Cindy Workman had been building schools and libraries for six years in the district where the village of Mnyenzeni is located in Kenya, Africa. She was familiar with the rural and almost desperate conditions of the villagers, especially the children. The villagers survive on crops of maize and a few coconut orchards scattered over the vast wasteland. They live mostly in mud huts with no access to any modern facilities. These people, including the children as they make their way to school, have to walk for several miles a day in scorching heat. The average income is 200 Kenyan Shillings or $3 per week, half of which is spent on kerosene for lighting lamps that are dim and unhealthy. When Cindy set out to distribute the MightyLights she knew how much this would change the lives of the children.
It was determined that the top students – a boy and a girl in 8th grade from each of the schools would receive a light. Cindy interviewed the children to hear their stories and to understand their challenges. Each child had a unique story and this is the story of Kombo, a young man in high school.
Kombo gets up before dawn at 4:30am so that he can get a head start on his studies. He is a good student and has received a school scholarship that enables him to study. Without that Kombo would not be able to attend school as he has no way of paying for his education. He does not have a Shamba or farm to grow and market corn which is the main source of income for people of this region. After two hours of studying he walks for 3 miles to get to school. A typical school day is from 7:00am to 4:00pm. After school he tends to his younger brother and sister who are dependent on him for their livelihood. Kombo’s father had died 4 years ago from a snake bite and his mother was driven out of the village never to be seen again.
Kombo and his siblings have a single meal every day in the evening. Their dinner usually consists of edible weeds and Ugali or finely ground corn meal. As Kombo has no land, he is not able to harvest any vegetables that would accompany the corn. By the time Kombo is done with his daily chores, it is dark and the three siblings huddle in their small and dark hut around their study table. The table nearly fills up the whole place. There is a single lonely kerosene lamp that is placed on the table. They study late into the night.
When Cindy asked Kombo what he needed most; he did not ask for books or pencils, or even food, but for kerosene. Kombo wants to study and hopes to go to The University of Kenya one day to become an engineer.
Cindy was overwhelmed at how dramatically the MightyLight changed the lives of the children of Mnyenzeni. She saw that the light gave them hope to be able to think beyond their dire situation and to dream of a better life. Light gave them life.
Cindy Workman is an elementary school teacher based in Utah and also an active board member of Koins for Kenya.
Cindy Workman in Kenya