Green Bay, WI -- We're blessed in northeast Wisconsin with good paying jobs and great schools. But 8,000 miles away in Africa, it's a struggle to survive off just $2,000 a year. It's why a group in Green Bay formed "Kenya Help" to give deserving teens the tools they need to succeed.
They're heartfelt messages from Meru, Kenya to Green Bay, Wisconsin.
"To my donors, I am very thankful because you have made quite a change in my life," one student said in a video.
The teens are thanking our community for the opportunity to get an education.
"In Kenya, the government only pays for education through 8th grade and there's a lot of smart, ambitious, hard working kids who would never have the chance to go to high school," explains Kenya Help treasurer, Jill Thiede.
Christine Kaburu was one of those children who was sent home, because her mother couldn't pay tuition.
"It kind of affects you, you know, because you miss schoolwork and then it's also self esteem," recalls Kaburu.
Without a high school diploma, there's little hope.
Kaburu says, "You'd probably be working the farm or be house help, that's the only way. You cannot get a decent job. It's very difficult."
This cycle of poverty became apparent during a social exchange 10 years ago. An interim pastor at a Green Bay church brought parishioners from Titletown to her hometown in Kenya. Shocked by the conditions and determined to make a difference, the group formed Kenya Help, a grassroots organization that has now provided scholarships to nearly 100 students.
Thiede says, "Our first class of five kids to graduate, one of them got her social work degree and just got married. She and her husband are doing fantastic, and you know how much better their lives are and their families lives are because of what we've done."
In addition to donation drives, the Green Bay group also holds leadership retreats every year in Kenya. Students learn communication skills, how to develop goals and set priorities. Thiede says Kenya Help builds global relationships and understanding as well.
"They learn that Americans just aren't the glamorous movie stars that you see on TV, but they're hard working people who care a lot about education and who care about a chance for equality and justice."
Kaburu is now a nursing student at NWTC. While she didn't receive money from Kenya Help, she appreciates the passion to help her people.
"I'm very grateful," she said with a smile.
Thiede adds, "That's what's really exciting is to see a community like Green Bay rally behind a cause where they'll probably never meet most of these kids, but they know that they're hard working and ambitious and they're willing to do what they can to help these kids succeed."
So far, more than 10% of the students receiving aid have gone on to graduate from college.
To learn more about Kenya Help, click on this link.