Jan 6, 2019

One Student Impacts Many Lives

Missy and Miriam - forever friends
Missy and Miriam - forever friends

When I traveled to Taru village in 2017, I met Miriam, the girl my family sponsors through Kenya Keys. She had inspired me the moment I heard her story, and it’s been an honor and a joy to be a part of her education as she makes a difference in the world.

While in secondary school, Miriam founded the Save Our Sisters Club (SOS), helping girls learn to advocate for themselves. She and other girls would gather to discuss issues important to them, including the importance of education, hygiene, study skills and other topics. They would visit other schools, teaching younger girls, mentoring them and helping them see the value of staying in school. 

Though shy and quiet when we met, I could feel Miriam yearning to make a difference in the world. After two weeks in Taru, I could see that her reach has gone farther than even she knew. The Save Our Sisters Club has grown tremendously and is holding conferences, helping girls stay in school, develop leadership skills and advocate for important causes.

Undoubtedly, Miriam’s life has changed because she has been able to pursue an education, now attending college.  I am grateful to be a part of that. And because she is a strong woman, the lives of all those around her will also be better. 

It would, however, be vastly understating her impact to say that only those in Kenya have felt her influence. When I saw her again in 2018 I felt a familiar surge of joy at seeing a friend. As we talked about our families and she asked about my kids by name, I was touched that she remembered their names so well when she had only seen pictures or read about them in letters. 

Pulling out pictures, she said, “Of course I remember them! I hope I can meet Ashlyn one day.” My daughter, Ashlyn, is ten, and wants very much to meet this girl who has inspired her and helped her value her own education. I want my daughter to have strong role models, to see women who are sharing their story and making a difference in their community. And undoubtedly, this dynamic student, this strong woman, this loyal friend, is one of them. 

Education changes lives, that is certain. But just how many lives are changed, well, only time will tell. 

Each year, Kenya Keys provides sponsorships to over 200 secondary and college students from the rural poverty-stricken Kinango Constituancy of Kenya.  If you are interested in sponsoring a student, please contact Missy at missy.kenyakeys@gmail.com or visit our website at www.kenyakeys.org.

Missy and Miriam meet in Taru Village
Missy and Miriam meet in Taru Village
Daughter Ashlyn loves to read letters from Miriam
Daughter Ashlyn loves to read letters from Miriam

Links:

Aug 12, 2018

The Human Connection: When Sponsors Meet Their Students

Sponsor Susan Goodwin with Flora and her son
Sponsor Susan Goodwin with Flora and her son

One of the most rewarding things about a Kenya Keys visit to the village of Taru is being able to watch as sponsors meet the students they have sponsored - sometimes for many years.  It is always tinged with a bit of disbelief for both the sponsor and the student.  "Really? The person across the world, whose name I've heard and whose life I have learned about, is really YOU?" It’s one thing to read the biography of a student  who is a “first generation learner”, a student who could never go to school without outside assistance.  It’s another thing to get to meet them, to have that human connection!

For countless students in the Taru area of rural Kenya, the door to further education is simply shut after 8th grade because students have to pay to attend secondary school.  Poverty can lock up their potential.  But through a Kenya Keys sponsorship, a whole new world opens up to the student.  If they perform well and show dedication and leadership potential, they can even go on to college, fulfilling a dream they never thought possible. This is a promise we make to them, and sponsors are the key to fulfilling that promise. 

Sponsors are people who value education and feel grateful to be able to pass this gift on to a student or students. They are caring and compassionate.  But it’s almost impossible for them to realize how huge the impact of their sponsorship is on their student, and their entire family.  That family has now been infused with hope! 

Just as meeting their student is a powerful experience for sponsors, imagine how overwhelming it must be for the students to come face to face with the person who has made it possible for the them to have a better future. It is a unique honor for a student to meet their sponsor.  This was true for Flora, who traveled with her 2-year old son for 14 hours one way on public transportation  just to meet one of her cherished sponsors from years past. Hearing that Susan Goodwin was arriving in Kenya with the 2018 Kenya Keys team, Flora knew she had to meet her to tell her personally  "asante sana" (thank you).  It was because of the generosity and caring of Susan and her subsequent sponsors that Flora completed her college education and is employed as a math and science teacher today.  This sponsorship was the key to her future. After years of sharing letters and photos, they were finally together. Susan and Flora exchanged hugs and stories and held on to each other in gratitude.  

After only being in Taru for a few hours, Flora had to begin the 14-hour journey home so she could return to work. But it was a journey she made with a heart filled with gratitude.

Susan later met our first Kenya Keys staff member, also named Susan, whom she sponsored - ushering in our program of having sponsors support vital staff in Kenya.  Though Kenyan Susan has since taken a job with the county, she returned to Taru village to meet the woman from the U.S. who had made her job with Kenya Keys possible.  It was so rewarding to watch them work side by side, together with Clemence, the new staff member that Susan Goodwin now sponsors, as Kenya Keys prepared for a special alumni conference.  

After meeting these women and many others in the village, Susan had this to say: "their beautiful smiles have poured pearls into my open hands: the colorful kangas (cloths) shower rainbows into my senses and their praises of God in song have streamed gold into my soul.  I do not view them as the poor deprived of this world.  The richness of their character shatters a world of illusion for what is truly important, and I thank them for this priceless gift."

What a difference this one sponsor has made through her ongoing commitment to our sponsorship program, and what a difference every student and staff member she has sponsored is making in Kenya today.  

Sponsors matter. 

Kenya Keys recognizes that not everyone is able to be a sponsor - but everyone can help to make a difference in the lives of these students. Kenya Keys established the special Sponsorship Fund to support students until a sponsor can be found, and provides for the special emergency needs of students as they arise. There are many "cracks" through which impoverished Kenyan students can fall: Kenya Keys is there to catch them, and lift them up so that they too have the opportunity to realize their potential.

The Kenya Keys Sponsorship Program now provides sponsorships to 145 secondary students, 146 college students and 3 staff members. We will be accepting new students into the program in December. If you are interested in sponsoring a student, or have questions regarding the Sponsorship Fund, please contact linda@kenyakeys.org.

Read more about our sponsors' experiences meeting their students in the links to our blogs below.

Susan and Susan, our first sponsored staff member
Susan and Susan, our first sponsored staff member
Susan with sponsored staff Clemence and her mother
Susan with sponsored staff Clemence and her mother

Links:

Apr 5, 2018

A Grateful Heart

Sponsored student, Symon, will be forever grateful
Sponsored student, Symon, will be forever grateful

  A GRATEFUL HEART

“I’m extremely overjoyed, blissed, enthusiastic and hysteric! The news I woke up to receive today are responsible for the emotions I’m in right now! I feel like jumping up to touch the clouds. My gratitudes! I have run out of ways to celebrate! It is a dream that has come true! . . . and I’m sure I’m the happiest person on earth today!”

Imagine being this happy - or making someone else feel like this!

These are the words written by a student named Symon when he learned that Kenya Keys had found a sponsor in America for him. Symon is from a large family of 12 children. Neither of his parents are employed and they struggle just to provide food for their family. Symon knew he needed an education to break out of the chains of poverty. He worked hard in school to get the grades that would earn him scholarships for school, but it just wasn’t enough. He was desperate to find some way to complete a college education.

"One night when I was searching the web. . . desperate to get a solution for issues concerning my education and future . . . I bumped into the Kenya Keys website and learned a little about them. Desperate to know more, I spent time reading through the posts.  That is where it all started.  I knew I had finally found the people to save my future.”

Symon did not live in the Kenya Keys service area, but his family's extreme poverty and his dedication to the pursuit of an education opened the doors for him to apply as an "outside student". After going through the Kenya Keys' Sponsorship Committee's strict vetting process in Taru Kenya, Symon waited to hear if a sponsor could be found - if there was someone in America or beyond who would believe in him and share his journey through college.

That is when the Kennedys from Oregon stepped in and changed Symon’s life forever.

With the financial and emotional support of this couple living more than 9000 miles away, Symon was able to pursue his dream. He attended Kisii University in Nairobi with a fierce determination to succeed. His sponsors were with him all the way, sending letters of encouragement and exchanging photos with him and watching him as he grew into a confident capable man. With unrestrained pride, in 2017, Symon’s family celebrated his graduation with a degree in EcoTourism and Hospitality Management.

When he had first approached Kenya Keys for help, Symon told us that “my main goal after completion of my education is to give back to the community.” He has been true to his word. Symon is very active in the Kenya Keys alumni group. He has traveled across the country to work with the Kenya Keys team in Taru, mentoring and encouraging youth to stay in school and take responsibility for their futures.

But the story does not end there. While in college, Symon began developing his musical talents. With his friend Bill, also a Kenya-Keys' sponsored student, Symon created a special music video for our organization, capturing the essence of the Kenya Keys in an uplifting and almost magical way.

This music video is a beautiful and inspiring gift to Kenya Keys. Be sure to click on the link at the bottom of this page to watch it!

As Symon takes the next step in pursuing his dreams, he will always remember his two dear friends in America who made it all possible; people he now considers family. He continues to write to the Kennedys, and will be forever grateful that they, and Kenya Keys, helped unlock his potential and gave him wings to soar.  As he said, “I wish to thank my sponsors for the love that they showered on me. They have a whole chapter in my life biography.”

Would you like to have a chapter in the life biography of a student? Kenya Keys is currently connecting 291 Kenyan students to sponsors across America, Europe, Canada and Australia. Each sponsorship is unique. A sponsor can be an individual, family or group. Every sponsorship has the possibility of changing a life forever.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, contact linda@kenyakeys.org or visit our website below.  Support is also needed for our Sponsorship Fund which provides the emergency fees needed to cover students like Symon while they wait for a sponsor to come forward.

Thank you to all of our sponsors and to everyone who has contributed to the Kenya Keys Sponsorship Fund, making stories like Symon’s possible.

Symon knows he can make great things happen.
Symon knows he can make great things happen.

Links:

 
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