Nina Lawrence, 21 years old and never without her knitting needles or sketchpad, dreams of being a pharmacist. Since primary school, science was Nina’s subject of choice. “Physics, chemistry, biology… I love calculations. Sometimes I make up equations in my head and solve them,” Nina smiles, “just for fun.” She bursts into giggles.
This coming March, Nina’s college applications will be due. She plans to study pharmaceutical science so that she can indulge both her passion for science and her drive to help others. “I always dreamed about helping different people living in difficult conditions,” she declares.
This will not be Nina’s first time to apply for college. During her final year of secondary school, Nina had already been accepted into college when her father passed away. After three months of college, without her father’s financial support, Nina found herself unable to pay the school fees.
Forced to drop-out of school, Nina returned home to Karatu to live with her mother and younger brother. She started cooking and cleaning at a local hotel. “I thought, I am suffocating like this, but one day I am going to get what I want and I am going to help other people get out of their problems,” Nina reflects. Despite the incredible obstacles she faced, Nina was undeterred. She was ready to work for as many years as it would take to be able to afford her continued education.
Five months into work, a name surfaced: Mama India. “Go to Mama India and she will help you,” a coworker urged Nina. Nina had never heard of Mama India or the Tanzanian Children’s Fund. “I thought maybe it was a coffee plantation? A village? Orphanage?… but it didn’t matter, I would do anything it took,” she explains.
One morning, soon after learning about Mama India, Nina awoke early. “Today I am going,” she insisted to her mother. The walk from Karatu to the Rift Valley Children’s Village (RVCV) would take her more than four hours. Alone, Nina trekked up the dirt road, unsure of the path or where it would take her. “Everyone kept saying, ‘follow the road. Just follow the road,’”Nina recalls.
Fast forward many months, interviews with RVCV senior staff, and hours of journeying between RVCV and Karatu by foot, Nina is now one of the many students participating in our Student Teacher Program.
The Student Teacher Program, which began in 2005, is aimed at tackling two major problems that face our community: dedicated, smart young adults unable to continue their education due to financial constraints; and not enough available teachers and support staff to give school students the individual attention they need. Each year our program selects five graduates who cannot afford to continue their educations to come live with us at RVCV, teach at one of our two partner schools, and help provide our children with the support and care they need. After spending one year with us, each Student Teacher is supported through 3 years of higher education in a field of their choice. Today, over 90 students have earned college degrees through our Student Teacher Program.
With doors ready to open for her, we can’t wait to see what Nina and her fellow Student Teachers do next!