I had dinner tonight with Dr. Tom Kariuiki, a member of the board for the Graceland Girls School in Kenya, upon which the film is based, and a dear man. He gave us updates on the girls, as best he could, and I told him about the recent successes of the film. He was very pleased to hear it, and smiled broadly from ear to ear.
I spoke with our hosts, Robert Grant and Kate Bowditch who both lived in Kenya for a time, about a meeting in May to discuss the “One Child at a Time” club, which Robert runs at Brookline High School and which first sparked our African travels to make this film. I hope to meet with him and his current students to get a sense of how they fundraise for tuition for Kenyan girls and how we can collaborate on a toolkit so schools across the country can replicate their model. It’s a project that could help to educate students about the importance of girl education, and get students involved in altruistic opportunities where they learn about women’s rights, as well as gain a more global view through interaction with their counterparts around the world. It could go a long way in supporting fundraising efforts to send young Kenyan girls to high school, which could be very rewarding and easily done.
As I have expressed in my previous posts, since the Kenyan government only pays for schooling through primary (8th grade), those who are less fortunate are forced to drop out, and if anyone in the family attends, boys are always the priority. There are many private high schools in Kenya that charge a high tuition, and therefore, their students are among the wealthiest in the country. There are also schools that are heavily subsidized by large organizations, like the Catholic church, but few schools operate like the Graceland Girls School, with some of the students being from more privileged families to offset the costs of the bright but needy students who would not otherwise have been able to attend. It is this model that will help break the cycle of poverty, and I am thrilled by our ongoing collaboration.
Tonight, as we sat across the table from each other, we enjoyed traditional Kenyan ugali and stew, as well as Kenyan tea (with hot milk), nice and sweet as I remember it. It took me back to the summer I made this film, and to the time we spent with these amazing girls.
Since then, I have seen their faces on the silver screen more times than I can count, and I wonder if they can sense I am thinking of them. And, as I write this and look out at the night sky, I realize it is the very same sky I stood under from that hilltop in Nyeri that summer, searching for cell phone reception to talk to family back home (and trying to remind myself that the scream of the Hyrax is not a threat!). As I think of it now, I am reminded how we are all the same. We are all human and imperfect, we have hunger and passions, and hopes and dreams that we wish to see fulfilled. We all struggle with how to get by, with sorrow, fear and joy, with family and without, with riches and with nothing. We are all the same underneath. And I am so thankful to be able to do the work that I do, and for the family that I have. There are only good things ahead.