Ponoka County volunteer walks for education in Kenya, East Africa

Mary Therese Sproule Manuel on completion day with her grandchildren Izabelle Whatmore, 7, Lynkyn Whatmore, 4, and Dexter Whatmore, 2. (Photo submitted)

Mary Therese Sproule Manuel on completion day with her grandchildren Izabelle Whatmore, 7, Lynkyn Whatmore, 4, and Dexter Whatmore, 2. (Photo submitted)

Ponoka County resident Mary Therese Sproule Manuel, 70, chose to become the 80th volunteer across Canada and in Kenya to commit to walking or running 10 km in the 2021 Virtual Vancouver Sun Run.

She completed her 10Km walk on April 25.

“I had recently learned about the educational work KEEF (the Kenya Education Endowment Fund, www.kenyaeducation.org) does in western Kenya, East Africa. I wanted to support this all-volunteer group and make more people aware of what they do,” Sproule Manuel said.

“KEEF fundraises for secondary school scholarships for bright, very poor students in the Kakamega area of Kenya. High school is not free there! Most of the families KEEF assists are subsistence farmers. Their $2 to $3 a day earnings will not cover the tuition, uniforms, books, and shoes required to attend high school in Kenya.”

Currently, KEEF has about 100 scholarships for high school and also assists 37 students who qualify for post-secondary studies in Kenya. Their sister organization, KEEF Kenya, and the KEEF Alumni Association (graduates assisted by KEEF Canada in the past) support another 30 high school students there.

Each year, workshops are offered to KEEF students. It is to fund the multi-day Life Skills workshop that Mary Therese chose to walk 10 km Virtual Sun Run. This multi-day, residential workshop hosts 130 students, offering topics such as assertiveness, team building, financial literacy, first aid and entrepreneurial skills.

Sessions are planned and given by Kenyan and Canadian volunteers – the Canadians travelling to Kenya at their own expense.

At the multi-day Life Skills Workshop some students who have developed a good business plan in a workshop session are given a micro-loan to start a small business at home during vacation. These are businesses the family can continue when the student returns to class.

Some of the ideas are buying seed to grow vegetables to sell in the local market (and to increase nutrition at home), raising a goat, buying groundnuts wholesale to sell at the market, buying chickens to sell the eggs. The loan and small interest are repaid the next school year, the interest from all the loans allowing an additional student to be given a micro-loan at the next workshop.

For more information, visit www.kenyaeducation.org.

– Submitted by the Kenya Education Endowment Fund