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Chronicle Of An Adventure Foretold

Kenya 2009, A story of George, Laura and you

KENYA | Sunday, 1 November 2009 | Views [351]

A small boy was born into a large family in the Kenyan countryside. The family had little money and the boy was frequently sent home by the local headmaster because of his unpaid school fees. A happy, stubborn child, every time he was sent home, he would return to class determined to continue his studies.

A teacher called George noticing his persistence, decided to help him find a way around the problem and offered for the boy to live at his residence. Since George’s residence was on school premises, this meant that even when the boy was sent home, he could remain at the school compound and attend the after-school catch up classes to continue his education.

At the same time, an American volunteer called Laura who was working at the school as a maths teacher noticed the boy was struggling with maths. ‘Mathematics doesn’t make sense to me so I don’t see why I should waste my time on it’ he said. She patiently began to explain it to him after class and offered that if he ever had any question or needed any help he could ask her. So, willing to give it a try the boy went to her for help with his homework.

On her final day before leaving the school Laura took the boy aside and told him she had paid his school fees for the next full year. He was perplexed thinking ’but I am not the best student?’ He said ‘I have nothing to give you to thank you. The only thing I can do is promise that I will pass my exams’. ‘That’s good enough’ she answered.

So the boy worked and the following year did well in his exams. He kept in touch with Laura informing her of his progress by letter. By now he was in his final year of school and hoping to apply to university but he fell into arrears with his school fees and got sent home again, one month before registration for University. “I knew that if I missed the registration I would have to wait a whole year before I could apply again. I was so disappointed. At 1.30pm my father came home. He had been to the town hall. There was a letter from Laura which was strange because normally I would wait two or three months to hear from her. So I opened the letter and inside there was a cheque for a full year’s fees and some surplus. I went back to school that very afternoon and gave the cheque to my headmaster.”

“I registered and I took the exams. At that time there were public universities which you could attend if you met the required standard in the examinations. I was the first from my school to pass the exams to go to university.”

“From that I learned generosity. Since then I have always been generous. One time I thought ‘let me give someone the gift of shoes’. I gave shoes to a co-worker and he asked ‘why are you giving me shoes’? I said ‘but if people had not been kind to me here would I be?’

After leaving university he got a job working for the UN advising the Kenyan government and when I met him was working  for an NGO on a health programme which has helped provide healthcare to hundreds of the poor women in IDP camps. IDP camps are home to people who have been displaced from their homes by war or conflict. Often they have had to flee their homes with as many belongings as they can carry.  They are frequently among the poorest people in any population. “For me, to be able help the poorest people and see results is a joy” he says. “Now I pay for several children to go to school and I hope to set up a foundation one day. No child should be unable to go to school because of fees, it pains me. Sometimes I stretch myself but if I can wear a suit it’s good enough. I had nothing. You don’t help people for yourself but to help them help themselves”.

Finally he said, “our past does not define us. It informs who we are but it does not define who we can become”. I asked if he ever kept in touch with Laura and he said yes. But he has never told her the full extent of how many women have benefitted from this programme, benefitted from her paying for him to go to school.


Sometimes we do generous things and we don’t see the results. That’s ok, do it anyway and trust the result. I share this story because there are so many people I have never properly thanked. Teachers, friends, relatives, parents of friends, strangers and strangers whose language I don’t even speak. All of whom have put me where I am today. The little I try to do is to goes some way goes towards paying back the huge amount of kindness that has been invested in me.

And since I can’t tell all the people who helped put me here and make this happen “thank you” I wanted to share this story as a reminder that kindness is never lost. It multiplies in ways we can never imagine and sometimes never see. As my friend says “It takes a big heart to do small things”.

So for all of you, for the hugs, the kindness, the cups of tea, the laughter or the inspiration you have given me, thank you. In the words of Thich Nat Hanh “I am who I am because you are who you are.

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