Escaping Poverty: Swimming against the tides of circumstance
Sometimes it seems as though we know the end of the story when we've just read the first page. He grew up with his elderly grandparents in Daraja Mbili, home of one of the largest outdoor marketplaces in East Africa, in a small home next to bars with low tin roofs and loud music playing throughout the night. At age eight he was already sneaking out at night to go to pool halls. After 10 years of Ajiri sponsorship, he dropped out of school, got into the wrong crowd, and well, things got much worse from there.
How much of life is predetermined by one's circumstances? How hard does one have to swim upstream to get out of the tides of poverty? His sister, an Ajiri graduate, started university last week. His younger brother, also an Ajiri scholar, is in the top of his class. Circumstance, luck, opportunity, fate, self-determination---what breaks the cycle of poverty and what keeps it spinning?
Joyce, pictured in 2016. Joyce just started university in September.
As Ajiri Tea Company slowly grows upward, the roots of the Ajiri Foundation grow deeper into the community. We're sponsoring students who come from even poorer backgrounds---students who are caretakers to family members and younger siblings, students who shuffle between extended family and neighbors, students who have serious health complications. As we sponsor needier students, our so-called "success" rate has dropped, or perhaps our metrics of success have changed. No longer is a university degree our main goal. We want our scholars to finish high school. We want them to be healthy and we continuously check on their mental-health. We want our scholars to have the confidence to say no to some societal pressures and the same confidence to grab opportunity.
As our metrics have changed, we've been celebrating the smaller wins. Frankline improved this term from an average of a D to a C. Shalimah continues to write imaginative essays and scores extremely well in English. Viona and Thomas, older Ajiri scholars, are mentoring incoming Ajiri scholars. We can't give these kids everything they need, but we can strive to give them access to education and a sense of stability.
So much of life is determined by luck and timing and stability. What great timing that we've connected with all of you. What tremendous luck that you are able to support students a world away with your coffee and tea purchases. Fate can be cruel, but you all provide our community a heck of a lot of kindness, and that sense of stability we all need.
Thank you for sticking with us,
Kate, Sara, Regina, Ann, and Difna
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