With secondary students scheduled to return to school, I took time to talk with them about my work. I showed the girls some of my products and explained how I had to first create a business in order to generate income to fund the tuition payments for the girls we support.
I really love the chance to spend open-ended time like this with students, especially because their school system is different and their testing system so demanding. Their school day is much longer than our day and, for those in boarding school, it extends until 9-10 at night as students continue to prepare for national tests. What I try to talk about and explore with them is the concept of entrepreneurship: how does something work, what would make it work better, what can I make that is needed but not too costly to create.
Sitting with the girls that evening, I talked about an article I had just read on leadership and curiosity and how employers have come to value those skills. The girls asked lots of questions about my design process and how I sell the products, where I find materials, and also about how I became interested in helping girls go to school. They were very intuitive and easily grasped the many layers of RTC. As we finished and went to bed, I hoped I was able to convey that women can be independent and self-sufficient and that their education is the first important step to achieving that goal.
The next morning I had the chance to sit down with Sophia to learn about her work at Hekima, her own life and more about the girls who are in Hekima’s care. I learned that many have been victims of horrific abuse, and the more I heard those stories, the angrier I got. Why is it that so many governments sit back and allow girls to be victimized by men, why aren’t rapists called rapists in many countries and sent to prison for their crimes? Why do girls and women bear not just the abuse but shame?
After talking with Sophia, I began interviewing some of the girls. I am hoping to use some of the footage that I have gathered during this visit to better tell the stories of girls who deserve the same basic human right as boys: the chance to go to school. I am also determined to show that they not only just deserve it, but also that they are going to make the best of it. The morning was also special as I was able to really spend time with Ann, Nancy and Dorothy. I began my journey wanting to make a difference, but wanting to also have a genuine relationship with the girls, too.
Later in the day, I had the chance to meet a member of Hekima’s regional board and also members of the local Rotary Club. We talked about the need to help secondary school students gain additional knowledge from local business people about professions and various jobs associated with many known occupations (medicine can include pharmacist, x-ray technician, etc.). We also talked about what businesses are expanding in the region. This group of professionals can be a huge help as secondary students begin planning for university.
I spent the rest of the afternoon touring the grounds, doing more interviews and shooting more footage. It was really fun to involve the secondary students and we had a mini photo shoot while waiting for the primary students to come back from school.
When the primary students arrived, everyone ran to greet them and they jumped off the buses excited from their day at school and glad to be back home. It was a very joyful occasion and, to me, it enforced the importance of an education complimented with a secure home life.
The next morning we ate our last breakfast at Hekima and dawdled in the morning trying to delay the time of our departure. Eventually, I had to give my last hugs and drive back down the mountain.