Monday, June 1, 2015

EPN Hero: Lilly Oyare

Earlier in the year, we put the spotlight on one of our partners, Dov Pasternak, as he does amazing work towards eliminating poverty over in Africa (Here's Part 1 and Part 2 to his piece). 

We'd like to take some time out again to share some of what another one of our friends is doing over in Kenya. Lilly Oyare, the founder of the Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre, took a social issue into her own hands. Now she is doing great work in her home country. This is just a bit of her story.

For the well-fed, well-sheltered, and well-warmed, the idea of poverty may seem a world away. Good fortune often obscures the horrific misfortune of others. Lilly Oyare, founder of Little Rock, has spent her entire career educating children. What she noticed is, "If we do not do something now, it's like a time bomb waiting to explode, and it will affect every one of us. Love is about others, not self." Lilly and the pupils she mentors are demonstrating how we all benefit from ensuring that each child is given the love and education required to reach their full potential. Lilly's selfless commitment to the most vulnerable among us, her perspective and foresight, is more than inspiring. It's heroic.

Lilly addressing students at Little Rock

Lilly was born in Mombasa, the first born of 8 children -- five boys and three girls. Her father worked for Kenya Railways, thus the bulk of her childhood was spent in Nairobi. Through primary school and high school Lilly earned high marks. Her father held his children to high standards, requiring that they be well disciplined and studious. Whereas many of her classmates enjoyed nights out shopping and going to the movies, Lilly's non-academic activities centered around church life. After high school Lilly went to Asumbi TT college, becoming a teacher after graduation.

Lilly knew from an early age that she wanted to work with children. She noticed a tremendous gap in the kindergarten instruction received by the children of Kibera, Kenya's largest slum, and their middle-class counterparts. As virtually all educators affirm, proper early childhood education is critical to ensure successful academic careers. The children of Kibera are trapped in a vicious cycle of education inequality, keeping them generationally trapped in poverty as adults.

Some of the 8th grade class participating in the EPN-sponsored after school tutoring program

Some people see a huge problem like that and simply turn their backs. Others say: "What a terrible problem. Someone needs to do something." Lilly saw the problem and said: "I've got to do something about it!"

Lilly left her comfortable teaching job to found Little Rock and provide the children of Kibera with a school where they too could receive an outstanding education. Lilly provides the most vulnerable children (including orphans, HIV/AIDS infected, and special needs children) with the educational tools to get ahead. 

The new Little Rock ECD campus

The Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre is part school, part community center, and part tutoring agency. Children get a great start in Little Rock's pre-school program, then enjoy Little Rock's many after school activities for primary school students. As they approach 8th grade, students have the opportunity to work with tutors funded by Eliminate Poverty NOW to help them prepare for entrance exams into secondary school. Students who qualify can receive a full 4-year scholarship to one of Kenya's premier secondary boarding schools.

Over the last 10 years, 441 children have successfully matriculated through primary school and 35 have received scholarships to secondary school, 26 funded by EPN. Currently, 360 children attend kindergarten Monday through Friday. Every available metric indicates that the children of Little Rock are excelling academically in every grade and class. Quite remarkable!

Lilly is helping Kenya's next generation of doctors, lawyers, scientists, and teachers realize thier dreams and overcome next to impossible odds. The very children most overlooked are the children who Lilly seeks out. Together, Eliminate Poverty NOW and Lilly Oyare are working to expand the school's reach, so that more of Kibera's children can receive the transformative education that leads to life-long prosperity. 

Lilly's extraordinary compassion and commitment in the face of enormous obstacles make her not only an outstanding teacher, but a true hero.

During a trip to America, Lilly stands between John and another one of our friends, Colin Jones
In coming posts, we will share a bit more about Lilly. We truly see her work as necessary, and her presence has changed the lives of hundreds of young people in Kenya. Did this inspire you to act? Share your thoughts below!

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