Meet a Future Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Have you ever met someone—a doctor, a quantum physicist, a political activist—so brilliant that you catch yourself wondering what they were like in their youth? Did they exude genius? Did those who knew them suspect they were destined for greatness?

felixm

Felix M.

Here’s your chance to see what people in the future will only guess at. Young Felix Mushi, of Highlands Secondary School, Tanzania, one day plans to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, and we bet people will marvel at him, and wonder what it would have been like to know him when he was just starting out.

We recently received a video of him, describing heart anatomy to his classmates, narrating what he learned in his most recent dissection, and explaining the physiology of the heart and normal blood flow. Go ahead, and watch this bright young mind at work!

(Warning: if dissections make you queasy, this video might not be for you.)

To learn more about Felix, read this interview conducted last year, by The School Fund’s first student, John Medo.

Fifth Graders Help Keep a Kenyan Ninth Grader in School

janet at computer

There are a number of ways to tell this story. There’s the short and sweet: fifth graders in St. Louis funded a Kenyan girl’s education. Despite the ocean and miles in between, they’ve become friends.

That version leaves out the heart of the story, however; the coincidence, the effort, and the good fortune that connected a group of American middle-schoolers to a Kenyan girl named Mwongeli, who goes by “Janet,” and who wants to grow up to be a pilot.

Mark Cicero is the father of one of those St. Louis students at Our Lady of the Pillar. Twenty years ago and right after college, he spent four months in Kakamega, Kenya. He taught English and social ethics, and he even started a zero grazing unit for the village, a way of farming that takes up little space and resources. He also learned about school fees firsthand, having funded the education of a student from the compound where he lived for four years. So last year, when Mark was asked to speak at the school’s mission festival, he gave them a window into a different life—one that, among other realities, does not guarantee an education.

100_1023

Fifth grade students from Our Lady of the Pillar.

Mark has been loaning money to individuals in Kenya through Kiva for a few years now, and after Mark told his daughter’s class about his experiences, they made a decision to help out and raise money by doing chores and similar tasks. This year the fundraiser grew to include a movie day organized with the help of two dedicated teachers and Mark. It went even better than anticipated. As Mark wrote us, “In fact, this year, they raised so much that I brought forward the idea of funding an education of a secondary student in Kenya.”

Mark learned about The School Fund from Kiva and began searching for a student to support. “I was biased toward Kenya,” he said, due to his time there. He read through Janet’s profile, her interests, scholastic achievements, background, family and siblings. “It felt natural,” says Mark, “she reminded me of the family I stayed with in Kenya.”

And who wouldn’t want to support Janet? The fifth of six children, she’s watched her brothers grow up to attend school. But with outstanding fees, they never received their graduation certificates and could not pursue further education. Janet was top in her primary school, and is a beautifully well-rounded young woman. She loves football, running, and knitting. She wants to be a pilot—she is working hard at school so that one day, she will quite literally fly.

Janetthanks

Janet, Mark, and Our Lady of the Pillar’s fifth grade class have been keeping in touch via The School Fund’s online journal. Janet recently wrote the class, “I am overwhelmed with joy for your generous support towards my school fees for 2015. My gratitude goes to all the 5th grade class at Our Lady of the Pillar. Your support for my education is an answer to prayer.”

When we think about some of our own lives, it’s often chance and good timing that initially opened the door to some of our most meaningful experiences. It was Mark’s time in Kenya that eventually led him to introduce Janet to his daughter’s class. It was a healthy dose of initiative and hard work that resulted in plentiful funding, enough to support individuals on Kiva and Janet. As Mark told us, “I don’t think that the kids understood the magnitude—and the gratification—of what they did, until now.” Janet is letting them know how much it means that these fifth graders are invested in her—and not just financially. They care about her future. And we get the sense that this is a friendship that will last.

Teachers, let us know how you are connecting with The School Fund’s students in your classroom—and parents, as you create meaningful summer projects to do with your kids!

Portrait of a Maturing Young Actor: Meet Anthony Musyoka Ngao

Our partner Kenya Connect recently posted an essay written by Anthony Musyoka Ngao, a bright young man who is staying in school and pursuing his dream of becoming an actor with help from The School Fund community. This post originally appeared at Kenya Connect’s blog

672340_origThe first year I joined Wamunyu Primary School in 2006 was the same year I came to know about Kenya Connect. Just like any other new kid in school, I was very keen to explore my school and I recall quite well that was when our old and cracked classroom was renovated and given a new facelift. The dusty floor that had given me a cold for months and the open windows that were killing us in the cold were at last fixed! The school staff room and the head teacher’s offices were renovated too. I later came to know that the people behind this good work were Kenya Connect. I learned that Kenya Connect had partnered our school with a school in America called Mt. View Middle school and that the students in our sister school were raising money to rebuild our school. I was very happy to have joined this school. At the same time, I learned that the students in our upper school were actually paired with pen pals from our sister school, Mt. View MS and were exchanging letters. I was sad that I did not have a pen pal, since I did not know how to read and write well. I promised myself that I would work very hard to know how to write so that one day I could have my own pen pal to write to.  Day after day, I worked hard in class to be the best student. My hard work paid off because I remember I was always the top student in class. This gave me a lot of confidence. I was even appointed class prefect and I begun acting and leading songs in my class performances. I loved singing and acting but then the confidence I earned in class work even boosted this more and more.

Years moved on quickly and in 2009, I was promoted to standard four, the grade that was exchanging pen pal letters.  Wow! My dream finally came true when I wrote my first letter and my pen pal wrote back! This was an amazing experience to talk to someone continents apart. We continued to exchange letters for the next two years. I learned a lot from my pen pal. Though our cultures were different, we still shared a lot in common. I will forever remain grateful for this letter exchange experience. By the time I finished my primary school, our school had benefited a lot from Kenya Connect programs. All the classrooms were now renovated and a water tank was built to provide clean drinking water for the entire school. A hand washing station was also built for us to wash our hands and a de-worming program had been started with all children in my school getting de-worming medicine four times a year! I was sad to leave Wamunyu ABC when I completed standard eight but at the same time I was excited to join a new secondary school. Although, I knew I had to leave and move on to secondary school, one thing was for sure. I would miss the services of Kenya Connect!

As fate would have it, on my final year in primary school, my father who is the sole income earner in my family, had an accident that injured his leg making him unable to work. My dream of joining secondary school was shattered. However, every cloud has its silver lining; lo and behold this fateful event led me to another front of Kenya Connect: their connection with The School Fund!

Through The School Fund, Kenya Connect is providing scholarship for needy and top-performing students in secondary school. After presenting my need, I was lucky to be selected as a beneficiary of this program and that is how I ended up joining my new school- Kitondo secondary school. I feel very happy and most blessed to continue with my education through the support of Kenya Connect. I am even excited to have my profile online to be able to journal with friends and supporters. I am very happy that some of the teachers and guests who visited my former primary school through Kenya Connect visits and loved my performance are now supporting me in my education.  Thank you friends for your support. Asante sana. My dream is to be a professional actor and am grateful to everyone who is supporting me make my dream true.

How a First Job Can Change a Life

BY RACHAEL MILLER, External Affairs Assistant, Educate! 

July 2013 23

Do you remember your first job? Do you remember the pride you felt in your new responsibilities and self-sufficiency? Perhaps you were saving up for a car, a college education, or a home to call your own. Perhaps you saw that hard work was the key to a better future. Whether it was waiting tables, delivering papers, scooping ice cream, or walking dogs, a first job is an invaluable experience.

Educate! Scholars share these goals. Many young Ugandans want nothing more than a first job that will allow them to spread their wings and grow personally and professionally while laying the foundation for a better life. However, for most of these young people, there are serious barriers preventing them from achieving this dream.

Globally, 311 million young people are unemployed, largely due to the mismatch between education and life after school. This problem is most acute in Africa, the world’s youngest continent. (The average age in Africa is 18; in several European countries, it’s 40 or more.) With a lack of formal jobs, 90% of African youth are going to work in the informal sector. Yet education systems across Africa are out-dated and cannot hope to deliver on their most vital promise—spending years in schools focused on rote-memorization and designed for a 1900’s economy does not lead to employment and the opportunity to make a living. For the families who have invested so much to put their children through school, this broken promise is tragic.

We know that the youth of Uganda are an untapped resource for change. Educate! transforms secondary education in Africa to teach young people to solve poverty for themselves and their communities. We aim to create the future of secondary education to develop youth to take leadership initiative, create small businesses, and improve their livelihoods. Educate! delivers a relevant model of education. Through advocacy, practical training for teachers, and direct service in schools, we are working to fully integrate our model into Uganda’s education system.

Our partnership with The School Fund is so exciting because it will fully fund four Educate! schools, allowing our innovative and proven model to reach 350 students per school for a total of 1,400 students! Funding Educate!’s programs in these schools is a sustainable way to ensure that students can stay in school and get an education that will allow them to build a better future. Students are able to use the money that they earn from their enterprises to pay their tuition fees and other school expenses. Together, we equip these young people with the tools they need to be leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers in their communities. These students are solving the problem of poverty in their communities—starting with their very first job.

Bootstrapping into a Different Life in Uganda

July 2013 4

BY LIZ TEXEIRA, TSF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Starting a business is not an easy task. Yet more than a few friends and colleagues have chosen the entrepreneurial route. Whether this trend is a result of job scarcity upon graduation, perennial optimism about being able to make change in the world, or a different sort of rebellion, millennial-style, it seems that the world of startups, new businesses, and home-grown changemakers is here to stay. The Kauffman Foundation recently released a statistic that showed business creation in to be at 0.28% in the US. Meaning that there are around 475,000 new business owners each month throughout the year. This number has in fact declined from recent years, suggesting an economic upswing in more traditional jobs, but the power of entrepreneurship, business ownership, and the skills accumulated during the launch of a company cannot be understated.

The case for entrepreneurship is particularly poignant in the developing world. In countries like Uganda, where the youth employment rate hovers around 83%, the need to be innovative in a troubled economy is essential.  This is one of the primary reasons that The School Fund has partnered with Educate!, an organization that provides leadership and entrepreneurial training to high school students.

At Uplands High School in Kampala, there was a common problem: kids arrived at school with dirty shoes, a dress code violation that often would get them sent home. Students from the Educate! Student Business club saw an opportunity where others only saw frustration. They now manufacture and sell their own shoe polish, which has become very popular with their classmates. Others noted how many students wanted something other than dry toast for breakfast, and started marketing breakfast jam. Others have found a way to use recycled paper bags to package the popcorn they sell. Their products might seem modest: popcorn, shoe polish, jam. But their businesses are booming. When you think about some of the businesses that take off in the US—Eggstracor, anyone?—it appears that these Ugandan entrepreneurs are providing goods that are more vital to the lives of their customers.

DSCN3222 (1)

Young entrepreneurs from Uplands High School, Kampala, Uganda.

These students don’t have access to angel investors or the sort of business accelerators that thrive on many American University campuses. Their potential customers don’t have much in the way of disposable income, and money earned is often earmarked for mostly essential needs. Engaging customers in Uganda takes a certain savvy—starting a business in a resource-poor setting, you have to learn to be creative with what you have. Students in Educate!’s entrepreneurial program have no choice but to bootstrap. More amazing, while these students are gaining the skills and confidence that come from starting a venture from scratch, they are not only succeeding, but they are turning a profit. This means more money for books, more money for uniforms, and near and dear to all of us at The School Fund, they are earning more money to stay in school by being able to pay their mandatory school fees.

The facts and figures that we learn in school are undoubtedly important, but the education that comes with learning to assess and measure your own potential, learning to utilize the right tools, and learning to create opportunities for yourself—that is the education that sticks.  We are so proud to support these young entrepreneurs, and honored to be a part of their ongoing educations.

Mary M., Rising From Hardship

We’re continuing a series of short profiles about our students, their lives and what their educations mean to them. Here’s another example of a young person who wants to use her education to make a difference in the world. 

Mary M.

Mary M., a seventeen year old from Zambia, understands intimately how circumstance can change the shape of a life. She points to specific factors that impact quality of life and educational opportunities for her and her peers: poor housing facilities, poor water supply, bad sanitation conditions, teenage pregnancy, early marriage and high levels of poverty. She’s got a mind for public policy and has big dreams—she wants to “eradicate poverty levels at home and in my community.”

Mary’s impressive goals have a painful origin. When she was eight, her father died. She describes that time as being “like a nightmare.” Not only did she lose her beloved Daddy, but his death had ramifications beyond her terrible grief.

Her father had supported the family and paid the kids’ school fees. But with him gone, money ran low. Mary’s mother, who has a disability, could not get a manual labor job. Mary and her six siblings began to see their futures slip away. Mary was forced to drop out of school for a year.

But then things started to turn around. Mary learned about our partner KnowledgeBeat, which renewed her hope for her future. She took and passed her grade nine exams. Through TSF she was able to secure a spot in the school of her choice. And she’s doing well, dedicating her time to learning and “planning for my future of becoming a lawyer.”

Sometimes, many times, our greatest leaders find their beginnings in hardship. They suffer or see others suffering, and in trying to make sense of that experience, start down a path toward making the world a better place. Mary is well on her way toward creating a better life for herself, but her commitment to changing her community’s cycles of poverty speaks to something greater.

As Mary studies, we see one of Zambia’s future leaders coming of age.

Learn more about Mary and support her education through The School Fund.

A Story of Two Marcias

We’re continuing a series of short profiles about our students, their lives and what their educations mean to them. Here’s another example of the opportunity one of our students found, once she had the support to continue her studies. 

Marcia G.

Marcia G. was an only child and grew up in Quito, Ecuador, in two-room living quarters attached to the house where her mom served as domestic help. Her mother’s employer—also named Marcia—helped raise the young girl, treating her almost like her own daughter. Marcia was her namesake afterall, and the older Marcia invested her time in helping the younger Marcia with her studies. She was her teacher, her mother’s boss and a surrogate caretaker.

But then in 2007, the elder Marcia died suddenly. It was a personal loss complicated by additional hardship. The elder Marcia had made no provisions for the then twelve-year-old girl. The situation left Marcia’s mom jobless; mother and daughter were homeless.

Marcia’s mother suffers from multiple disabilities and had trouble finding work. With no family to help and now all alone in Quito, mother and daughter rotated from house to house each night. It took until a year after Marcia entered high school for her mom to secure a job.

That, fortunately, was a time of dramatic turn-around. This was also when Marcia began to receive support from The School Fund, by way of our partner The Condor Trust for Education.

In 2012, Marcia graduated from high school, but her success doesn’t stop there. Marcia is now studying Tourism & Hotel Administration at the Instituto Cordillera in Quito (with continuing support from Condor Trust). She dreams of working in the tourism industry in Ecuador, of eventually going abroad herself. She longs to see more of the world. As part of her coursework, she’s already getting to travel to new parts of Ecuador—a thrilling experience for a young woman who had never before left Quito.

She hopes to eventually earn enough to lift her mother and herself out of poverty, and in the meantime, Marcia serves as mentor and inspiration for younger Condor Trust students. She wants to show them exactly how much one person is able to achieve, given the opportunity to receive an education.

Forced to Drop-Out: A Girl Still Dreams of Becoming a Teacher

Today, we continue a series of short profiles about our students, their lives and what their educations mean to them. So often, we tell our supporters that they have changed a life. “Education is opportunity,” has become our tagline. It’s all absolutely true. Here’s what that truth looks like from the perspective of our students.

KrishnaDevi

It’s heart-wrenching to lose your mother. But for Krishna D., her mother’s death was a double blow.

A young girl living in India and the only remaining female in the family, women’s responsibilities now fell to her. Krishna’s father was more inclined to spend his money on educating her two brothers than on sending Krishna to school. After all, he reasoned, she would eventually get married and in the meantime someone needed to tend to the house now that her mother was gone.

Still dealing with the grief of losing her mother, Krishna watched as her brothers left each day for school, while she stayed home to cook and clean for the family.

Krishna had long dreamed of becoming a teacher. Instead, she was forced to drop out, and as she managed the family home over the course of two years, she felt that dream slip farther and farther from her grasp.

This is when Krishna met with some of our partners from Milaan, whose Swabhiman Programme focuses on dropout girls in rural Uttar Pradesh. It’s a program that not only helps young women transition back into school but also offers support to help, when necessary, to persuade families that educating their daughters is feasible—and worthwhile.

With help from Milaan and financial support from The School Fund’s donors, Krishna headed back to school. Thus far she’s been able to pass her Class X (grade 10) examination. Just as important, her confidence has been restored and her dream of becoming a teacher again feels within her reach. It’s a dream not just about her own future—but one of improving her community through education. If anyone understands education’s value, its inherent ability to change lives, Krishna does.

Mosqoy Holiday Match!

Starting December 18th, The School Fund’s donors will double their impact. When donations are given to any student on TSF’s website, our partner Inner Fire Yoga Apparel will match that same amount and donate up to $3,000 total to our Mosqoy students in Peru!

mosqoy

Here’s how the match will work:

  • Any donation made to a student on The School Fund website—starting December 18that 12:01 am PST and up to $3,000 total—will be matched by Inner Fire Yoga Apparel with a donation to a Mosqoy student.
  • Donations will be matched at 100%, meaning a $40 donation to any student on The School Fund website triggers an additional $40 donation to a Mosqoy student. If the original donation is to a Mosqoy student, the donation doubles (but not necessarily to the same Mosqoy student).
  • Matching funds will be distributed among Mosqoy’s students based on need at the end of the match campaign.
  • If funds exceed Mosqoy students’ total need for the current funding cycle, we will devote excess matching funds to Mosqoy students’ following funding cycle.
  • Matching funds for the current funding cycle will be applied within two weeks of Match Day.
  • Only online donations will be matched.

Mosqoy is dedicated to promoting educational and cultural rights for Andean communities in Peru. On average only four percent of Quechua youth continue their studies at a technical institute or university (compared with a national average of 43 percent). Theirs is a culture that is threatened by a steady flow of tourists and a government that local communities describe as corrupt and neglectful. But through The School Fund, Mosqoy students get the opportunity to pursue their educational dreams and prepare to rebuild their communities.

Teaching is her “Perfect Match”

Today we’re beginning a series of short profiles about our students, their lives and what their educations mean to them. So often, we tell our supporters that they have changed a life. “Education is opportunity,” has become our tagline. It’s all absolutely true. Here’s what that truth looks like from the perspective of our students.

Pammi Singh

Pammi Singh is from a big family—one of seven supported by her father, a farmer. Together they live on about 25000 Rupees (roughly $460) a year.

After Pammi finished primary school, her father could no longer afford her educational expenses. Instead he started looking for a “perfect match” for her. In some ways, that outcome would have made her much like her peers. In India, 47 percent of girls are wed before adulthood; 18 percent are married before they turn 15. These young brides often show signs of sexual abuse, post-traumatic stress, are twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped or threatened, and often experience depression.

But Pammi wanted more. Fortunately, she found a program run by TSF partner Milaan that helps girls who have dropped out get back into school and prepare for their Class X (tenth grade) exams. She knew her father would not spend another penny on her education, and says that only made her more determined to enroll in the program.

It was a turning point.

Today, with the help of her teachers and the support from TSF funders, Pimma has passed those exams and aspires to be a teacher one day, so that she can spread the importance of girls’ education to her community. She wants every girl to fight for this right.