21 Sep I spent many nights silently crying!
Her father had no work and could barely feed Viola and her six siblings. “I spent many nights silently crying,” she recalled, “asking God to come to my rescue because I wanted to study very badly.”
For the longest time it appeared as if those prayers would go unanswered. Despite having emerged as the 4th best student in the Grade 8 national examination in Kenya, Viola’s future looked bleak.
Like so many of her friends from poor families in the region, she faced the devastating prospect of being married off at a young age (early to mid-teens) to a much older man in hopes that he would take care of her.
End of dream. End of story.
13-year-old Viola Kirui tending the garden at Oleleshwa Secondary School.
For Viola and 39 other deserving freshman girls, it was nothing short of a miracle – a chance to learn and grow and build a productive, sustainable future when they opened their doors last year. Kenya’s future!
“I was so happy I could hardly believe it. For me, Oleleshwa Secondary School isn’t just a place of learning, it’s a home where I can live and grow as a leader in my community. Here I have found gardening is my passion, and a way for me to give back.”
In fact, Viola’s love of nature is so strong she has dedicated her life to conserving the environment, just like the remarkable woman she so admires, Wangari Muta Mathaai. “Now I feel that nothing can stop me,” Viola added. “ Being in Oleleshwa has made me stronger, bolder, more courageous, and outspoken. I wish to thank the Unstoppable Foundation and Free the Children for this opportunity to fulfill my dream.”
Yes, dreams really do come true. And who knows, with Viola’s indomitable spirit and the ongoing encouragement and support from compassionate donors like you, maybe one day she too will bring home a Nobel Peace Prize.
A brilliant student, Wangari earned a scholarship to what is now Benedictine College in Kansas. Then, after receiving a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Pittsburgh, she returned to her native Kenya only to face political corruption, legal roadblocks and countless other obstacles on her way to founding The Green Belt Movement, which she built into an enduring environmental force for good. The movement organizes women in rural Kenya to plant trees, combat deforestation, stop soil erosion, and generate income. Wangari went on to earn a Ph.D. in veterinary anatomy from Nairobi University where she also taught. She was later elected to Parliament and served as assistant minister for Environment and Natural Resources.
“Although I was a highly educated woman,” Wangari wrote in her book, Unbowed, “it did not seem odd to me to work with my hands, often with my knees on the ground, alongside rural woman. After all, I was a child of the same soil. And nothing is more beautiful than cultivating the land at dusk. Earth and water, air and waning fire of the sun combine to form the essential elements of life and reveal to me my kinship with the soil. Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and we should do what we can to protect it.”