Benedict Lekanapal: Radiant Child

Last Updated on Thursday, 6 June 2013 03:04 Written by nicole Tuesday, 4 June 2013 03:41

benedict Benedict Lekanapal: Radiant Child

We are happy to welcome back The Thorn Tree Project, a 501(c)3 whose mission is to help educate the children of traditional nomadic families in Northern Samburu. This Thursday June 6th, The Thorn Tree Project will be hosting their annual African Bazaar and Auction at the Urban Zen Center in the Stephan Weiss Studio. The proceeds from the evening will be funneled directly into their work helping Samburu children go to school and receive the level of education they desire, whether that is primary school, high school, technical school, or college. One such child that The Thorn Tree Project was able to empower, shares his story below. Meet the Radiant Child…

My name is Benedict. I was born on November 1987. I was raised in a single parent family after my dad passed on when I was about six years old. Since then my mum has taken on the role of being a father and mother to make ends meet in our family. We lead a nomadic way of life and each year, depending on the season, we move about several times with our animals in search of fresh pastures and water. I have four sisters and a brother- none of whom has ever been to school, I was lucky to be enrolled in sereolipi primary school when I was seven years old.

As young as I was, I used to walk for 10 kilometers to and from this school which was and still is the only one in the area. It was my sheer determination to get to school before the bell rung, that saw me rise up early to start the long trek. It was not long before my teachers recognized my determination to excel and by the end of the year I was awarded for my perfect attendance.

Besides shining in academics I was an obedient and outgoing student and my teachers often used me as an example for others to emulate. As fate will have it, at the end of my second year there was a severe drought and our family had to move to a distant village in search of pastures. This meant that I had to curtail my education, because there was no way I could walk from there to school.  When my teachers heard of this, they were very upset and one of them even came to our home to enquire why I was dropping out of school. There was no way out and one weekend we packed our belongings and moved out. However, after staying out of school for half a term my teachers traced me to my new village and ordered that I go back to school. My relatives near the village were so proud of me having been singled out for my outstanding performance that they decided I stay with them. This was convenient to me as it shortened the distance I had to walk every morning and it also gave me the opportunity to stay behind after classes and finish up my homework and even play with my classmates.

I had not lost my zeal for learning and soon I polished my weak areas and got back on top of the merit list, a position I maintained until I did my K.C.P.E where I scored 323 marks. My mother took this news with mixed feelings. On the one hand she was happy that I would be the first  child to go to high school in our manyatta and on the other she was disturbed because she had no money to pay for my fees. I got an admission to Maralal high school one of the best in the district which made my mum more desperate to make sure I did not forfeit my chance to fulfill my dreams of going to the university.

Armed with my admission letter she called on relatives, friends and community leaders to come to our aid but at the end of it all what she raised was not enough to pay for  a term’s school fees and other requirements. Barely beating the deadline, I arrived in maralal high with half a term’s fees and a pledge to clear the arrears at the end of the year.

Though happy to have made it, I underwent through a lot of hardships that term, such that I could barely concentrate on my studies. I played hide and seek game with my teachers in order to complete the term. Whenever the head teacher sent the students for fees, I would stay back and loiter in Maralal town during the day and at night, I would sneak back to school so as not to stress my mum who already had the burden of providing the basic needs to my other siblings.

The term ended successfully and I went for vacation. I carried on with my normal chores of looking after the animals, digging water holes and fencing our manyatta but as the opening day drew close, I was very apprehensive. I still owed the school some fee arrears and I had no way of raising the second term’s fees. Come the opening day, I realized that let alone the fee, I had no transport back to school. There was no one else to turn to and I had no choice but to drop out of school.

On the opening day as other students made their way to school, I got a job as a herder’s boy for my uncle’s cattle. When people heard about my case they really sympathized and this is how I got my second job as a pre-school teacher at a place called Narerei which 15 kilometers from Sereolipi in the middle of the bush.

It was while at Narerei that I met Jane Newman a frequent visitor of that school and I narrated the whole story to her, she was so devoted that after hearing my problem she restored my dream of furthering my education. After listening to my story, Jane Newman agreed to find a sponsor for me through my high school education under a project called SNET and this was a dream come true. I rejoined my former high school and I was soon at the top in our class scoring a B+ grade, a position I maintained until my K.C.S.E exam in which I scored a B- grade. After high school she also sponsored me for a certificate course at RIC Computer College. I now use the knowledge I gained there to teach computer classes at Sereolipi primary school and coordinate the pen pal program between Sereolipi School and Montessori school in Kansa city.

Finally, as stated by our scholarship policy that any student who graduates with  C+ grade and above would be liable for further studies, I applied for a course of Bachelor of Science in Environmental Conservation and Natural Resource Management in Nairobi university, which I will  join come September. My sponsor has generously agreed to pay for this and I am very grateful. The objective of choosing that course is to encourage sustainable and wise use of our natural resources using the eco-system approach.

Stay tuned for how sponsorship opened Benedict to a world of possibility.

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Miami Discovers Haiti at the Little Haiti Cultural Center

Last Updated on Friday, 10 May 2013 03:22 Written by nicole Friday, 10 May 2013 02:43

FFH DH1 Miami Discovers Haiti at the Little Haiti Cultural Center

Opening on May 16th at the Little Haiti Cultural Alliance Center in Miami is Discover Haiti, our ongoing collaboration with Russell James and Nomad Two Worlds.

Urban Zen and Nomad Two Worlds continue to support the artisans of Haiti through the Discover Haiti exhibition, which was first launched at the Urban ZenCenter in New York City. The center was transformed into a gallery and temporary showroom for a collection of art, accessories, clothing, and home furnishings designed and produced in Haiti. The exhibition also featured David Belle’s videoNaturally Haiti,” a behind-the-scenes look at how the collections were designed as well as gorgeous footage of Haiti and its people.

To see the full exhibition in Miami, open through July 1, 2013, please visit the Little Haiti Cultural Center.

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My American Idol

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 11:39 Written by Donna Karan Friday, 26 April 2013 05:59

This week has been all about celebrating Barbra – my personal American Idol.

On Monday a beautiful event honoring Barbra took place at Lincoln Center.  For 40 years now the Film Society honors a distinguished film artist whose body of work and lifetime of achievements represent a significant contribution to the art of film. This year the Chaplin Award went to Barbra and was presented to her by my none other than my other American Idol: President Bill Clinton.

The evening was a montage of extraordinary performances show casing brilliant moments from Barbra’s life as a ground breaking artist. I sat there as a fan.
Seeing the breadth of her work in one night was overwhelming and astonishing, even for me.

I felt like I was watching my life in front of my eyes and I think everyone sort of felt this way… Barbra has been infused in our lives for decades – from film, to stage, to broadway, to her divine voice – you name it, Barbra’s done it. When the event came to a close, all I wanted to do was run home and watch every single film, start to finish all over again.

Another big milestone happened this week: Barbra’s birthday. I was thrilled to be able to throw Barbra a birthday celebration at Urban Zen – an intimate evening that brought together our family and friends.

For the weekend, we headed to Washington, D.C. for the Correspondents’ Dinner, a perfect way to conclude our week of celebrations.

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