the envelope. He told me how that letter inspired him NOT TO BEND when he was tempted to give up hope and quit school when his father died. He said that by sponsoring his education through Kenya Keys, I had “changed his lineage,” enabled him to become a teacher, and provided a way for him to educate and support his family and his community.
Education rescued Kennedy from abject poverty and brought hope and change to his life. He wept as he expressed his deep-felt gratitude and then asked us to end the night, hand in hand, in a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Kennedy stayed overnight and we got to share the same room; we chatted for hours late into the night. I will always cherish that time as he taught me the joy of giving and receiving the blessing of education.