Today I witnessed a miracle.
A couple of years ago, we brought Edith to Mercy House.
You might remember her story is memorable because she is the only teen mom who had her baby before she entered the home. She was rescued when her baby was 3 days old, born premature to a mom who didn’t even know she was pregnant. She had been feeding her baby water dripped from a rag because she didn’t know what else to do. The baby was just hours from death. They were both hospitalized for weeks.
Her babe, Hawi, is two and a half years old now and while she plays with her friends at the home, learning her numbers and Bible songs, her mom attends a very good school nearby.
Hawi’s first selfie:
For the first two years, Mercy House moms are homeschooled to keep up their education. Then they are tested back into the school system, something they are deprived of when they become pregnant. The importance of education in Kenya cannot be stressed enough. It is absolutely crucial for survival, as most who have less than an 8th grade education don’t make more than $1-2 a day.
What makes it even more complicated is a good education isn’t free. It costs around $500 a year per student for fees, not including books and uniforms and transportation.
The staff worked for months getting the older residents into school–with interviews and entrance exams.
Today, we visited Edith at her school of 800 students-most very poor children, sent to the prestigious private and competitive school by generous sponsors.
Her teacher was excited to show us her grades and said, “I tell my students that people sacrifice their wealth for you to be educated. Don’t waste it.”
Edith is ranked #6 in her 9th grade class of 41 students. She is two years older than most of the other students. And she’s a mother. She wants to be a journalist.
And it may not sound like much a of miracle, but watching her walk towards us in her school uniform, I thought I would cry.
Because I know where she has come from.
I can see just how far God has brought her.
After we visited the schools some of our girls attend, we went on a field trip to a nearby (and famous) elephant orphanage. Movie star photos lined the walls. It’s a charitable foundation that rescues baby elephants.
It was the first time most of our girls had ever seen an elephant in person (in a country where they roam every national park), much less pet one.
It was so much fun hearing their squeals and giggles. They were wide-eyed as they learned.
We all understand the importance of education.
I have a daughter going into the 9th grade. She is taking journalism, too. She has never suffered or longed for a chance to go to school.
I couldn’t help but thank God for the education my kids are getting.
And I’m not just talking about school.
Here’s how to really give our kids an education:
- Get them out of their comfort zone: It doesn’t have to be Kenya or even another country, but it’s important to get our kids (and ourselves) a little uncomfortable. Because that’s when we really learn. Feed them food from another country, take a risk. It might be feeding the homeless or helping refugees in your city or knocking on a new neighbor’s door. Do something that makes you uncomfortable.
- Introduce them to peers in other countries who have less than they do by book, movie or in person. Sponsoring a child or even writing letters to unsponsored kids, watching documentaries and learning about how kids in other cultures live–where they sleep, what they eat, what their chores are-will expose your children and might just give them a great big dose of gratitude, too.
- Give them hard work that benefits someone besides themselves. Tonight after spending all day at Mercy House, we ate a late dinner at Maureen’s apartment. And while we talked, my kids and husband helped Oliver, Maureen’s husband with a tedious work project. It was hard work and we talked about wages and costs and I watched my kids learn something good while they served someone else.
- Teach them what really matters: We need to teach our children the value of human life. Today I learned that it costs $226,000 to provide and care for 21 orphaned elephants a year. It costs less than $200,000 to provide and care for 30 teen moms and babies and assist more than a dozen single moms in the slum for the same amount of time. There’s nothing wrong with supporting an orphaned elephant. It’s a great idea. But helping people is not an option.
Sometimes the most important thing we teach can’t be found in books or a classroom.