Spring 2014 Newsletter

The Spring 2014 World Scholarship Initiative Newsletter shares some of the highlights of the past year:

– Two boys started secondary school this January because of scholarships from WSI
– Our three existing students finished their first year with an impressive list of accomplishments
– WSI is selling Handmade in Kenya notecards to raise money and spread awareness.

Please take a look at the attached newsletter to read about these stories and more.

Also, keep in mind that we’ll be returning to Kenya in 2016 and are looking for supporters who want to join us! If you’re interested, please let us know.

As always, we appreciate your support for making this project possible.

WSI Newsletter 2014

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We’re Part of the Movement

By Tom Bode

Human rights issues like global women’s rights are on the rise in the public conscience. Here’s an article by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kirstoff about the benefits of educating girls in developing countries.

When I read this article, I notice two things. First, it seems like many organizations promoting education in developing nations are small, grassroots operations. Perhaps this is because this is not a profitable field and the only people who are drawn to it as entrepreneurs (me) and investors (you) are those who believe that the cause is worthwhile in itself. Reading about the success of other small groups makes me believe that we can be successful, too.

Second, I love to read about the future lives of the talented individuals who receive an education through a charitable program like this. Imagine if a dominant shaping force on your life was the charity of strangers providing you with an education. How would that change your conception of the world and your role in it? We’re not only giving students an education, we’re giving them a terrific demonstration of the best of human nature.


A Beautiful First Year

In December, Peris, Triza and Villitracia finished their first year of high school at Christ the King Girls Academy, an all-girl Catholic boarding school. It was an exciting year of changes. They transitioned from a day school located in a slum to a boarding school that serves the brightest students from the upper class of Kenya. Each girl sent us three letters during the year, describing their experiences. (When reading their letters, remember that English is each girl’s third language and that Kenyan English normally sounds strange to American ears.)

Villitracia wrote about being nervous on the first day of school:

In the first day of school I was so surprised and full of questions of how life in boarding school is like because I had never stepped in a boarding school. After some days I came to realize that boarding life is so cool. Thanks to you I am here.

We sponsored these girls because they were the top performers at their public, primary school and they could not afford to attend a high-quality secondary school that matched their talents. Looking at their grades for the first year, it is clear that our girls can hold their own with peers who have better educational backgrounds. Peris and Triza improved considerably over the year and all three finished in the top half of the class.

Class Ranking Percent
   Term 1 End of Year
Villitracia 76% 75%
Triza 41% 65%
Peris 65% 97%

Peris is obviously an outstanding student, at the end of the year ranking first in Chemistry, second in Physics, and third in overall class standing, out of 110 students. Her achievement is more impressive considering the advantages that her classmates had before high school. Peris told us that her friends were surprised that she didn’t know what a “flash drive” was, or how it worked with a computer:

They assumed that I was from the same world with them, because they all have computers at their homes.

In fact, she did not have a computer at her home or even at her primary school. Computer studies is required at Christ the King, giving her a chance to catch up with her classmates.

Villitracia’s studies were interrupted in Term 2 by pneumonia, which required her to spend some time at the hospital. She recovered and was back to her energetic self when she proudly announced that she had been elected “Liturgy Executive,” a position within the student government responsible for organizing student participation in mass.

These girls have worked tremendously hard to get where they are, so it is no surprise that they have strong sources of motivation. Triza told us what she hopes for her future:

My favorite subjects are agriculture and business. I really love agriculture cause it involves land farming and factors concerning the environment. I also love business cause when I grow up I would like to be a business lady and an Engineer.

In line with these aspirations, Triza’s highest ranking subject is Business, where she ranked is tenth out of 110 students. In Kenya, where much of the economy is notoriously inefficient, Triza could easily leverage her education and drive into business success.

Vilitracia draws strength from her two caring parents, a rare blessing among poor Kenyans. They are clearly important to her:

My mom is a hardworking woman. I love her so very much because whatever little she has she appreciates it. She is also kind and friendly and she does everything with determination. My dad does casual work and he is also a hard working man, he is also a determined person and very friendly. They are my role models.

Above all, the letters from the girls are full of gratitude for the opportunity to attend this school. Peris wrote,

First I would like to thank you for your generosity. I have never experienced the kindness that you have shown us before. You are God’s angels in spite of you not knowing who we really are.

Triza said,

I really love this school. I love its buildings, its furniture and also its school equipment. I’m really thankful for bringing me to this school and may God bless you with more than a thousand blessings.

In her last letter of the year, Villitracia wrote,

I want to thank you for the whole year, it has been such a beautiful year thanks to you and the other donors, I love you all.

You have done a wonderful thing, giving these girls a beautiful year.

Full text of letters and report cards are available here.

New Students Awarded Scholarships and Begin School

By Tom Bode, President

Gidraf and Paul

Gidraf and Paul in their new school uniforms.

On January 29, two boys started their first year at Loreto Nakuru Secondary School in Nakuru, Kenya on scholarships provided by World Scholarship Initiative. The scholarships, funded by donations, pay for the boys’ tuition and boarding for four years at the Catholic school.  We are excited to watch them learn and mature as they take advantage of this life changing opportunity.

Despite challenging circumstances, Gidraf did very well in primary school. Before moving to boarding school, he lived with his mom and six younger siblings, his father being married to someone else. His mother worked as house help, a common job for poor women in Kenya. Money was tight and Gidraf occasionally took side jobs to earn money for the family. He also worked for at his primary school (such as weeding the school farm) to earn lunch money. As his teacher, I remember him as the type of student who sat in the back, but paid close attention and frequently had the correct answer when no one else did. His favorite and best subject was Science. Being a boy in Kenya, he loves soccer and is a big fan of the British Premier League.

Paul also overcame challenges to succeed in primary school. Before starting secondary school, he lived with his father and three older siblings, as his mother died when Paul was very young. His father does unskilled work, such as delivering water on a bicycle (many homes do not have running water and have jugs of water delivered by bike) or working as a night security guard. I also taught Paul, and remember that he was always very polite and friendly, and although a bit shy around adults, he had many friends among the other students. His favorite subject is math and he also loves British Premier League soccer.

We selected Gidraf and Paul to receive these scholarships because of their high performance in primary school and their financial need. Three girls from the same primary school were awarded scholarships last year.

I knew both of these students and I am extremely pleased that we are able to award them these scholarships. I am sure they will do well. Thank you everyone for your support in making this amazing thing happen!

Educating Girls is Important (obviously)

By Tom Bode, President

In Kenya, as other countries, girls face many obstacles to receiving education, so that by the time they finish primary school, girls on average score much lower than boys. Yet, research shows that educating girls has large benefits for their communities. Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and founder of Central Asia Institute, has worked in international development for two decades. In a recent magazine article, he said that “the most powerful force of change, and the best investment one can make in a developing society, is girls’ education.” He gave some examples of the effect of educating girls:

  • Women with more education are more likely to have smaller, healthier, and better-education families
  • Educated women have higher incomes and contribute to their national economy
  • Educated women are more likely to stand up for themselves, to participate in politics, and to resist violence
  • Educated women direct more of their resources to their children’s health and education than men
  • Children of educated women study harder and receive more education themselves

World Scholarship Initiative awards scholarships based partly on a desire to ensure that girls have an opportunity for education alongside boys. Currently, all three students we sponsor are girls and we are dedicated to making sure that at least half of the students we sponsor are girls.

For more information and fact citations, see Why is Girls’ Education So Important? by Greg Mortenson in Fall 2013 edition of Journey of Hope magazine, available at https://www.ikat.org/publications/2013JOH.pdf

New students!

Students in Kenya received their scores this week that determine their entrance into secondary school. We heard from several students from St. Paul’s Primary School, who we intend to award secondary school scholarships to. Several scored well and we are currently looking for secondary schools that would accept them as students to begin in a few months. Soon, thanks to your generosity, these kids will receive a scholarship that will change their lives! More updates to come soon!

501c3 Tax Exempt Status


By Tom Bode, President

UPDATE (8/20/2014): We have received our determination letter from the IRS stating that our 501c3 status is official!

World Scholarship Initiative is now treated as being a 501c3 tax exempt public charity! We have submitted our application to the IRS and while it is pending, the organization is treated as tax exempt, per IRS policy. We will issue receipts for donations that list our organization as a 501c3 organization, meaning that donations are tax deductible, unless our application is ultimately rejected. I don’t know how long it will take the application to be approved, especially considering we submitted the application the week after the federal government re-opened. However, I am confident that our application will be approved.

This is great news for World Scholarship Initiative, since 501c3 designation serves as a seal of authenticity of the legitimacy of our organization and our cause. The timing is excellent as well. We are pushing to increase fundraising levels from now until December, when we will decide how many additional students to offer scholarships to. There are several promising students on the horizon and I would love nothing more than to be able to give them the chance to go to the secondary school that they deserve. Can you help us out?

P.S. Think about giving a gift to World Scholarship Initiative in someone’s name this Christmas season. We will present them with a card and an explanation of the organization. More information to come.

Term 2 Grades and Letters


By Tom Bode, President


The second term of school is over and the three students have sent their grades and an update on their lives and studies to their sponsors. Triza and Peris improved their school performance over the first term, Villitracia did not, but she was sick with pneumonia for some time during the term. All three are in the top 30% of their class and Peris is ranking 13th out of 109! We am proud of their performance especially knowing that few, if any, of the other students come from as challenging of a background.

In their letters, the students write about their activities at the secondary

school and their gratitude for being sponsored. Though they are fluent in English (having studied it from first grade), there are some bits of “Kenyan English” that you might find confusing. Triza says that she is “really struggling” – this just means that working hard, not that things are bad. She also says that they “poured” dirty water for Vilitricia on her birthday. This is a Kenyan tradition: on your birthday, your friends will surprise you by pouring a glass of water on you (I don’t get it either). All three girls talk about books that they were given. This is a reference to a gift from Board Member Katie Cobb, who, before she left Kenya, gave each of the girls two novels with strong female leads (like Anne of Green Gables and From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler).

Read the rest of the letters for yourself and see their grades below. You can also see their letters and grades from last term on the Awarded Students page.

Success at Math Camp

By Tom Bode, President

August 24 was the end of the Maseno University Math Camp, which our students attended. It was difficult to organize the registration and attendance of the students from the United States but in the end, our volunteers in Kenya came through for us and everything worked out. Special thanks to teacher Millie Wanjohi, a former teacher of the girls when they were at St. Paul’s Primary School, who escorted the students on the four hour bus ride to Maseno. No one asked her to, but she saw a problem and stepped up to solve it. That’s a rare quality anywhere in the world and I’m grateful that we have her as part of our team.

I heard about the Maseno Math Camp opportunity from a University of Oregon alumni named Tom Denton who works at Maseno University on a Fulbright scholarship. He helped us through the registration process, and at the end, had emailed me with some nice comments about our students:

I’m happy to say that two of the three were students I remember being quite impressed with (and the third may have just been quiet!).  Wafula Triza in particular seems extremely bright; as she’s only finished Form 1, I think it’ll be interesting to see how she develops.  Peris also had a number of good contributions throughout the week.

Tom said that there were 46 students at the camp and everyone left the week happy. He explains the topics that they studied and gives more information about the camp on his blog post about the camp.

One school year funded! A new name and other changes

By Tom Bode, President

We first conceived of this organization in December 2012 and were so inspired by the idea that we committed to sponsoring students before we had an organization, a website, financial supporters, or much knowledge of how to create and run a not-for-profit organization. We grew and learned and lot, and thanks to generous support from donors around the world, we recently made the final payment for the first year of schooling for Villitracia, Triza, and Peris, our three sponsored students. What was only an idea nine months ago has turned into reality and changed the life of those three girls.

It’s time to catch up on the administrative aspect of this organization now, to ensure that it remains functional well into the future. Several changes have been made recently. We have registered with the State of Oregon as a not-for-profit organization under the name World Scholarship Initiative. This new name better describes our academic purpose and global ambition. This organization is governed by a Board of Directors, comprised of Tom Bode, Katherine Cobb, and Michael Bode. You can read about them on the About Us page. We have adopted bylaws, to assure that the organization conducts its business in a professional, accountable manner. We are also actively pursuing IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and hope to have that recognition by the end of 2013.

These changes will strengthen this organization with few noticeable changes to its appearance. The organization will have no paid employees and volunteers receive no compensation for their work or expenses. Administrative costs will be paid out of pocket by volunteers. All this to ensure that 100% of donations go directly to paying for the education of students in Kenya. The World Scholarship Initiative currently awards only one scholarship, the St. Paul’s Academic Achievement Scholarship. For this reason, the website will retain its focus on the St. Paul’s Academic Achievement Scholarship.

World Scholarship Initiative Board of Directors:


Michael Bode, shown here volunteering in Thailand in 2009


Katie Cobb, shown here with the Sphinx in 2013


Tom Bode, shown here at the front on his classroom at St. Paul’s Primary School