Parental Postal Service
One of the things that makes our sponsorship program unique is that it is so personal. Our sponsors correspond with their students once a year. They include a photo, so every student can picture and know something about their sponsors. It’s a beautiful thing to see these students read these letters. I love watching them! The huge contrast in our cultures becomes apparent in the questions they ask after reading their letters. “What is snow?” “What is a vacation?” “How can they know they are having a boy when the baby is not yet born?” “What does it mean that they got a master’s degree?” “What does it mean to remodel your house?” It’s a great way for us to teach them about our culture. It’s like describing life on a different planet. When they don’t have any exposure to TV and books are rare, they have a hard time imagining life beyond their realm. The vast majority of these students will never leave the district they were born in; a far cry from our lives where travel and mobility are as taken for granted as water and food.
We deliver these letters to our Kenyan students and then we take a letter and photo back to the sponsors. This has become an increasingly difficult thing to pull off, as our numbers of students has grown and they have started to qualify for secondary schools that are far and wide. But we are determined to do as much as we can. We want to keep that personal contact with student!
We at Kenya Keys are not the only ones dedicated to this exchange. The parents of our students are too. It really touches us to see what lengths they will go to in order to ensure that their child receives their letter. Look at Umazi’s father as an example.
Umazi Khadija Sombo qualified to go to a school many kilometers from where she grew up. Last year we sent her the money to travel the four hours to come see us and get her letter. This year she couldn’t come, so her father was to deliver her letter to her. He was pleased to do so. He showed up as the sun was going down. He had ridden his old bike an hour and a half to get to us to pick up the letter. The smile on his face was a big, warm one. He wanted us to take his thanks to his daughter’s sponsor, Cynthia Whitcomb, in the U.S. “Tell her we appreciate very much! Our whole family appreciate!” he said. (Without help from a sponsor, there would be no way his bright daughter would be in school.) The next day he was to travel four hours each way, crammed in a matatu (public van) to meet up with Umazi and give/get her letter. Then he would get back on this bike and ride the remaining hour and a half home. He had his work cut out for him, at least from my standpoint. But what we see as a huge hardship, Kenyans see as just part of life. Nothing is easy – ever! To assume otherwise runs counter to their quiet stoicism. He disappeared in the gathering darkness. Most of his ride home would be in total darkness. He didn’t seem to mind at all.
Sure enough, he showed up the next evening. Mission accomplished! He held his daughter’s letter and progress report in his hand. “I got it!” he said. “She is getting on well.” He wore his pride happily. I thanked him and told him Cynthia would be pleased. “It was a good day,” he said. I watched his lean frame stride his bike, and he was off, a silhouette against the final glow of sunset. I wouldn’t call a day of such travel “good,” but this father considered anything “good” that meant his daughter could get the education he wished he’d had.