Four years ago my husband Hannes and me decided to support a student with a scholarship. For this purpose, we selected one application out of a databank of many students who applied. Not an easy task, but the story of Sora moved our hearts right away.
I have been familiar with the work of Aiducation for a while, because Hannes is volunteering for the organization and is in charge of the overall IT. To me especially the Mentorship Academy seemed like a wonderful and impactful aspect of Aiducation’s work. So when we got the possibility to attend one of the Mentorship Academies as guests, allowing us to visit a part of the world so foreign to us, gaining insights into the everyday life in Kenya, it was just too tempting not to take. In August this year we finally got the chance for a holiday in East Africa.
The Academy took place in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. As the city is not so popular for tourists, we spent our first week in Kenya almost without any sightseeing, but in close exchange with AiduFellows (students awarded an Aiducation scholarship) and AiduAlumni (students who have already graduated from the scholarship program). The program at the Academy was very rich, with many different presentations and other highlights to inspire and inform the students. Besides more general lectures covering CV writing, job interviews, and topics like internet and media; there were various guest speakers from academia (a professor for constitutional law), politics (a member of parliament) and economy (a successful business woman). The participating students were really involved, they asked questions and shared their opinions. Especially during a panel discussion about the country’s current pressing problems and possible solutions, as well as when it was their turn to create and present their own business plan, all the scholars and Alumni were outspoken and very committed.
In the beginning the “muzungus”, as we white guys were called, were timidly observed from afar, but after a while the reservation gave way. We had many interesting and inspiring discussions with the students at the Academy. Especially one young man made a very big impression on us: Sora, our “own” AiduFellow, who came to Nairobi, by hitchhiking lorries for two days. The 19-year old grew up in the north of the country as a nomad, and had to constantly change school throughout his primary education. He grew up speaking the language of the Gabra people, but he learned English and Swahili in no time. Since then he always has been among the best students of his schools. Thanks to the Aiducation scholarship he was able to attend one of the best high schools in the country, and achieved exceptional grades in his final exams. The difficult conditions under which he grew up (life as a nomad, hunger, clan conflicts, massacres) did not impair the charisma and motivation of this young man, now an AiduAlumnus. He wants to go on to study medicine in order to help the nomadic people of northern Kenya, where there is a severe lack of medical personnel. His hands are those of a doctor, but unfortunately he did not get one of the very few government scholarships for studying medicine. So he got assigned to a spot studying law, which is of course a privilege, but in his special situation, a lawyer will be of little use in the nomadic environment. But now knowing this ambitious young man in person, we are sure that he will find a way to make the most out of his situation and influence many lives in a positive way.
In these videos, Sora describes his struggle to obtain education.
After the Mentorship Academy we went to explore Kenya in a way how unfortunately very few Kenyans get to see their country: We went on a Safari through different natural reserves and parks and experienced Kenya’s landscapes and animals up-close. Our last week we spent at the coast, here again we were privileged to see things that are normally hidden from tourists. Philip, who is working for the Kenyan chapter of Aiducation, invited us to his wedding. The traditions, the rhythm and the atmosphere at the celebrations were an amazing experience for us. Sightseeing, swimming in the Indian Ocean, and working with the motivated people of Aiducation made a wonderful finale for our inspiring journey.
It is a privilege not only to travel through a country, but to really get a deeper insight through coming into contact with different people, to talk and discuss with them. We have learned a lot about the country, and this once more showed us how important Aiducation is for Kenya.
some more impressions from the Mentorship Academy
Update Christmas 2013: Sora has successfully applied to be transferred from law to medicine! With his eagerness, persistence and convincing personality he made this very important step towards achieving his goal to become a doctor.
Martina Steiner, 27, studied biochemistry at ETH Zurich. After her PhD in cancer research she visited Kenya with her husband, and attended the Mentorship Academy of Aiducation in August 2013 in Nairobi. As a future high school teacher the work of Aiducation is especially dear to her heart.