Shirah holding her acceptance letter to VIU
Little Shirah struggled to hold back tears as her teacher told her that she had to leave school. She tried not to look at the other children--her new friends--but she felt them stare at her. They all wore nice school uniforms. She was still in her dirty dress and bare feet.
Shirah wanted so badly to stay at school but her teacher just shook her head. You have to pay your fees to stay at school. You have to have books and pencils. Even though she was very young, Shirah knew that her teacher might as well have asked for a brick of gold. Her mother could never afford to send her to school.
Shirah ran home and cried on her mother's lap. It's hard to imagine what a mother tells her daughter when she learns that the world isn't kind. As much as her mother loved her, she could not fix the pain in Shirah's heart.
"Sometimes I think I had the worst life in the world."
That is how Shirah describes her life then. Her father had died from HIV/AIDS and her mother couldn't provide for their young family without him.
Without school, Shirah's future was laid out in front of her. Most orphaned girls grow up in poverty. They tend to get married young. Their children are less likely to go to school. They are trapped in an endless cycle of poverty.
Thankfully, Shirah's life took a different turn. A small primary school opened right in her village. It was free and it was meant for HIV/AIDS orphans like her. She was one of the lucky children who got to go to Nyaka Primary School.
She told us "I got a chance to put on shoes and have free education, which I never believed in my life."
She learned to believe again. She worked hard to do well in school and you were there to help her whenever she faced trouble. Last year all of her hard work paid off. She was admitted to Vancouver Island University (VIU) on a full-ride scholarship.
Shirah is an amazing young woman and we know she will do amazing things for the world. Her success is only possible because she you gave her the opportunity.