In 2007 my father went to Africa to check on the progress of one of our schools. While he was there he was asked to give a presentation for some of the parents in the village. As he prepared the speech he looked out at the crowd of over 300 people and commented to his translator on the great turnout of parents. The translator replied, "The people you are looking at are the grandparents of the children. All of their parents had died of HIV." The children we were building the schools for were orphans.
When my father began explaining to the people what Hope Through Education was going to do, he saw the once stiff faces become smiles and soon many people were crying tears of joy. As he finished his speech one of the grandparents stood up and began chanting. Soon many of the women began to sing songs of hope for their grandchildren and future generations.
Dear Devon and Steven,
I would like to share a little story with you... Not too long ago I was sitting on the sand floor of my hut, escaping the heat under my thatched roof with my friend Taweychena. She was going through a few books I had strung up in a tin case on the wall and came across a travel book with a person on the cover. A woman who looked very much like her was on the cover of a "Lonely Planet-Africa". She said "ifo no wohne?" (what is this?), I said "afrik tira" (an African Book). Her eyes starred at the picture and she started singing a song with "Africa" in it, actually making up a song about how I was going to travel to Africa… As she rocked her small child on her back. When she was bored of the song and the photo she booked at me and asked if I had ever been to Africa. I responded, "before now?" ... she booked perplexed, and at the moment I realized that this 21 year old mother with 2 small children had no idea that she lived in Africa.
That was 5 years ago, and now Taweychena is in adult literacy classes and the young girl that she rocked on her back, is now entering the first grade. By the end of this school year she will be able to read, write, do simple math, and will know that she lives in Africa. Moreover, that child will always remember her entire elementary school experience as a student in the Hope Through Education- Devon Esrick Education Center. On behalf of the people of Kabey Fo, we cannot thank you enough.
The donations from my Bat Mitzvah were over $25,000. This money helped build our first school. This inspired me to keep going. Over the next two and a half years I was able to raise over $400,000. With the help of my family, I set up fundraisers, met with magazines, and educated many who ultimately made the decision to support Hope Through Education. Since raising the money we have built four schools and are currently helping educate over one thousand children.
In May, I was honored by an organization called Educate Tomorrow. Virginia Emmons, the founder, gave me a gift from a 90-year-old ex-slave. Included in this gift package was a metal bracelet. Virginia explained that we built our school on an old slave compound. The slave owners would make their slaves wear different bracelets so they could identify to whom they belonged. Virginia continued to explain that the ex-slave brought her bracelet to Virginia and asked her to give it to me. The woman told Virginia that she wanted to thank Hope Through Education for providing her grandchildren, and future generations with the gift of education, something she never had the chance to experience. She also said, "I hope future generations will never have to experience slavery like I did."