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.
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 email@example.com.
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 with sponsored staff Clemence and her mother