by Angela Adhiambo
I first met Queen Marion a few years ago while on fundraising mission, and the first thing I noticed about her was her infectious laughter.
Her grandmother and I were seated talking outside her mud hut, whereas Queen was at the far end of the compound playing jump rope with her friends. She was the oldest of her friends, and always made sure to give them each an extra turn. And when any of them fell over or hurt themselves, she’d help them get back up on their feet and laugh with them till they forgot their tears.
They’d laugh so hard sometimes that they’d start to cough! It was both entertaining and heartwarming to see.
Queen had just become a beneficiary for a local education bursary. I had made the trip to meet them both, and pick her grandmother’s brain about how we could use her knowledge of the application process to help others in need.
The key, as I found out, was persistence. Queen’s grandmother told me that she, despite never having stepped foot in school, understood the value of education. And although she relied on selling groceries to make ends meet, she was willing to starve rather than see her grandchild miss school – a tradeoff that happens more often than not.
Just before I left for home, I had a quick chat with Queen. As we talked, she sat down on the grass next to me – back straight, legs crossed, and dress neatly tucked under her – in true Queenly fashion.
When Queen was just 3 years old, she moved to Kenya. She was born in Uganda and spoke only Luganda before coming to Kenya to live with her grandmother.
She didn’t tell me much about her parents, and I was careful not to pry. The one thing I also noticed and adored was how she interchangeably referred to her grandmother as her mother.
Her grandmother later told me that Queen’s parents couldn’t take care of her, or her schooling.
You must have heard of poor children in Africa not having access to education. Well, it’s not an exaggeration.
Let me tell you a little more about that.
Children whose parents can’t afford school fees often have to drop out to help their parents make ends meet.
I am thinking of dropping out to help my mum sell groceries. Maybe if I help her sell more, we’ll be able to have enough to send the rest to school.
Awuor, 16 Years Old, Ojwando Secondary School
In the long run, these families cannot afford to support their children to a level where they can eventually support themselves. This cycle of poverty therefore persists, and several of the children who have taken note are, sadly, starting to lose hope in life.
I once asked one of the kids if they’d ever made enough from helping their parents to go back to school.
None of them ever had. Helping their parents was more about clinging to hope than it was an actual solution.
And it was all just heartbreaking.
All of this has been true for decades. But in 2022, it became even more true for Queen.
Queen’s grandmother passed away in August 2022 after a long battle with dementia, and spinal arthritis from years of toiling on her farm.
For the last 11 years, Queen’s grandmother relied on outside help in form of bursaries to educate her grandchild. She would also use her Senior Citizens benefits (we call it Older Person’s Cash ) of around $10 per month to pay for the rest of Queen’s fees.
Since her passing, Queen became one of the many at increased risk of dropping out due to lack of fees.
But her situation is far from hopeless. With the help of a kind stranger, we were able to pay off her outstanding school fee balance and keep her in school for her final year of Primary school.
Queen’s story continues to unfold and is even more beautiful now. Make her day and meet her in person here during one of our Lives.
With the rise in cost of living affecting everyone globally, kids from extremely poor households in rural Kenya are feeling particularly divided right now.
They’re trying to hang on. But it’s hard, and it really sucks
So, we’re trying to help.
In this year’s campaign (link to double dip) we want to shine a light in the lives of these children. We have identified exactly 15 children, some as young as 4 years old, at risk of dropping out of school.
But we need your help to contribute to some kind of progress. To any kind of positive progress.
It could be a book, school lunch for a month, a pair of shoes, a piece of advice. Anything.
We need your help to rewrite their narrative. For them. For you. And for all the families in rural Kenya living in extreme poverty.
After Queen’s grandma died, she said that she’d been afraid that she’d never be able to afford food, or go to school again. That she’d started thinking about how she’d start making money by selling groceries in the local market, but didn’t even know how to start.
Now she talks about the difference.
She came to life after a kind stranger offered to pay for her education. She talks about going to High School next year and eventually becoming a teacher to help other children like her. How she doesn’t have to worry anymore because she now feels cared for.
We still have a chance to transform the lives of others like Queen.
It’s not too late to meet them and join the year’s campaign.
Meet the Kids! HERE