John Ahalei Lomurut, known as Mombasa here in Kenya, is one of The BOMA Fund’s five Agents of Change students attending EARTH University in Costa Rica. In December, John will be the first Kenyan to graduate from EARTH and he represents one of our best investments in the future of northern Kenya.
EARTH recruits students from low-income, rural areas throughout the world and provides them with an education in science, math, technology and entrepreneurship. Human values, leadership and a commitment to changing the world are core elements of the curriculum. 85% of all EARTH graduates return to their home communities to improve economic and social conditions. They are expected to be job creators, not job seekers.
Our five students from northern Kenya make great sacrifices to attend EARTH, not the least of which is to learn Spanish. After 6 weeks of language immersion they go straight into math and science classes. Three years later, they return to Kenya for a one trimester internship. And then they return to EARTH for their final year. John will graduate in December and Doug and I will be there to celebrate his big day.
Last week I visited with John’s Mom in Ongeli village. All she could do was put her hand over her heart and say “Mombasa.” I gave her a hug. She took my hand and brought me into the hut to see John’s Dad. The last time I saw him in March he was ill. Now he is worse. Lying on a bed of goat skins with a torn blanket on top of him, he was not aware of my presence. The heat from the fire in the hut was stifling and rivulets of sweat poured down my face. All I could do was close my eyes and pay my respects to a man who will not see his son before he dies.
A few days later we received the news that John’s Dad had died. With just one month of school left, John will not be able to return to Kenya until after graduation on December 10. When John returns, he will participate in a traditional ceremony and shave his head. His family will then move the village. I am sure this is a difficult time for John and our hearts go out to him and his family, especially his mother, who a long time ago, made a very brave decision.
John’s uncle worked as a custodian at Loglogo Primary School and one day he returned to John’s village and asked his father if he could take this bright young man to school. John’s father refused. A few days later, John’s brother got ill and could not tend to the camels and so his father had to be out the entire day. John’s mother and uncle used this opportunity to go to Loglogo with John where they spent a few days. Each day, John’s mother would go to the local shop and buy John a sweet. John decided he liked Loglogo. He was living with his uncles and cousins and it was fun. One day his mother went out again to get a sweet. But she never returned. She left John in the care of his uncle, in order for John to go to school. John did not see his mother again for four years. He was seven years old.
John’s post-graduate plans for his career and for northern Kenya are ambitious and inspiring. His people will benefit from a mind that is focused on critical thinking and creative problem solving. With a strong background in math, science and entrepreneurship, John has the needed tools to address the problems of food security, water and energy that make life so hard in northern Kenya.
In his later years, John’s father recognized the value of education and he was proud of his son’s achievements. We all wish it could be possible for someone from John’s family to be at John’s graduation. But it is an expensive and challenging proposition for a person from northern Kenya to buy a plane ticket and secure a passport and visa to travel to Costa Rica. So Doug and I will attend John’s graduation on December 10, and I will bring with me the hopes and dreams of Ongeli village. They are sending you their love, John. Our thoughts are with you.