Stories from our international boarding schools

Kenyan Chief’s snowy visit to EF Academy New York

This year, a small group of students at EF Academy New York have created a speaker series called “EF Talks,” where interesting thought leaders who are experts in a variety of compelling topics visit campus to give an interactive presentation to our students. The students behind EF Talks created the series with several goals in mind: to provide a space for students to learn from industry leaders in several fields by giving students a chance to ask questions, practice networking, and discuss our rapidly-changing world.

On Thursday, November 15, the students of EF Talks welcomed the second speaker in their series, Chief George Lemerketo, a native of Northern Kenya and the leader of the Samburu tribe. Chief George traveled all the way from Kenya to share his story of growing up in rural West Africa and reflect upon the importance (and, often, the privilege) of having access to education. In addition to being the Chief of the Samburu tribe, Lemerketo is the President of the Board of the Sereolipi Nomadic Education Trust. This trust is part of the Thorn Tree Project, a nonprofit organization that seeks to provide primary (and in some cases, secondary) education to the children of the Samburu tribe. Since its foundation in 2002, the Thorn Tree Project has helped to provide education to more than 1500 children.

Mara Govaerts, a senior at EF Academy, has been involved with the Thorn Tree Project for most of her life. Having visited Northern Kenya and the Samburu often throughout her childhood, Mara understands how fortunate she is to have quality education—and she wants to give back to a community that has had such a profound impact on her life. In collaboration with the Thorn Tree Project, Mara has started the “Build A Dorm” initiative at EF Academy in fulfillment of her Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) project for the IB program. This project focuses on the building and repair of dorm rooms at three schools, where storms have recently destroyed some of the existing residences. Currently, many students are sleeping in the library because of the destruction, and Mara’s Build A Dorm initiative is in the process of fundraising to reconstruct a 30-person boys’ dormitory and alleviate this uncomfortable living situation.

While on campus, George had the opportunity to attend a class and have a discussion with students about how education differs across the world. He even got to see his first snowfall! To support the Build A Dorm project, Chief George engaged in discussion with Mara and fellow student Cyrus Kwan about the significance of education and the ways that our school can be involved in the fight to make basic education accessible to all. Chief George told the audience of the chance encounter that changed his life: meeting Jane Newman, who went on to found the Thorn Tree Project and impact countless lives. This event was a fantastic opportunity for the EF Academy community to learn more about this cause as Chief George encouraged students to consider their own educational experiences. It was a reflective time to consider the roles that culture, geography and socioeconomic background play in learning and educational success.

If you would like to support The Thorn Tree Project’s efforts of educating the children of northern Kenya please go to thorntreeproject.org under WAYS TO GIVE.

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