Hello, my name is Patrick Kimani Nyambura, I am hoping to finish university in 2018. I would like to share my journey with you so you can understand my life thus far has been a miracle. It is my hope that in hearing my story, you might begin to believe that just like a single raindrop creates ripples on a river’s surface, a single act of kindness from one person to another can change our world.
I am from Ngenia, a village in Kiambu County, Kenya, and the firstborn child to my single mother, Nancy and brother to Mary Wanjiku and twins, Lucia Wambui and Teresia Mumbi. When I was born, two things were obvious: I was a burden to my mum’s already troubled life and I was destined to be nothing more than another victim of poverty’s vicious cycle.
Life in Kenya could be described in one word, hopeless. My family does not have access to running water or electricity, and many times, we could not afford food. We live in a farming community, surrounded by large coffee plantations where most people work to earn their living. Each day, my mum and grandmum walk several miles to the plantations, hoping to be the first workers to arrive so they might work until late evening to earn two dollars each so our family might eat. I began picking coffee beans with them when I turned four.
(Picking coffee at the plantations near the village in Kenya.)
When I was of school age, my mum and grandmum insisted I get an education. Although I was a quick learner and did well in primary school, I questioned the point of going since most people I knew who went through primary school remained coffee bean pickers. My mum and grandmum did not tolerate my attitude; they dreamed of a future for my sisters and me beyond harvesting coffee beans. They worked hard to purchase our school uniforms, which were purposely several sizes too big so they would last because it was never certain when the next good coffee season would be or if we would have enough money to buy more uniforms. Mum and Grandmum continued to send us to primary school, hoping for a future for us against all odds.
(In my primary school 2007)
In 2007, miracles happened. I was selected for a documentary film called, A Small Act (2010), please view the trailer here , which tells the story of how a little girl named Hilde Back who was sent to Sweden to escape the Holocaust later became a schoolteacher, and in the 1970s, sponsored a Kenyan child so he might attend primary school in his village. Because of Hilde’s generosity, that boy, Chris Mburu, a boy from my village, began to dream of a future. He later applied for and received a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Harvard University, became a human rights lawyer who today works for the United Nations and started a Kenyan charitable organization in Hilde’s name which awards scholarships to bright children who cannot afford to attend high school. The film shows the power of education as well as the ability each of us has to change the world, just by doing something small. As the film shows, I was awarded a scholarship through the Hilde Back Education Fund .
For my family, the opportunity for me to attend high school was like having spent a lifetime treading water and finally being tossed a buoy. High school changed my perspective. It converted my hopelessness to a positive mindset. I began to dream of becoming a doctor, a pilot, or an engineer, owning a house with electricity and running water, and providing for my family so that we would never have to go to sleep hungry. I thought about owning a coffee plantation and giving better care to the workers. I no longer thought of myself as a coffee bean picker; I had a new vision.
In 2014, my family received another miracle. Lynda Hochschild from the United States saw the film and reached out to me through Facebook to express her interest in helping me and my family. Through substantial financial gifts, the Hochschilds have helped my family and I fund our basic needs, such as food, schooling for my sisters, and health care. My mother had a serious medical condition that she could not afford to take care of, and the Hochschilds provided the means for her to get treatment. Most recently, Lynda helped me apply for college in America. Through her assistance, I was accepted to attend the University of Wisconsin—Parkside. I began attending classes in September 2014.
(With Dale and Lynda Hochschild after arriving in the USA via Chicago, O’hare International Airport.)
Adapting to my new environment was difficult at times because it was very different. I miss my family so much. I had to adjust to being away from home in a foreign country, having to speak English all of the time and trying to help people understand my Kenyan accent. I had to make sense of a different educational system, eat unfamiliar foods, and much more. Lynda and her husband, Dale and their children and grandchildren welcomed me as one of their own and helped me get through my first year of college. In addition to funding my entire first year of college tuition, they equipped me with clothes, a laptop, a cell phone, and school supplies. I am still deeply humbled by how much they have done for me and my family.
Because of the Hochschilds’ generosity, I have experienced things I had never even dreamed of. I flew in an airplane. I realized how amazing technology is when I encountered motion-activated lights and self-checkout lanes for the first time. I learned that there is more than one kind of cheese. I blew out birthday candles at my first birthday celebration just this past year, and I discovered that I love playing golf and watching falling snow. But what I value more than anything has been the gift of education because I have seen its transformative power in my life. Not too long ago, I was just an ordinary village boy destined to live life as a coffee bean picker. That was my heritage and that was my future. But today my horizon stretches wide, full of possibility, and I am still in awe of what each day has become for me.
(From Left to Right) My grandmum, my sisters Lucia and Mary, my mum, my cousin Michael, our Friend Chris Mburu, my uncle James and my sister Teresia. And my cousins John and Patrick in the front (2015)
I am thankful that my mum and grandmum did not give up on me and my sisters but instead cast a vision for our future. It is because of their vision and sacrifice along with the generosity of so many others that I have been able to start my college degree. I am my family’s hope for the future, and I do not carry that responsibility lightly. With my degree, I will be able to improve my family’s situation. My mum and grandmum will no longer have to labor from early morning to late evening every day at the coffee plantations in order to earn two dollars so they might eat dinner. My sisters will be able to receive a college education so they can live without fearing the future.
I am so grateful for the Hochschilds' tremendous sacrifice and selflessness in financially supporting my family and me and funding my first year of college at UW-Parkside, in particular. However, due to the high cost of out of state tuition and Lynda having Parkinson’s’ disease that prevents her from working as much, the Hochschilds are unable to continue funding my education. Therefore, I am seeking funding for the remaining years of my education at UW-Parkside.
I at the University of Wisconsin - Parkside. September 2014
It has been hard not knowing if I will be able to continue my education at UW-Parkside because I have given my family such hope. I am afraid that my story will end before I have time to finish it the right way. Although I have an on-campus job, since I am here on a student visa, my ability to work is limited to less than twenty hours a week. I have applied for scholarships and so far have received UW-Parkside’s International Student Scholarship award of $3000 for the fall 2015 semester. Even with these opportunities, one year of college at Parkside costs around $28,000 for an international student like me, including tuition, a meal plan, textbooks and school supplies, mandatory international health insurance coverage, and room and board fees because I do not have transportation to attend school as a commuter. With my remaining three years, I am in need of $84,000. It is difficult for me to ask for others’ help when I have been blessed by so many already, but the fall semester is only a few short months away and I am desperate to be able to continue my education so that one day I might provide for my family and make a difference in my village.
I truly believe in the power of education, and I am optimistic that I will make it somehow despite this hurdle, and one day, make a difference in the world. I believe in the cycle of giving and I promise to give back to the society beyond my family. In addition, I understand that I have a responsibility to continue the cycle of giving that I have become part of. I truly appreciate any support on my behalf.
- Myles Culley
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