Benedict Lekanapal: Radiant Child
Last Updated on Thursday, 6 June 2013 03:04 Written by nicole Tuesday, 4 June 2013 03:41
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.Learn More
Continuing the work of the Children’s Art for Art Haiti Project
Last Updated on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 10:54 Written by Chiara Bombieri-Morales Thursday, 1 March 2012 05:53
During my last trip to Haiti, Urban Zen partnered with Sow a Seed, a non-profit organization based in Haiti dedicated to bringing hope and creating sustainable change in the lives of orphans in Haiti. On December 10, 2010 Sow a Seed hosted their annual holiday event, Santa’s Wonderland at the Union School in Port-au-Prince. The day was filled with activities, meals, entertainment and gifts. There were 500 orphans that attended the event from ten different orphanages around Port-au-Prince.
The Urban Zen team and I joined in the festivities working closely with the children from the Timkatec Orphanage and Children’s Home. At this event the Urban Zen team had a group of tables that were set up with all types of arts and crafts projects that the kids could make. Here, the children from Timkatec received the gifts and cards from the Rudolf Steiner School children and in exchange the children from Timkatec painted cha-chas (Haitian maracas) for the children at the Rudolf Steiner School.
Upon my return to New York City, I delivered the hand painted cha-chas to the children at the Rudolf Steiner School which were then distributed by the school’s hand-work teacher, Mary Lynn Lorinz. The exchange was captivating for both the children in New York and in Haiti. The children in Haiti, who have close to nothing, were able to give something very special to the children in the Rudolf Steiner School. Making the experience even more enriching is that the children at the Rudolf Steiner School had the opportunity to learn about a new culture and the importance of caring for others.
We are continuing our work with Sow A Seed to further the project by providing both children at the Steiner School and the children at Timkatec with new projects they can work together on. We are also looking forward to expanding the program and including more schools in NYC and around the US with other orphanages in Haiti.Learn More
The Children for Children Haiti Project: Holiday Greetings
Last Updated on Monday, 12 December 2011 07:14 Written by Urban Zen Monday, 12 December 2011 05:05
“When something is made by hand, you feel the soul that went into it.” – Donna Karan
We couldn’t agree with these words from our founder more, and these hand-drawn holiday cards portray this sentiment beautifully. As a part of our Children for Children Haiti Project kids from the Rudolf Steiner School in NYC created these imaginative holiday greetings for children in Haiti and this weekend the Urban Zen team had the pleasure of hand-delivering the thoughtful cards to Haitian orphans.
We were inspired and moved by the artwork and we thought you would be too.
Here, a selection of the children’s holiday cards: