Thursday, June 2, 2011
A Small Act
Kids, I have become very interested in microfinance and how a relatively small amount of money from someone in the developed world can have such a huge impact on someone's life in the developing world. Beyond what we can begin to imagine.
Last night I watched a documentary on this very topic. Some thirty years ago a little boy named Chris Mburu was living in a mud hut in Kenya. He saw that the only way out of the poverty around him to a life of Possibility lay through education. But in Africa, it costs money to go to school and his family lived a life of subsistence. Secondary school costs about $40 a month, a huge sum in Kenya for those living in poverty.
Just then, an angel entered his life. Her name was Hilda Back and she lived in Sweden. She was a child of the Holocaust who lost her parents at Auschwitz. She survived because she had been sent to Sweden in her girlhood. She never married or had children, but in her later years she decided she would sponsor a child in Africa. That child was Chris.
For years, Hilda sent fifteen dollars a month and this made all the difference to Chris, who excelled in school, went to university and wound up graduating from Harvard as a lawyer interested in working for social justice. He now works for the UN as a human rights lawyer, working to end genocide and discrimination.
He always thought about the woman who had sponsored him and, as an adult, he decided to honor her by forming an education foundation to sponsor bright needy children. He named it in her honor, the Hilda Back Education Fund.
He tracked down the woman who had started this chain of events, to let her know about the foundation in her name.
Along came Jennifer Arnold, who decided this story needed to be told. She filmed the foundation's efforts to select the children who would receive the first scholarships and told some of their stories. Hilda appears in the film, and also attended its screening in Kenya. She and Chris now have a very close relationship.
Two girls' stories especially moved me. They desperately wanted this opportunity, as girls' lives in their village, when their families cant afford to send them to secondary school, are very harsh. Often by sixteen, they have one or two children, and little ability to feed them. These two girls did not qualify for scholarships, after completing the required tests. But I was happy to see at film's end that the film crew decided to sponsor them, so there was a happy ending for them as well.
This film shows what an enormous impact a small amount of help can make when poverty is so severe. An amount we dont even think about changes lives.
Information about Chris's foundation, and film clips about the kids, can be seen at http://www.asmallact.com/
What impressed me most was how hard the children in the film worked in school. They know it is their ticket up and out, and they value the opportunity. They were devastated when their marks werent high enough to qualify for scholarships to continue their education beyond primary school.
I couldnt help but think about teens I know all around me, who have every opportunity in the world, but absolutely no motivation or work ethic, who waste their opportunity, goof off in school, drop out, lounge about. On the other side of the world, children fortunate enough to have the chance, fully apply themselves and work very hard.
I love stories like this, that show us ordinary people the small things we can do to change lives and address the inequities of life on this planet.