"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James 1:27
"I wish I had somewhere else to go to, instead of my home, when schools close." Betsy, one of the girls sponsored by the nonprofit group Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope, said Jan. 25 with a voice that still makes me sad. Her mother's story had already made the audience cry. It is the way her mother's head sunk with a despair only experienced by a mother who has nothing to offer a child with potential. Such despair resurfaces often as I meet girls and women like Betsy and her mother.
The words unearthed bitter memories of how her own potential was unjustly squelched because she was born a girl. When Betsy's mother was in elementary school, she studied hard like all Kenyan children, in order to pass the eighth-grade exams. Her performance was exceptional and she was admitted at Moi Kabarak High School, one of Kenya's best schools.
It's hard for me write this, but her father, although capable of paying tuition, refused to educate her. My own mother suffered the same fate. In her youth, this was a common and generally accepted decision for families with limited resources. They didn't invest in girls' education. It was reasoned that, a girl's education would benefit the family of her future husband. But that was in 1940s.
Betsy's mother married a man who provided basic needs for his growing family. He unfortunately died and left his widow with seven children, Betsy being the first-born, in a one-room house shared by them and their grandmother. That was the beginning of a future of emptiness.
By God's grace, Betsy's potential was known by her second-grade teacher, who also knew the family's financial woes. That teacher, a member of CHHH Kenya committee, contacted me after Betsy passed her eighth- grade exams and had been languishing at "home" with no hope of ever going to high school. A caring sponsor from Eagle paid her freshman year's tuition, $500 that covers uniform, room and board, shoes, books and school supplies.
"Why would a child not want to go home?" is a question that occupied my thoughts until I asked and received pictures of a one-room, mud-thatched structure with obviously rotting and leaking corrugated iron roofing. The Cloverdale Church of God in Boise raised $2,500 to build the family a house with two bedrooms and a living room and outdoor pit latrine.
My son, Kithetheesyo Muli, Beth Schaefer, Jackie Moran and Carrie Barton (sponsors of CHHH) and I visited Betsy's family in July, mainly to see the progress of the house construction.
A few yards from Betsy's unfitfor- human dwelling was a well-fenced compound with a big modern house, separate kitchen and other small houses and flourishing trees. It is the home of Betsy's uncle, who was her mother's classmate in eighth grade. She had better grades, but their father chose to educate him, because of his gender. He is a teacher. Betsy's mother is a beggar. That is when my heart sank as Betsy's mother's head had when she heard her own child's wish-not wanting to go home.
Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope is changing the world, one child at time. Betsy will never hear her child utter the words that crushed her mother because of caring people, mostly in Idaho. Their family's cycle of poverty, like those of other families with children sponsored by CHHH, is being broken.
Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope is currently helping 170 students in high school and 21 in universities and colleges. Learn more at www.caringheartsandhandsofhope.org.
To assist a child such as Betsy with tuition and fees, please mail a check to Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope Inc., (any amount helps), P.O Box 7152, Boise, ID 83707. Your donation is tax-deductible and 100 percent of it is used for the purposed you contribute it for.
Dr. Vincent Muli Kituku is an author and speaker for business organizations, schools and Christian groups. Contact him at (208) 376-8724 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Idaho Statesman's weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.