Paul Hebert and Jack Morrison: Make a difference

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The Steamboat Today published a moving article by Nicholas Kristof on the Sept. 19 ViewPoints page. The piece described the efforts by Jane Ngoiri, a former prostitute from a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, to lift herself and her family out of poverty. The article told of her survival in the slums through prostitution after being nudged out of her house when her husband took a second wife.

However, in 1999, after joining an organization called Jamii Bora, which in Swahili means “good families,” she learned to sew, gave up her perilous existence and began saving money. She was able to lift herself out of the slum, send her children to school and begin to make a better life for herself and her family.

The article hit home. A group of Steamboat Springs residents and Steamboat-based organizations are helping children in another large slum also in Nairobi find a way out of poverty through education, both at the primary level and through sponsorships to attend high schools across Kenya. The Anajali Primary School, on the edge of the Kibera slum, is a refuge for 450 destitute children and is the target of this support. It provides these kids with a foundation for moving out of poverty. This school with minimum facilities has been ranked in the top three of all primary schools in Nairobi each year since 2006, and all graduates pass the exams to allow them entrance to high school, but many are unable to attend because of a lack of funds.

My wife and I worked for nearly eight years in East Africa from 2003 to 2010. Mayling and I saw many examples of people taking their own initiatives to make a better life for themselves against huge odds. We found that it sometimes took only a little help to provide the boost needed for them to move out of poverty. As Mr. Kristof says in the article, there is a tendency to dismiss poverty as inevitable. Our experience tends to confirm the view of Mr. Kristof: “It is worth remembering that sheer grit and a helping hand can sometimes blaze trails where none seem possible.”

The two Rotary Clubs in Steamboat Springs, the student-organized Rotary InterAct Club, the United Methodist Women’s Group and several local residents are providing funds to help support the primary school and are sponsoring seven of the 16 graduates of the Anajali Primary School qualified to attend various high schools across Kenya.

For more information, email paulvh2@gmail.com or call 212-300-3209, or email morrison03@msn.com or call 970-879-5185. Additional information is available at www.hecareskenya.org.

Paul Hebert and Jack Morrison

Steamboat Springs

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