Changing lives: help David's dream come true

This GoFundMe campaign is to raise college funds to support David Stephen Keya, an 18 year old young man living in Arusha, Tanzania in his education goals and dreams to study at the Tropical Centre Institute LTD.

I first met David during my Master of Social Work practicum based in Arusha, Tanzania in 2015. I was connected to an organization that supported street boys; they created a home environment run by mentors for them to live and thrive while requiring them to attend school. This home was in a rural area just outside of the city, on a rural farm type land, and was home to 17 young men, ranging in age from 7 years old- 22 years of age. David was one of these boys. David stole my heart almost immediately with his calm, quiet demeanour, a willingness to always help out and his positive attitude. His smile was infectious and he was always ready to play cards and teach anyone who wanted to join in.

David had a rough childhood, one that I wouldn’t fully come to know until almost 4 years later as we now write this bio together. His father is a physically abusive alcoholic who beat and continues to beat the family. His biological mother divorced his father when he was young, but his father refused to allow her to care for David and instead placed him on and off with an aunt. He was shuffled around from home to home as his dad looked for work in the national parks and eventually, at the age of 15, his dad brought him home again. However, he did not want David to attend school or pursue his own dreams. He required David to stay at home to support his new stepmother.

The one thing that is so unique about David is his drive for education. He fought with his father regularly about his wishes to attend school, and finally his father kicked him out, stating that if he wouldn’t follow his rules, he was not welcome. David lived on the streets of Arusha for 3 months, selling shopping bags at the local market (as most street boys do), making about 2 cents Canadian per bag trying to make enough money to survive on his own. He was then picked up by this organization and he was finally able to attend school again.  We lost contact again after I left Arusha in July 2015, but with the wonders of technology I was able to track him down when I returned 8 months later in 2016.

David loved school, and the teachers loved him. They would often pool their money to buy him new shoes or new pants for his school uniform (he doesn’t stop growing!). He’s told me school was a positive place, where he felt accepted and cared for. The school tried to reach out to his parents, to no avail. His dad refused to pay school fees, or provide support for his basic needs. 

Unfortunately, in 2016, the organization supporting the street boys discontinued their involvement and support and left the boys to fend for themselves yet again. Knowing David was special, I wanted to help. I began purchasing his school supplies, addressing his medical needs and provided food for his new homes. David also picked up side jobs moving cement blocks for farmers to contribute in any way possible. He was able to find housing with a friend from school, and maintained his attendance and grades despite the uncertainty of each day.  When that living arrangement broke down, a young mother took him in. After a few months she decided to move cities and David was yet again left homeless. At this point, boarding school was the only option, and one David was ready to commit to, so we did it.

I met with his father and step mother once before, and we tried to make contact on a variety of occasions, but his parents were not interested in his well being, nor my involvement in his life.

This boy that I met 4 years ago has grown into an amazing, resilient, caring, determined young man. Today, David has graduated Form 4 (High School) and passed his National Exam. His English has improved to the point where we can today have conversations without a translator. His goal is to become a Tour Guide and he hopes to attend Tropical Centre Institute LTD -one of the most well known and recognized tourism colleges here in Arusha. They offer a 2-year Advanced Certificate program in Tour Guiding.  He wants to become a tour guide because he wants to learn more about the animals native to Tanzania, including the Big 5 (elephant, lion, water buffalo, leopard & rhino). He loves new experiences; meeting new people, travelling and sharing cultures. He is highly motivated to study hard and to own his own company one day.

David has no reliable income, no option of a school loan, nor any familial support except for me. I want to see him succeed and we need your help!

School begins April 25th of this year.

The school fees are 2.4 million Tanzanian shillings a year, (about $1,360 Canadian) including on campus boarding.

Extra costs for school supplies and basic/medical needs are also a consideration. You will also find attached a list of items the school requires David to have in order to live on campus. All this and more will amount to a few hundred dollars Canadian. We have also considered the GoFundMe transaction/donation fees they will deduct from the total.
I will be managing these funds on behalf of David, ensuring his school fees are paid on time all that his supplies are purchased. 

To all of you who can lend a helping hand, David has this to say:

“I will pray to God for those who have helped me so as God can continue to give them success in different things, which they can touch. Thank you so very much”.

A note from Emily---I have travelled back and forth to Tanzania for years; living, working and volunteering locally. I have seen the big chain sponsorship programs at work, and have seen the dollars not go towards what’s promised. A few dollars from family & friends will truly make a difference in this young man’s life. Education is one of the best ways to fighting/overcoming poverty---and tourism is one of the biggest investments and growing industries in Tanzania.

I am passionate about helping others, but on their terms. Part of why I love living and working in international countries is not to put band aid solutions on the needs of the communities I am a part of, but to listen and support people in their own lives in on-going ways.  Together we can support David in a lasting way. Seeing this ambitious young man fly, build a life from his difficult childhood and go on to positively change lives with the people he works with – that is powerful, and enduring. This is a real impact I want to help make possible, and together with help from you, we can come together and support his dedication as he makes his dream life a reality.

Donations (29)

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  • Sandra Alston
    • $100 
    • 4 yrs
  • Diane Bird
    • $50 
    • 4 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $50 
    • 4 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $25 
    • 4 yrs
  • Melissa Weisbeck
    • $50 
    • 4 yrs
See all


Emily Alston-OConnor
Saskatoon, SK

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