Rachel Gordon, MSW
Clinical Social Worker, Therapy services with foster children, West Coast Children's Clinic of Oakland
"I met Matieka in summer of 2008 when I was in Nyamagongo volunteering with REACH Shirati. I remember meeting this small, shy, adorable boy and falling in love with him. We could not communicate with language, but would sit together under the trees and play games, giggle and dance. When it was time to leave Shirati, I knew I wanted to stay connected to him and his family. I also knew that his family was very poor, and had 9 children, and were unable to send them all to school. I realized one way I could contribute to his future was by paying for Matieka to go to Tina's Pre and Primary School where he would learn English, opening up for him the chance to go to secondary school. And with this relationship, the Scholarship Project was born!
That summer, other volunteers and I took photos of local children and asked them to tell us a bit about themselves. We created a scholarship book, which we brought back to my home town and shared with friends, family, and local businesses. That year we found donors for 13 children! I was thrilled to see so many people step up and with an act of kindness, literally change the future of a child thousands of miles away.
By the end of 2015, the donors to the Scholarship Project sponsor 156 students to attend Tina’s School by paying for their tuition, a daily meal, health care, and other items they need to attend school. For some of these children, the shoes that the scholarship provides as a part of their school uniform is the very first pair of shoes they have ever owned!
"Many children have been able to get an education through this project and many enduring relationships have been formed between REACH Shirati volunteers and Nyamagongo / Shirati kids and teens. I have continued to sponsor Matieka and visited him and his family on my return volunteer trips in 2009 and 2011.
Today, my family and I sponsor all of his siblings through the Scholarship Project. They are our family now and we share in all their joys and accomplishments."