Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cross-Cultural Connections: Life-Changing Inspiration Through Little Rock

In recent posts on EPN Hero Lilly Oyare, we showcased many of her activities and what makes them so remarkable. But her work even touches lives of people back in the States.  Today, we are sharing a conversation we had with Ellen Arian. Ellen is a longtime friend of John and Judy and a supporter of the Little Rock Scholars Program. Thanks to Ellen's contribution, one special young lady, Faith, is realizing her dreams to attend one of Kenya's top secondary schools.

The Little Rock Scholars Program allows donors to reach out to the students they are supporting and have a more personal relationship through email conversations. Ellen has exchanged several e-mails with Faith.  Here's what Ellen had to say: 

Faith Amondi, Little Rock Scholar, and friend of Ellen Arian
How We Met Faith
"Connecting with Faith has been a wonderful experience for us, and talking with her through email has left our family wanting to know her better and feeling lots of excitement about her future.

We began our support of the Little Rock Scholars program early on. I have 3 daughters who have been able to go to the schools of their choice. After hearing about the students at Little Rock and the challenges they face in pursuing secondary school education, it seemed like an extremely important cause; we knew right away that we wanted to join in the effort.

Our friend, Ellen Arian

From the start, we hoped the effort would be personal. But we couldn't have imagined how gratifying it would be to connect with Faith. Having conversations with her has truly been a blessing and it has inspired me in a couple of ways.

How Faith Has Inspired Us
First, our interactions with Faith have deepened my capacity for gratitude. I've heard the stories and seen the pictures of Kibera. Here is a girl raised in the most dire poverty, yet she has emerged grateful, rather than tough and embittered. She is filled with appreciation, love and hope. It's so touching to read her words, and seeing these qualities in her helped wake me up to the remarkable power of attitude. Our conversations with Faith are continually instilling in me an even deeper sense of gratitude for all that I have.

The second place where Faith has moved my heart is seeing her belief in her own bright future. When we first began writing to her, we saw that Faith wasn't focused on obstacles - she was determined to make a difference and she believes she will. She sees years ahead full of possibility and promise. When we read Faith's reaction to receiving her scholarship, we saw someone with dreams whose biggest barrier to their success was just removed. That was truly inspiring.

We've seen the same appreciation, the same pure heart, the same love, in every letter from Faith. And none of this would be possible if we had not had the chance to communicate with her directly and get to know her, even across miles. It has truly been a blessing.

Faith Amondi (far left) with other Class of 2016 Little Rock Scholars
A Blessing to All Involved
The Little Rock Scholars Program has allowed us to help remove the biggest barrier to Faith's success. With a relatively small contribution, we have been able to make a huge and lasting impact on Faith's life. If you are in a position to make a difference you won't find a more compelling cause. And  because you will have the opportunity to communicate directly with that young person, your own life will be enriched in the process."

So there you have it. The words of our dear friend Ellen, who was paired with Faith in her support of the Little Rock Scholars campaign. 

As we close out our EPN Heroes campaign on Lilly Oyare (who Ellen described as "a dynamo"), we'd like to reflect on what makes this campaign important. It certainly shines a light on Lilly and her work. But what is really noteworthy is the lives of the students who come through the program. Lilly and the Little Rock School foster a sense of hope and the belief that with hard work and determination anything is possible.  In the midst of the slums of Kibera that is truly heroic work.  We're privileged to know her and help support what she does. 

How have the words of Ellen inspired you?

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