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Making a Contract for Love: Can we manifest a sense of belonging?

by Kate Holby February 01, 2023

Making a Contract for Love: Can we manifest a sense of belonging?

Before the start of the school year in mid-January, all of the Ajiri scholars gather for a meeting and make a group contract. The contract, originally designed to hold our students accountable for their future actions, has turned into a sort of map of their lives. A student, who has lived in an abusive home, raises his hand to propose “An Ajiri scholar shall be kind.” A student, who wants to be a doctor, raises her hand “An Ajiri scholar shall be focused.”

But each year, on the top of the list, they all agree to put “An Ajiri scholar shall be disciplined.” None of our students need a lesson in accountability. All of them are orphans, some of them marching alone with loose family ties that offer a place to sleep and some meals. To these scholars, self-reliance and discipline are their way out of poverty. They have to study rigorously for tests. There is one test, at the end of secondary school, that determines university admission. One test. No redos. 

If they have one chance at an education, we try and give them many chances to have a childhood. We pay for tutors, organize swimming classes, take them on group hikes, and organize group outings.

This year, written on the bottom of the contract, in small but determined writing, someone wrote “An Ajiri Scholar Is Family.” It was underlined. And someone, in a different color marker, had drawn a star and smiley face next to it.

We know love can't be manufactured or bought (despite what the best marketing e-mails tell us). But we do believe love can be cultivated. It might look like making committed promises to yourself and to others in a social contract. And maybe it starts with writing down what you want in the world—kindness, a family, a sense of home. But if there is one thing the Ajiri scholars have taught us about love in the world, it is that you have to create it yourself. And then you have to share it with others. 

Here's to writing our own love stories this Valentine's Day. 

Sending lots of love and tea your way this season,

Kate, Sara, Regina, Ann, and Difna

Kate Holby
Kate Holby


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