Most of us think about how we can make the world a better place, but we all struggle with just how to do it. In 2009 I spent about two weeks in the tiny village of Dago, Kenya and came away determined to do what I could to improve the lives of these hard-working, incredibly kind but extremely poor people.
Dago is in southwestern Kenya with 3,000 people where the average family income is less than $2 per day. They live in tiny mud huts with no plumbing. There has been no electricity but this year the school, orphanage and a few homes have obtained limited electricity. AIDS is a major problem in Dago and most people will have little to no medical care in their life. Average life expectancy is early forties. Most clothes are hand me downs from charities and food security is a major problem. The average person has only four years of education and few have ever gone to high school because the government does not pay any of the costs of high school.
I have made a total of five trips to Dago. In 2011, I started the “Bernard and Elsie Weiss Dago Scholarship Fund,” with the goal of sending as many Dago children as possible to high school. To date, we have awarded 32 full four-year scholarships and four of our early students are now in University.
At the end of eighth grade, the students take a test called the, “Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education.” The results of this test are how we determine who gets a scholarship.
I use the word “hope” a lot because that is what I want these children to feel we are giving them. We are not just donating money. We are very involved in their lives by visiting them every two years and seeing all of their report cards. We work directly with the school and many of the adults in Dago and want them to know we care about each of them.
Something I did not realize when I started this is that we are not just giving hope to the children, we are giving hope to the entire community of Dago. There is a lot more interest in making education a priority for the children.
In my visits back to Kenya, my main task is to visit the children at their high schools. They are all boarding schools and usually are about twenty to forty miles from Dago. I hire a driver, rent a car and head to each of the schools. In my visit this past June, we visited twenty-five students at eighteen schools.
These children realize they have been given an opportunity most of the children they grew up with do not have. The students get this for about $3,100 US for all four years. These are boarding schools and this amount covers everything. The bottom line is that it really is not that difficult to make the world a better place, one child at a time.
If you would like to give hope and a high school education to children from Dago, please go to www.hopefordago.org
and click donate on the top right. Then Click on "Village Volunteers". Go to the dropdown menu and choose “Weiss Scholarship Fund.” Then make your donation and click “Donate Now”. If you want to donate by check, you can mail a check to "Village Volunteers" (5100 South Dawson Street, Suite 202, Seattle, WA 98118 USA). Write "Weiss Scholarship Fund" on the memo line.