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.
Upon 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.