“In 2011, we took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Kenya that included a cultural tour in a rural part of the country…” So begins Stacey Miller’s journey into the world of scholarships, which — like many other people’s experience, is triggered by an eye opening experience in Africa.
“While staying with a Maasai tribe,” she continued, “we learned about progressive efforts the chief was making to reduce female circumcision and early marriage. The focus was to educate their girls while continuing to honor their culture in meaningful ways.” It was through this tour that Stacey first encountered Erna Grasz, CEO, Asante Africa Foundation, purely by chance, as their jeeps passed each other on the road.
“I was inspired at how thrilled these children were to have the opportunity to go to school. They got a chance to be kids, and they loved being in the learning environment. It felt important to continue supporting such efforts in whatever way we could. Asante Africa provided the perfect means to do so.”
Stacey happens to be sponsor to Sanaiyan, who, like many other kids her age in rural communities of East Africa, spent her early years in a family that could not afford food. Naturally sending their children to school, especially girls was never a priority. After being orphaned at a young age, circumstances became even tougher for Sanaiyan as she got pregnant at the age of 14, and was forced to drop out of school. She was under constant pressure from society that eventually led her to miscarry. For a Maasai girl raised in a male dominated society, this should have been the end. But not for Sanaiyan.
Once selected to join Asante Africa’s Wezesha Vijana Program, Sanaiyan began to be mentored by her peers. It was a turning point for her. She became educated on her personal rights, how to seek help and how to use her voice. Soon she ranked #1 in 8th grade. She prove herself to be a superstar for her strength to move forward despite her circumstances.
But we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge Sanaiyan’s supporting cast! When asked how she feels about her scholar’s progress, Stacey remembers all of the challenges that poverty presented to Sanaiyan and her resilience to staying committed to pursuing an education. “After her last, most significant set-back, she came back stronger than ever and moved to the top of her class. We couldn’t be prouder.”
Stacey talks about how she quickly became emotionally invested in her scholar’s success. “Being able to provide stability and continuity for someone in support of their education was gratifying, but getting annual updates and notes straight from the student was an extra reward.”
To those who are considering the possibility of sponsoring, Stacey says, “Just do it! As a sponsor, you will feel the direct impact your support has on an individual you can actually connect with. It’s such a lovely way to make a tangible difference in someone’s life, who will then be able to contribute to improving the lives of many others.”
Sanaiyan now is a Wezesha Vijana mentor to young girls struggling with similar issues. From a life overcoming challenges to a life full of hope: this is the transformation made possible for hundreds of youth by Asante Africa sponsors. And as our organization grows older, no doubt more stories will be shared of youth overcoming all to fulfill their potential. It’s an opportunity that these kids do not take lightly. As Sanaiyan says from experience, “life is a struggle without education, and it’s hard to survive in this competitive world without it”.
With regards to Sanaiyan’s future goals of becoming a bank manager and to be someone who can assist people in need, Stacey shows nothing but support. “Over the past few years, it has been truly inspiring to watch as Sanaiyan has grown into an amazing young woman. I have a secret wish that someday we will be able to meet in person so I can give her a huge hug!”
Just like Stacey, we can’t wait to see how life unfolds for Sanaiyan. You too can provide hope in a brilliant youth’s future. Click here to know more.