This newsletter once again is packed with stories of achievement, of aspirations won and dreams seized. Against any context, this makes for uplifting reading, but sad news this week from Kenya brings it all into sharp relief. A much loved Rafiki Scholar in Form Four at St Bartholomew’s School passed away, succumbing to HIV Aids transmitted from his
parents. Such was his determination to gain an education, he had been sitting his final exams from his hospital bed. As trustees, our hearts go out to Ian’s family and all who knew him – the news is hard to bear. However, his story is not unique, it is the story of thousands and thousands in this world who struggle for even the most basic necessities of life. It is against this context that the stories of achievement below should be read – these are not ordinary successes, these are huge, humbling victories. Thank you for your part in enabling them to happen.
Any notion that assisting the talented Adam Dickens to document the work of Rafiki Thabo in Kenya was going to be glamorous dissipated like a dust-cloud within minutes of meeting him at the airport. Yes our first filming location was Nairobi’s swanky Serena Hotel, where we were proud to capture the success story of Rafiki Scholar Stephen Okumo who is now employed there as part of the digital media team, but Adam was focused, a man on a
mission. Three hours after baggage collection and we were already two interviews down, one more to go and not a cup of tea in sight. The intense pace continued throughout the whole trip – long days of interviews conducted in offices, schools, churches and homesteads – thankfully the tea situation improved, but there was literally not a minute wasted.
We covered a lot of ground - carefully cradling the photography equipment as Tom edged our 4x4 along yet another seemingly impossible track, the rapid accents and cavernous potholes never once causing even the smallest flicker in the transmission of his cheerful smile. Every story told brought alive the importance of what Rafiki Thabo does – again and again, the Scholars expressed the sense of release and relief that came with finding out that they had been accepted, the moment when hope for the future replaced despair. Perhaps my favourite articulation of this came not from a Scholar, but a parent, Christopher Makato. Amidst the gloom of his mud-built home on the furthest peak of one of the Taita Hills, his face lit up animatedly when I asked him how it had felt to learn his child Grace had been supported. “It was like… whoooosh!” he said, throwing his arms into the air, smile spreading across his face.
Rafiki Thabo currently supports 85 Scholars in Kenya, with imminent plans to support a pre-school on the edge of a slum-area in Voi called Sofia. The Trustees are so grateful to the Committee for all the hard work they do in facilitating the work of Rafiki Thabo Foundation.
Trustee Zanna writes.....It was exciting to return to Uganda in August 2016 with photographer and film maker Adam Dickens to meet Rafiki scholars and make a film to celebrate Rafiki's 10th anniversary.
It was our intention to meet Rafiki scholars in their schools, colleges and universities, however all educational institutions in Kabale district were closed on the day we arrived because of food shortages resulting from a poor rainy season. Despite this setback, we were able to meet around 20 scholars and graduates, some of whom had travelled a long way to see us. Despite challenges to filming from random outdoor trumpet rehearsals, wind and traffic noises, Adam was able to capture some fantastic interviews and photographs. Once again I was deeply moved by Rafiki Scholars' stories and their heartfelt gratefulness to all those supporting them. So many told us that they had been given hope and future and proud to be “somebody”.
One of the most moving experiences was witnessing a young man from Kamuganguzi Janan Lewan Memorial Secondary School being told by the Headmaster that he had been awarded a Rafiki Scholarship for university. He cried, as did I! It obviously meant so much to him: without it he probably would have had to return to his village where there is little to do. I later learnt that this Scholar had been expelled from several schools because of his bad behaviour but through the belief and compassion of Benon (Headmaster of his school and Chair of our committee in Uganda) his behaviour changed and he became head boy.
It was fantastic to meet Herbert, Justus and Simeon again. Since I last met them two years ago they have really grown in confidence and are even more excited about their futures. They are taking their final exams in November after which they will gain a Nursing Diploma. They spoke of the relief of not having to worry about fees and no longer having the shame of being chased away due to lack of fees. They are now able to sleep well at night, knowing that their education is secure thanks to the generosity of Rafiki Thabo supporters. All spoke movingly of the sadness and frustration of seeing five students on their course being thrown out of the institute two weeks before graduation due to outstanding debts, even though they had been studying for two years and were almost qualified. Herbert, Justus and Simeon tried to help by trying to raise the funds for their colleagues but failed. Their desire to help had partly come from being helped by Rafiki Thabo. You can read more about Herbert below....
We also met some of the guardians of Rafiki scholars at their homes in rural villages. They were clearly very grateful to Rafiki Thabo for providing their children with an education and relieved to have the burden of paying school fees removed.
It was wonderful to spend time with our committee in Uganda. They process all applications for our scholarships, retain contact with all the scholars and ensure they continue to meet our criteria, and make payments to the educational institutions at which they study. I was delighted to meet the newest member of the committee, Irene, who is the headmistress of Janan Lewan Memorial primary school, the feeder school to our link secondary school.
Zanna with the Uganda committee
After an intense week, Adam left Uganda and went to visit our programme in Kenya. I left feeling greatly encouraged by the work Rafiki Thabo is doing in Uganda and the committee’s vision to instill in the next generation a desire to help others, beyond their own families, through education. Rafiki Thabo is truly transforming lives, providing hope and giving young people a future to provide for themselves and their families.
After five years as Principal of Ha Fusi Secondary School, Ntate Ramaqele is taking well-earned retirement. He took over the school when it was just a small block of three classrooms and an office; he leaves it a well equipped, spacious environment in which many children have achieved remarkable success.
His hard-working, dedicated approach earned him the respect of his staff, the pupils and the local community; he leaves a big gap to fill! Fortunately for the Rafiki Thabo Foundation, Ntate Ramaqele will continue to lead the Lesotho committee, ensuring that our funds are deployed effectively. We owe him a huge amount, and wish him a long and happy retirement.
Herbert about to sit his final exams in Comprehensive Nursing at Kabale Institute of Health Sciences in Uganda. Rafiki Thabo started supporting his education in 2013, while he was at Kabale Secondary School. Herbert writes:
‘I come from a large family and my parents are now old. They have no physical assets and I used to face so many challenges when I was at school: getting school fees felt like a constant tug-of-war. I started secondary school with no hope of finishing it – I knew it wasn’t easy for my parents to see me through school. They managed to get me through 2 years of secondary school but then the money ran out.
That was when I met Reverend Benon Byruhanga. He took care of me and helped me as much as he could with his own money. Thanks to him I passed my O-levels. We talked about my family background and he encouraged me to apply to Rafiki Thabo Foundation. They agreed to pay my fees and now I have hope for the future.
I am so proud to be the first person in my extended family to be studying beyond secondary school. When I have finished by nursing course I am hoping to continue to study to become a doctor so I can help other people.’
Help us to transform more lives like Herbert's.....
#GivingTuesday is next Tuesday (29th November) and is the day to do good stuff for charity, straight after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year, why not sign up for a monthly direct debit now and join us in transforming even more lives in Africa? You can either complete this Standing Order form or sign up online.
Any amount you can pledge to give will make a huge difference to people like Herbert who have the potential to go far and work to improve their communities – if only they are given the opportunity to do so.
Updates from Rafiki HQ
2015 Annual Report
We were delighted to produce our first ever 'glossy' annual report in 2015 - it's a real showcase of all the amazing things we achieved in one year! We have sent it to all our regular supporters and the many schools, churches, companies and other organisations that supported our work in 2015. In case you haven't seen it already, why not read it - and be inspired - now?
We are very grateful to all of you who raise funds for us in so many ways! We are feeling particularly inspired by 8 year old Delilah Wilson, who raised money for us selling homemade lemonade on the green in her village, Bledington. Well done and thank you so much Delilah!
Prudential Ride London
Supporters Alex Raha and Jennifer Shepherd rode in the Prudential Ride London 100 to raise funds for us. Together they raised over £800 - enough to pay for a tuition for trainee teacher in Kenya.
We are always looking for people to take part in bike challenges, triathlons, marathons etc to raise funds for us. Get in touch if you're interested in doing something amazing for us in 2017 and we can find the right event for you.
We have a couple of pre-Christmas events coming up: