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Our last blog told of our efforts to help one of our university students find an internship.  This story is quite different – but it also demonstrates the way we run our sponsored student program.

Our student’s bibi’s bed
Making porridge for her stepbrother

One of the Secondary Form 2 students who won our Discovery Sponsorship two years ago has survived an exceptionally troubled life that unfortunately still haunts her.  A year ago, we bought beds for her bibi (grandmother) and her to get them off their flea infested cots in the hut they share with their animals. Her bibi sat bewildered as we put up the bed, while her little stepbrother, also abandoned by his parents, played in the dirt waiting for R(our student) to make his porridge.  As it turns out, R’s bed now hangs from a board attached to the tin roof most of the time so that termites can’t get to it.  When R returns home, she usually sleeps in the Bibi’s bed with her stepbrother unless it is for the exended December break when she takes down her bed.

Unfortunately, 2013 has been challenging in worse ways for R.  Her father has been in and out of prison, leaving her grandmother as the only adult in her life.  At the same time, R had to leave the boarding school where she was doing well because of behavioral issues. (Many of our students struggle with the psychological impact of harsh childhoods).  Thankfully we were able to secure her a second chance at another school.

This June, when we visited her at school, R told us of deteriorating conditions at home that preoccupied her.  So we decided to check in on her Bibi and saw what R had described.  Because of termites and the elements, one side of her hut had begun to crumble, leaving a large gap that allowed in rain, insects…. and thieves.  Explanation: this spring yielded a better harvest than last year, so R’s bibi has been able to dry and pack beans/maize.  However, she can no longer sleep – not because of her bed – but because she fears thieves who come to steal the tins of beans that will feed her and her grandson and R.  R.’s bibi told Mama Grace that her worry now is not so much being able to eat as it is being able to sleep, for fear that someone will steal her harvest.

Last week, Mama Grace and our assistant Tom followed through with our commitment to rebuild part of the hut using not soil, but soil bricks.  These should withstand conditions better and allow the Bibi some comfort when night falls.  Equally important, R will be able to focus on her studies and her own personal health, instead of being preoccupied with what is happening outside of school and what awaits her return.

This dynamic – a situation at home that is threatening financially and even personally – marks the lives of many of our students. Mama Grace and school administrators counsel our students to take care of themselves and their studies…. put themselves first, so that eventually their own success will allow them to take care of others.  This message, however, is a difficult one to absorb as a teenager or young adult.

We hope that a secured home will allow R. to stop dwelling on what awaits her at home during breaks… and will allow her bibi simply to rest.