I had the immense pleasure of spending two and a half weeks recently visiting our 11(!) scholarship students in Kenya and Uganda. As always, the kindness and generosity of our scholarship students, their families, and everyone in the East African community amazed me. It was an experience filled with incredible high moments, moments of tears, a sense of great pride, and motivation to make the program better. The difference between where we were 3 years ago and now is remarkable.
I flew into Entebbe, Uganda first, and spent time with both of our Uganda studying students, Gai and Aguet. What wonderful students and great people. I couldn’t be prouder of them and the work they are doing. I have multiple stories from my time with them that illustrates the above point including Gai choosing to wait for another bus so that elementary school students wouldn’t be kicked off of a full bus for us “paying customers”. I was able to visit both of their universities, Bugema and Uganda Christian, hear updates on their lives as we shared meals, learn more about the direction of their studies, speak to their instructors, and receive feedback on our program.
In Nairobi, Jacinta, our scholarship coordinator, and I visited one of our new students, Jacob studying engineering at Nairobi University, Anyar in her new law building at Mt. Kenya, and Guor at Kenyatta’s enormous beautiful campus on the outskirts of town. We were all able to sit at length and discuss everything from life and marriage, to rule of law in Kenya and South Sudan. I was able to spend time with Amol and Anyar speaking about women’s issues they face and coming up with a plan on how the LEP can better assist and empower them and our future female students.
Jacinta, the students, and I were able to bond during a group field trip to Nairobi National Park and a local entrepreneurial incubator. The incubator experience came with a lesson on entrepreneurship and the resources available for our students if they want to start a business. At dinner that evening, we had a great discussion and collectively decided that our program should allocate more resources to additional training and workshops to provide each of the students with more tools to be successful leaders in their communities. To start, we were able to meet with the executives at Equity Bank, one of the largest banks in East Africa, to set up a financial literacy program where our students will be better trained in handling money. It is our hope, that in addition to improving their own financial management, the students will be able to share their money management skills with members of their communities. Because of connections on this trip, we are also working on integrating economic empowerment and women’s rights programs. Overall, I am simply amazed at the work our scholarship coordinator, Jacinta, has accomplished and we are so grateful to have her.
Oh yes, and those beautiful pink shirts from the 5k are now proudly worn around Nairobi and Kampala.
Sitting on the roof of my guesthouse, I watched the sun set over Nairobi and was simply in awe of how far our program has come these last few years. Thanks to our staff and each of our generous donors these students will be able to accomplish generational goals and I believe now more than ever, bring a brighter future to South Sudan. Everyone at the LEP is looking forward to continuing to improve our program and are so thankful to have each of you as supporters as we write the chapters ahead.
Brent McCann- Board President