Trivia Night Fundraiser is a Win!

By Tom Bode, President

Our third trivia night fundraiser was our biggest yet and a huge success!  After all the pennies were counted, WSI raised over $3,000 — 100% of that money will go to the students’ education.  That’s almost enough to pay for four students for a year!  Just as importantly, everyone who came had a great time.

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Over 75 people attended, almost completely filling our room at Lucky Lab NW.  After 40 trivia questions, team “Savanah Savants” won with an almost-perfect score.  Guests purchased raffle tickets to try their luck at winning some of the prizes that ranged from bird feeders to wine to restaurant gift certificates.  And people who didn’t win any prizes shopped our selection of gifts.  (You can purchase our Handmade in Kenya notecards and our new WSI t-shirts on our website).

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Team “Savanah Savants” took home a basket of prizes, including a tiara

Thanks to everyone who donated time, money and prizes to make the event a success, including: Lucky Labrador Brewing Company and Backyard Birdshop.

Summer Trivia Night

What’s better on a summer evening than enjoying Lucky Lab’s pizza, salad, and beer with your friends, while playing trivia, AND supporting a great cause?

Please join us at Lucky Lab Pub on August 10th to play trivia, enjoy pizza and beer, and support WSI’s students.

  • When: August 10 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  Trivia game start at 7:00 pm
  • Where: Lucky Lab Pub, 1945 NW Quimby St., Portland
  • How much: $20 door charge includes pizza and salad buffet, trivia scorecard, and 1 raffle ticket.
  • Everyone is invited: Bring your friends!

WSI’s third trivia fundraiser has a new location.  Our last event filled our Radio Room space to capacity, so we’re excited to move to Lucky Lab’s NW pub, where there is virtually unlimited  seating space, pizza, parking, and beer!

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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Visiting a Student’s Home

By Ruby Buchholtz, WSI Board Member

When was the last time you were so overwhelmingly welcomed into a strange land? For me that time was during my trip to Kenya with WSI Board President Tom and Board Member Tony. In June of 2016, we were lucky enough to travel to Kenya to visit with the students, teachers, and families of the students we sponsor through WSI. During the trip, it wasn’t the animals on safari, or conditions of the schools, or even the outstanding work the students have been doing that surprised me most, it was the student’s parents.

The parents continually showed us nothing but hospitality and gratefulness for our presence in their children’s lives. There was one instance that has stayed with me since the trip, and most likely will stay in my heart for the rest of my life. We were half way through our visit in Nakuru, visiting the schools, speaking with the teachers, taking our students on a field trip when one student’s mother, Mama Lydia, invited us over to her house for a visit to thank us for all we have done. Millie, our main contact in Kenya and huge supporter of WSI, joined us on our visit to act as an interpreter and guide.

We walked from the school, through town and entered an area that was devastatingly different. There was no pavement to walk or drive on, only dirt.  There were goats and children running freely throughout the area, and the homes were all one room cinder blocks.  This area, Millie told us as we walked, was denoted as “the slums.”

Mama Lydia welcomed us into her home where newspaper lined the walls, and a sheet divided the one room into a bedroom and sitting room. We sat down and thanked her for having us, she offered us tea and some fruit, a gesture ingrained in their culture no matter their level of income. Mama Lydia, much like many other middle aged women, was a street vendor. She would sell fruit or snacks to the passers-by in the city.  This type of occupation doesn’t promise a steady income; it is hit or miss depending on the day.

As the conversation continued Mama Lydia broke down and started crying while telling us how grateful she was for us coming into her and her daughter Lydia’s lives. She told us that if we hadn’t gathered funds for Lydia to go to boarding school she would be with the other children going to school whenever the family didn’t need them to help make money for the family. She mentioned that living in the slums makes being a successful student difficult. There are a lot of distractions, pressures from the family, and none of the homes come with electricity, making studying in the evening difficult, if not impossible. Through the tears and thanks Mama Lydia also mentioned that she had saved up for a few years to get a lamp and pay for electricity for Lydia to study when she comes homes for breaks.

While sitting there all I could think about was how sincere Mama Lydia’s appreciation was for our assistance through WSI. There we were sitting in her home, drinking her tea and eating her snacks not even fully aware of the impact we had had in this woman’s life. It is challenging to know if the fundraising we are doing in the states is having any true and meaningful difference in these students lives, but I can tell you that we are not only changing the lives of these students but also their families. We are giving them hope for their children to have a better life than they have, and to succeed in ways they had assumed were never attainable. Thank you to all who donate to WSI, your donations have been, and will continue to be, gestures of hope and change for the students and their families.

New WSI student Joyce begins her freshman year

By Tom Bode, President

World Scholarship Initiative’s tenth sponsored student, Joyce, began her freshman year at Christ the King Girls Boarding School in February 2017.  We recently received a letter from Joyce and wanted to share it with you, because it introduces her better than we can:

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Joyce was awarded a full scholarship to high school because she scored very highly on the end-of-primary-school exam and has financial need.  We are very excited to watch her grow and succeed in high school and can’t wait to hear more from her.

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Joyce when she finished primary school

The Power of Education

By Tony Mecum, WSI Board Member

While we we in Kenya last June, WSI Board Member Tony Mecum, a middle school science teacher by in New York, taught science classes at St. Paul’s Primary School.  This is his reflection 

During our trip to Kenya, we spent one week in Nakuru with our students, their families, and their community. Our goal was to ensure each dollar donated to the World Scholarship Initiative was going directly to the education of our students. Our visit accomplished more than we could have imagined. Not only was the money we raised appropriated faithfully, we learned that our students were excelling at a higher level than most of their affluent peers. Our students’ principals made it very clear: each of our students were setting the bar to which their classmates had yet to reach. This delightful news led us to seek out how our students gained the academic strength and perseverance to succeed, despite the odds stacked against them. That understanding required us to look back through their academic journey, starting with St. Paul’s Primary School.

img_8972-jpgUpon our arrival to the neighborhood primary school our students attended, the teachers and school leadership greeted us with seemingly endless meals, stories, and choreographed performances by the younger students. The excitement at the school was electrifying. Despite the dilapidated infrastructure and lack of basic school supplies, students in every class we toured participated in classroom discussions and projects. As we visited each classroom, it was a stark reminder that education did not require fancy equipment like computers and projectors. It required something much deeper. We learned that the love and tireless service of the school leadership kept the school’s spirit alive, even though most of its students would face extreme poverty upon graduation, even if they ranked top of their class. Vice Principal Millie, in particular, exemplified this unwavering faith in the power of education by making sure students were set up for success even though their futures were precarious at best.  Millie had worked directly with Tom during his year of teaching and now assists our organization by helping the students and their families adjust to boarding school, paying school fees and purchasing supplies, and doing all the other on-the-ground work to make WSI happen. She spends hours beyond her workday to do these tasks, unpaid, because she knows this is the only way our students can have a chance to break from poverty. To share a glimpse of her invincible optimism, she invited me to teach a science class.

Throughout my 60-minute lesson, each student eagerly asked questions, participated in each challenge, and genuinely sought to learn. As the lesson progressed smoothly, I could only think about how many students in that classroom had no chance of attending high school. Despite their eager participation in the heart rate activity and curiosity about the circulatory system, their passion for education would not give them the same returns as it would an American student. For education to free them from a life of poverty would be a miracle.

On our last day at St. Paul’s Primary School, we were sent off with a school-wide performance, dance, meal, and gifts. It was very apparent that World Scholarship Initiative was the miracle that our students had hoped for in order to attend a great high school. World Scholarship Initiative reaches out to donors, coordinates logistics with Mille, and brings the impossible to a small group of young women and men who would otherwise be working in the slums right now for less than $5 a day.

Our fundraising back home is a side activity that, at times, seems like a hobby of little significance. However, to our students – and future students eagerly wanting to know more about the circulatory system and to one day leave the slums – our fundraising is literally saving lives. I hope our donors realize the incredible gift they have given. Donations to World Scholarship Initiative is world changing for children who have no other chance. Everything we do with WSI, every dollar we raise, is so incredibly humbling and absolutely necessary for the lives of ten phenomenal young women and men.

Matching Donation!

By Tom Bode, President

Update: We raised $2,000 and the full amount was matched.  Thanks everyone!

Great News! An anonymous donor will match all donations made before December 31, 2016, up to $2,000!!!

Our fundraising goal for 2016 is $10,000 and we’re almost there. Now with this matching offer, we have an opportunity to meet and go beyond that goal! In 2017, we will be starting our Professional Education Program to ensure our high school graduates get good jobs.  At the same time, we are continuing to give high school scholarships to deserving students. Expanding our programs means our costs are growing — exceeding our fundraising goal would ensure we can continue to provide educational opportunity to these great young adults!

Please make a donation between now and the end of the year.  Remember, it’s tax deductible, 100% of your donation goes to our programs, and it will change someone’s life.

“My son has come home!”

By Tom Bode, President

WSI Board Members Tom Bode, Ruby Buchholtz, and Tony Mecum traveled to Nakuru in June 2016.  Each of us will write a blog post or two about our experience there. This first one is by me, expect more soon!

Standing on the curb outside the Nairobi airport at one o’clock in the morning, wishing I knew where the taxis were, I wondered if the whole trip would be a disaster. I had been away from Kenya for three years and I was nervous for this return trip. Was I prepared to guide fellow board members Ruby and Tony on their first trip to Kenya and would they leave feeling inspired? What would the sponsored students think of us? It was also a test of the organization’s viability: would the people we relied on in Kenya be willing to continue volunteering for the organization?

I should not have worried. On our first day, we went to St. Paul’s Primary School, the impoverished public school in the slums where our students receive their kindergarten through 8th grade education. My friend Millie, a teacher at St. Paul’s, was overjoyed to see us. “My son has come home!” she exclaimed, and hugged us all warmly. There had been no reason to be nervous — we were among friends.

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Tom and Millie see each other again

Millie acted as our guide during the week we spent in the city of Nakuru, where WSI programs are based. In addition to teaching English classes and serving as Vice-Principal at St. Paul’s, she’s an invaluable member of the WSI team. Millie coordinates all of the essential activities that happen in Nakuru, from paying school fees to ensuring that the parents support their children’s education. She is also a second mother to all nine students, regularly dispensing good advice, tough love, and home-cooked meals.

Before the trip, I was concerned that, as an unpaid volunteer, we were taking Millie’s hard work for granted. Did she want to continue to work for us for such minimal compensation? A few days after we arrived, I asked her: did she want to continue running our on-the-ground operations? Was she willing to help us grow, even if it meant more students to look after, to shop for, and to host at her house for end-of-term dinners?

Millie’s answer was direct. She said, “as long as I have breath in my body, I want to continue to do this work”. The seriousness of her answer surprised me, but it should not have. Millie, like teachers all over the world, completely believes in her students. After all, the students we sponsor were her students first – she helped them learn and grow from their first days in kindergarten. Millie was fully committed to these students before they became WSI scholars and it’s clear that her commitment will continue. Not only did Millie entirely ease my concerns regarding her role with WSI, her attitude was contagious and inspirational. She is a teacher dedicated to her students. She helped me realize that WSI is a partnership between sponsors, educators, and students: we are part of the same team, working together to see these young women and men achieve success and change their community for the better.