Greetings from Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA! Harriet and I are now back in the states, with the rest of our cohort to follow over the next week or two. And I have now started on the follow up from our visit. One on one interviews with our students necessarily turns up all sorts of information you might not expect. Often it’s good news–a success at the National Music Festival or the 1500 meter races, a 1st place ranking in school, a full scholarship to Harvard (no, really, I will tell you more about that last one in a post soon!). However, our interviews also turn up some bad news, much of it very disturbing.
I have been communicating with Board Members, other interviewers, principals and guidance counselors throughout the trip on a list of problems that we want to make sure are addressed. Some things we can handle with ease. I can assure a student who missed her exams for malaria that we won’t take away that precious scholarship. I can send word to another student that her younger sister was accepted, with a GTL scholarship, to a great boarding school. And I can match another student who had two surgeries last term with a donor whose funds are specifically targeted to medical costs.
Some cases are more difficult. I have a principal sending word to the local governing counsel to see if a young boy (a GTL student’s brother) can be removed from the home of an abusive relation. We have students who are struggling with recent deaths in the family and need a teacher or guidance counselor to stay close. One student is losing focus in her concern for her 4-year-old twin brothers, now left alone with an elderly grandparent. Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs more textbooks.
It is important anytime you choose to confront the world’s problems that you give yourself plenty of access to its joys. That means, remembering the student who started a study group with girls from another school during the Kenya teachers strikes and the one burgeoning journalist who has prepared a list of questions for you longer than the list of questions you are supposed to be asking her. But when jet lag meets pain and injustice, you just need a little something more. So, I offer you baby elephant pictures. Sure, the Sheldrick Center elephants themselves come with sad stories (all are orphans thanks primarily to poachers), but who could help but laugh when an elephant toddler pushes its classmate into the mud puddle or a young mischief maker keeps straying into the human crown to nuzzle the kids with her trunk?
The world is a tough place. But at least it has baby elephants.