In July 2009, Rebecca’s life was forever changed when she met Isabel, a Canadian student on a school trip to Kenya.
Isabel thought Rebecca was pretty terrific and very able, and so she arranged for her parents to pay – through The Small Project – for Rebecca, an orphan who lived with her poor and elderly grandparents, to attend a really good Kenyan boarding school. Isabel knew that Rebecca had great potential and that by providing her with a better education, she hoped that Rebecca might break out of the cycle of poverty into which she had been born.
For the first three years, Rebecca thrived at her school, consistently earning terrific grades. However, Pauline, who is The Small Project’s Kenyan volunteer representative, sensed that something wasn’t right with Rebecca when she met with her during the school break at the end of the first term of grade 12.
A few days later, after Rebecca had returned to school, Pauline still felt very uneasy. She called the school and learned that Rebecca had disappeared two days before. A trusted girl in her final year, Rebecca had been allowed to walk to town for some personal items and had not returned. No one at the school knew where she had gone.
Pauline was now really worried. The police were contacted and calls were made to friends and family without success. But the word of Rebecca’s disappearance spread and the next day a distant uncle called to say that Rebecca had arrived at his place in a terrible state. He agreed to escort the girl home, where upon the story came tumbling out.
Rebecca was pregnant.
She had hidden her pregnancy from family, friends, and teachers for seven months. But inside she was a mess: horribly distressed and terribly alone. In desperation she had sought an abortion. Fortunately, the man she contacted refused to do it, saying her pregnancy was too advanced. So, very upset and deeply ashamed, she fled to her uncle’s home in western Kenya. In fact, her distress was so great that upon her return to her grandparents she attempted suicide.
At this point Pauline got deeply involved and provided the necessary emotional and medical support, and two months later Rebecca gave birth to Anne, a healthy baby girl.
Despite some initial resistance, Rebecca’s school agreed to let her finish the year and write the crucial final exams. Isabel and her family provided the financial support to hire a nanny and buy the supplies necessary to support the child while Rebecca was away at school. With encouragement from Pauline, her grandmother and Isabel, and despite missing one full term of school, Rebecca rose to the occasion and did really well on her final exams.
As a bright young woman who understands very well what an incredible opportunity was almost lost, Rebecca was determined not to let it slip away again.
Now Rebecca’s dream to become a nurse is almost realized. It took almost two years to get all the application in place and to arrange for some long term care for her baby but in September of 2016 Rebecca started a four year nursing degree program at Kenya Methodist University in Meru, Kenya. This is an excellent choice of program as her employment prospects are very good and it will allow her to help others as she was helped.
And once again, it was Isabel and her family have stepped up to the plate and willingly agreed to pay for Rebecca’s tuition costs, about $3000 a year for the four years.
But Rebecca still needs financial help for all the other costs: accommodation in a hostel, food, transportation, school supplies and books, and someone to babysit young Anne while Rebecca is in class. Together, these “upkeep” costs are another $3000 a year.
The connection between education and the empowerment of women is well known and very strong, and nowhere is this clearer than in Africa. When a small pebble is dropped into a still pool of water, the ripples spread outwards, eventually affecting the entire surface of the pool. Taking even a small step to enhance and encourage the empowerment of women in African society, such as helping Rebecca become a nurse, is just like dropping that pebble into the pool. The impact is felt far beyond the support of one woman’s education and can create widespread and long lasting change.
Rebecca is a remarkable young woman who has, with some support and through her own hard work and determination, overcome some enormous challenges. If she can earn a nursing degree, she and her family will be forever free of the cycle of poverty into which she was born.
We hope you consider helping Rebecca realize her goals.
Update – November 2020
At long last, after many hurdles and challenges, Rebecca has reached a significant milestone in her educational journey. On November 14, 2020, Rebecca formally graduated from Kenya Methodist University. It was a virtual ceremony because of COVID but Pauline did her best to make the event special for Rebecca. She hired a photographer, arranged special internet connection, rented tables and chairs and laid on a bit of a party for friends and family with food and drinks. She even bought Rebecca a new dress and shoes! We called Rebecca that day and she was very emotional and so very grateful for the years of support from The Small Project.
What’s next for Rebecca? Well, after one year of “internship”, (which she has already started) she will eligible to write her nursing college licensing exams. Rebecca will then be free to work anywhere in Kenya. The last time we spoke in person, Rebecca said she was keen to work in a number of different clinical settings and a range of different locations in Kenya. This might include a state hospital in the remote, and more poorly funded, northern part of of the country in place like Maralal and to follow that up with a posting at a big teaching hospital in Nairobi. Her goal is to gain experience in a number of settings before possibly applying to a Masters program. Wherever she goes and whatever she does, we are confident that Rebecca will be successful. Our thanks are extended to those who through their donations helped Rebecca achieve her dream. Asante sana!