Graduation 2014

Time to let them go …

“You are seeds, ready to be planted in this world ” declared Caroline Menach, Principal at St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School and chief overseer and life mentor to these amazing young ladies. And with those words and many others equally eloquent we prepared to celebrate the graduation of this inaugural group of 42 young ladies from a 7-month preparatory life skills and ICT training program at the Mercy Center in West Pokot and to take the next step into college or university.

Graduation grounds, August 6, 2014

It was a bright day, the sun shining, the tents erected so that students and invited guests alike were shaded. Many parents, their teachers current and former, their former principals along with school leaders from across the county, community leaders, church leaders, World Vision staff and invited guests were gathered all dressed in their finest to honor and witness this milestone occasion. The attendees were ready, the girls (now young ladies) were ready … but was I?

Morphus Girls 1

Morphus Rescue Center, Sept 6, 2009

I was conflicted … really conflicted.   I had met some of the girls initially just 5 years earlier at the Morphus Primary Rescue Center when all they had was a hope and a dream of a better life through education. They had refused their culture and their parent’s wishes to undergo Female Genital Mutilation and be married when they were 12 or 13 years old. There was no secondary school for girls anywhere near at the time.   That first day I was so struck by their immense bravery and thought they must be amongst Kenya’s finest and would become an important part of the fabric of their country’s future one day – we just needed to give them a chance.

Over the succeeding years, St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School was built and St. Catherine Girls Secondary School was created (with only 12 girls in 2010) by the love and support from people in the US and Finland through World Vision.

St. Elizabeth, August 2013

Today there are 300 girls at St. Elizabeth and 225 at St. Catherine in addition to these 42 who had graduated and now completed this preparatory training.   Over these same years, I have come to deeply love and appreciate all of the girls , rescued or not, for their pioneering spirit, love of their God, brightness of their hope, and genuine desire to make a difference not only for themselves but in their community. And now they were at a threshold only imagined 5 years prior … fears swirled in my heart as I looked at them in their graduation gowns and my protective nature kicked in. Would they be safe as they went to college in cities like Eldoret and Nairobi? How would they cope w. the traffic, the pace, city life vs rural living? Who would look after them? How will they manage? How did 5 years go by so quickly?

I mentally tuned back into the speeches and listened as each speaker affirmed what these young ladies had accomplished, but there was something more.   Every speaker also underscored their respective support for each young lady as they took their next step into the world. I began to comprehend the community ‘net’ of love and support that had formed around these remarkable young ladies which would be there for them, if needed, to help. Sister Veronica, the head of the Mercy Center shared their doors would always be open.

Dr. Mary Chepkite Lopokoyit, PhD

Dr. Mary Chepkite Lopokoyit, PhD

The commencement speaker and Honored Guest was Dr. Mary Chepkite Lopokoyit, PhD Agricultural Education and Lecturer at Moi University and Egerton University, Eldoret. Dr. Mary is one of only 3 Pokot women in all of Kenya that has achieved a PhD.   (This shows just how far the Pokot women have to go in terms of (a) living in a different cultural context and (b) receiving equal educational opportunities.)   Her presence and her words were equally important. She spoke of her journey as a Pokot woman to achieve such an esteemed degree and encouraged that each could reach so high and do the same.

Dr. Mary Chepkite Lopokoyit, PhD with Caroline Menach, Principal St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School

Dr. Mary Chepkite Lopokoyit, PhD with Caroline Menach, Principal St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School

She talked about her mentee, the principal Caroline Menach and how Caroline was also pursuing her Masters and going on to achieve a PhD. Here were two exceptionally strong Pokot women standing to show these young ladies that anything is possible in this life. And then Dr. Mary did something remarkable: she offered to mentor and help any of the young ladies at any time, through any situation. The capacity of women such as Dr. Mary and Caroline Menach to strive to achieve, give of themselves for their families and give of themselves to so many others can only be understood in the context of the motivation of God’s love. (Anything other than that surely would cause them to crumble.)

 

I was overcome by peace, knowing all was well and God’s hand was active and over these young ladies as a covering. I realized I needed to just get out of the way, and emotionally let them go … to be all that God had intended them to be.       So we celebrated.Lilian singing (2)Salome leading

DSC_0547       DSC_0435    DSC_0436

What I’d like to say to everyone reading this post:

We're ready

Time to fly!

You are about to experience the amazing gift of the lives of these young ladies – be prepared to be moved to action by the goodness, light, love, innovation, joy, faithfulness and their imagining of what the future can hold. They and the others that will follow are an important part of the fabric of the future of Kenya. If you have the opportunity, come alongside to partner or lend a helping hand. More broadly, be part of their dreams. And most importantly, lift them up in prayer that God’s will for their lives will be fulfilled. God’s speed young ladies.

 

If you’re interested to see more photos from the graduation ceremony including the performances, the beautiful cake and ‘feeding’ etc, here’s a link: http://1drv.ms/1t4u4Lg

For those reading who are existing mentors to one of these young ladies through the Global Giveback Circle, watch for an email from either me or Lizzie Lahey with a link to the individual graduation photos of the mentees.   For those of you interested in becoming a mentor and/or provide financially (and we need you) please visit the Global Giveback Circle website at www.globalgivebackcircle.org to learn more or to submit an application http://www.globalgivebackcircle.org/get-involved/mentor-a-girl/.

Next steps:

This week (Aug 29-31, 2014) Caroline Menach is accompanying them on a bus trip to Nairobi, to meet with the people at the Kenya Community Development Foundation and the Global Giveback Circle to ensure that all is in order for their next steps into college, certificate program or university. For many of the girls, their following step literally starts in September 1st in Eldoret. Many will be going to there to various colleges. For those accepted into the university system, their following step will start September 28th.   As of this writing, about 60% of the young ladies have received confirmation of their ‘posting.’ Over the coming few days and weeks, all will know where they will be attending school.

About margoday

Making a difference in people’s lives at home and internationally is central to who I am. I have been deeply involved in funding the building secondary schools for vulnerable girls in Kenya and took a one-year personal leave of absence from Microsoft to focus my energies on raising funds and awareness for the Kenya Child Protection and Education Project, partnering with World Vision. This project is positively affecting 17,000 children in four areas in the North Rift Valley of Kenya by providing access to quality education, building schools, deepening community advocacy for the education of the girl child, and transforming community attitudes toward early marriage and harmful cultural practices. I've held posts as the former national co-chair for the World Vision National Leadership Council for Child Protection, Board of Advisors President for the Renton/Skyway Boys & Girls Club and past founding board member of SeeYourImpact.org. Professionally, I am vice president of U.S. Education for Microsoft Corp. I lead a team responsible for the U.S. Education strategy and sales to K–12 and higher education customers across the U.S. Through partnerships, programs and technology, Microsoft plays a significant role in helping institutions and educators transform learning that makes a real impact on educational outcomes and helps students realize their full potential. I have more than 31 years of experience in high-technology software sales, marketing, business development, and partner and channel management, and at Microsoft for the past 14 years holding previous roles of Vice President, West Region SMS&P and Vice President, US Partners. I was honored with the 2014 Circle of Excellence, Platinum Club Founders award , 2006 Microsoft Most Inspirational Woman award, and in 2012 was nominated for the Anita Borg Women of Vision Social Impact Award. I live in the Seattle area and enjoy backpacking, boating, cycling, scuba diving, skiing, golf, adventure travel and, when it’s rainy outside, attending concerts and theater as well as enjoying a great glass of wine.
This entry was posted in Kenya Girls and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Graduation 2014

  1. Betsy tarbell says:

    What a thrill to see how far these girls have gone on an initial dream and vision of Margo five years.it was such a joy to meet my mentee in June while traveling with Margo. Truly these are exceptional young ladies who reached their goal of high school graduation and now on to college.
    Praise God for all the love and support they have received! There are continually in my prayers!
    Betsy tarbell

  2. Motivated is the word! These girls determination and courage is enough to encouarge other girls out their. To the ladies all the best always know the “Sky is the limit”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s