Susan’s Rose, Shilling by Shilling

African roses are so beautiful.  At the end of this little piece, I will invite you to do something with Guled and me involving an African Rose, a holiday act of generosity if you will…..perhaps just a shift in holiday generosity.  I have learned a great many things while here in Kenya.   One of those things is that Americans are genuinely givers.  I think we can change a life.   Read on…
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.”                                                              ~Edward Everett Hale, American Author, Clergyman

I am not always sure why I am in Africa, but whatever my hands find to do, I do it.   When we arrived, Guled made friends with a guy here at the compound and we became connected to his two younger sisters, his “Auntie” Susan and his mom Esther.  Esther brought Susan on to take of the children, and in Africa they use the term “Auntie” instead of something like nanny.

Susan and I had a lot of opportunities to talk as the girls and I worked on schooling issues.   One such conversation struck me and interestingly I became involved in the same area with the children’s rights foundation for which I now work.  Susan, though she is very private and thinks her life holds little interest to outsiders, has given me permission to tell the story in brief, and so I will:

Some 19 years ago, in a small upcountry village while in high school (in Form 3 I believe, like 10th or 11th grade to us), Susan met a boy whom she loved.   She was a good student.   Interacting with her all these years later, I would venture to say she was even a remarkable student.   As is very common in Africa when a girl gets pregnant, she believed she would marry the boy and begin her adult life.

This was not to be.  Rather, due to long-held traditions or beliefs in the upcountry, her parents required her to drop out of school and take care of her child.  She did care for little Rose, nurturing her and teaching her all the things life holds for her, and also all the things life ‘should’ hold for her….like respect and no poverty and a meaningful career.

Susan made a decision that though she could not continue with her education and build a better life, she would devote every single resource, every ounce of energy, to making absolutely sure that Rose would be the first of a generation to complete her education.

Rose is now 19 years old and has been accepted to a very good University.  Not a college, but a University.  In Africa, this is the demarcation between poverty and a shot at some kind of success if you are smart enough.  In 2011, statistics show that 70% of Kenya’s population is under age 30, and number somewhere around 10,560,000.  Of these, 40,000 have tertiary education.

If these statistics are anywhere near real, this is really Africa’s top 1% (.379% to be precise) and Rose has made the initial cut.  In the US, we take out loans and make sure our kids get the university opportunity.  Here in Africa, economics make it virtually impossible for a student from the rural villages to access any advanced education, no matter how bright and hardworking they are.

Rose, with the total devotion and dedication of her mom, has gotten this far.  This weekend, today, November 25th, outside Meru, Susan is holding a fundraiser in the village community.  People from all over will come and help shilling by shilling (that’s like a penny) to raise the $70,000-$100,000/= Rose needs to have with her when she reports to University in January.  But wait, that isn’t US dollars.   That is Kenyan shillings.

Guled and I have decided to help because we know Susan, and we’d like to put our Christmas presents into Rose’s education this one year.

$70,000 US dollars is staggering but if it buys an education, we tolerate it.  Rose doesn’t need that kind of money for the same opportunity.  $70,000 – $100,000 Kenyan shillings will buy this girl a future.   Divide by 85 and you see we are looking at about $825 – $1176.47 US dollars.

A single US dollar will make a difference, shilling by shilling.  

If Rose can report with 70,000 shillings and the money to meet her basic needs (another $30,000 shillings or so), government loans and grants will take her seriously and cover the rest for the year.

Help us make this happen for her.   We can’t give gifts very well this year, and we can’t bake stuff and hang out with you guys.  But this we can all do together… just get them a little closer if we can.  Contact me here or on Facebook with an email, and I’ll send my JP Morgan Chase account number so you can deposit there.  It’s the easiest way I can think of.  Since it costs a flat fee for me to transfer money into Kenya, I’ll wait a few weeks to gather.

I’m telling you guys, even a single US dollar will change the life of this family and their generations.  Guled and I changed our needs slightly and sent our first dollars to Susan today.

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