“Wrecking my definition of charity…in a lovely way.”

Sometimes in the act of doing good, we lose sight of what it is we are accomplishing. We supply funds, we raise awareness, we bring solutions. It’s easy to distance ourselves from the personal and the dynamic nuances of the situation.

This week held a needed reminder when John Ambrose, a long-time volunteer, and Phil Renicks, our chief education officer, spoke at the office devotional. The way they spoke about Ellie’s Run for Africa and New Dawn Educational Centre hit me with a fresh view of giving to causes. It wrecked my previous definition of charity in a lovely way.

Phil shared a story of a New Dawn student he had the privilege of meeting back in 2009. Lucy Kamau Kamwende has a history that unfortunately can resonate with too many around the globe. She finished primary school, but her parents were unable to send her to secondary school because of finances. Lucy made her way to Nairobi to live with an Aunt and Uncle where she worked as a domestic in several different homes, each time facing unmentionable abuse. She heard of New Dawn and was admitted, despite the years of absence from school.


Lucy at New Dawn!

When Lucy came to New Dawn, she was battered and shy. She met Phil as a participant in a focus group interview aimed at evaluating the school program.  He asked her what changes she would make to New Dawn if she had the power. Her response? To provide dorms for the girls so that she could be safe. A dorm opened soon after, and provided Lucy with a safe home for the first time in years. She began thriving in her studies and in her personal growth. Lucy went from a victim of abuse to graduating near the top of her class, elected to be head girl her senior year, and a chosen speaker for the dedication of a new classroom building.

Lucy is now in her second year at Kenyatta University with a 3.5 GPA. She has a sponsor to provide the funding that she needs for her tuition, room and board.  As for her future? Lucy wants to return to New Dawn as a teacher of Kiswahili and Religious studies.  In the words of Phil, “New Dawn is developing young men and women who are not only desirous of an education and to get out of the slums to better themselves, but are desirous to get back in. They have an attitude of ‘we’ve been given to, so we want to give back.’”

 I used to have a skewed definition of what it meant to give in charity/ I saw it as throwing money at a problem or giving once, then moving on. But there is so much more to it than that. To me, charity is the choice to be actively gracious with whatever it is you’ve been given.  I see this in Lucy, who was given the gift of education and wants to pass it on. It is not simply a one-time donation, but an ongoing effort to be invested in the good of others. Charity is friendship driven and culture crossing and impacting one person at a time. It is always being at the ready to stand up and help. For the sake of grace. For giving others what they would otherwise not have- whether that be an education, clean water, or intangible but life-altering hope. This type of impact takes commitment and building relationships. Those we impact are not just a name, not simply a kid in a picture. We are working for a heartbeat and a story and a history and a future. We are giving for a family like ours on the opposite side of the world. It’s not just giving money. It is life-changing relationships. To me, that’s my new definition of charity.

Author: Maddy Harper

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Mocha Club.

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