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Their future depends on your present. Give the gift of education.
by Mary Kathryn Tiller
Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2019
For the past twelve years, Orphan Outreach has made it their mission to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable children on the planet. An essential part of Orphan Outreach’s approach has been partnering with local schools and creating educational support systems to meet the children’s educational needs. These efforts have been so successful that Orphan Outreach is now facing a new problem: determining how best to support a child ready for higher education.

“Most people understand the need for sponsorships for younger children, but the need for support and encouragement doesn’t end when a child grows up,” explained Rey Diaz, Orphan Outreach’s Senior Vice President and Executive Director. “More and more of the children we support around the world are entering their teen years. They’re ready to take the next step in their education, but in most of the countries we serve, higher education is not a given.”

Kenya 

In Kenya, only students who have passed a national examination in eighth grade are eligible to be considered for higher education; but achieving an adequate score is only half the battle. Attending high school means going to a school hours from home and often requires funding for tuition, books, uniforms, as well as room and board.

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“Like many of these developing countries, lots of Kenyan kids go to elementary school and even middle school but after that there’s a huge drop off. It’s too expensive to continue and at that point they’re big enough to work,” explained Diaz. “It’s difficult to accept that we’ve built such solid foundations for these kids but because of poverty they can’t continue. So, we started thinking through what higher education might look like for these kids.”

Orphan Outreach began working with various high schools around the country and put together a plan to lower these barriers. Eventually, it was decided a sponsorship program would be put into place. Each child would be “double-sponsored”, meaning two individuals would provide the funds needed to cover the entire cost of their education.

For children like  Elvis, these sponsorships have made all the difference in the world. Elvis is one of the top students at Patmos Junior School School in Mathare Slum. He tested in the top 1% on his national exam, qualifying him to attend the top military school in the country. He wants to be a pilot, so he may inspire other children at Patmos to pursue their dreams.

“It’s like the West Point of Kenya but he couldn’t go because his family didn’t have the money to send him. He was one of the first children we enrolled into the sponsorship program so we could cover his fees. When you think about it, this is a child who almost couldn’t continue studying even though he’s a genius by all accounts. Who knows what he could do for his country as a leader in the future. We were able to intervene on his behalf, but how many thousands of other kids are in that same situation? They have the capacity, the work ethic, the desire to study hard, they simply don’t have the opportunity. This program is providing these kids that opportunity,” explained Diaz.

Guatemala

The barriers to higher education in Guatemala are very similar to those in Kenya. While most junior high and high schools are local, they are also private and require uniforms and resources many families simply can’t afford.

“Most of these families make their living by going through trash at the dump. Sending their child to school is a huge sacrifice because it means they aren’t contributing to the family income, but they want to see their children receive an education. These kids no longer have to face that their future is working in a dump or performing manual labor. They can get an education and do something else with their life,” said Tiffany Taylor Wines, Vice President of Development.

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Because the children could not leave their homes to attend school, they need access to computers and printers in order to complete their homework. This proves challenging for most of these families, who live in slums without running water or electricity. Orphan Outreach has already established a solution to these issues through the Community Care Center, a community outreach program located in Chimaltenango.

“Children who receive a sponsorship are not only granted the funding they need to pay for their education, but also have access to the computer lab and tutoring throughout their high school experience,” said Amy Norton, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships.

According to Norton, this sponsorship program is about more than providing a single child with the opportunity to attend the next level of their schooling. It's about breaking the generational cycle of poverty.

“Helping these children achieve a higher education is life-changing. It builds bridges to the future and it gives the kids an opportunity to change things for their families and their community. We feel that we’ve gotten the kids this far, we want them to have the opportunity to continue achieving their dreams and go to high school,” said Norton.

Be The One to Help The One

The need for sponsorships in each of these programs is urgent and Orphan Outreach needs your help. Each student in the higher education program requires the support of at least two sponsors to take care of tuition, room and board, uniforms, and more. In addition to the sponsorship program, Orphan Outreach is launching a higher education scholarship fund to help more students receive an education.

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While the scope of the problem might feel overwhelming, it only takes one person meeting the needs of one child to make a difference.

“I firmly believe while one person can’t do everything, everyone can do something.” said Diaz. “Sponsoring a kid in Guatemala or in Kenya is one powerful, tangible step that will have a real impact on the life of a child. It’s allowing them to pursue their dreams and giving them a hope for a future. And contributing to the Higher Education Scholarship Fund paves the way for more students to be able to receive the education they need and deserve."

You can change a child's future by giving them the present. Click here to give the gift of education now. 


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