Here is a chance this holiday season to help pull for a bright young man named Edwin, who is hungry for education out of poverty, and give him the future he is dreaming of.
Four years ago, four brave African students from Kenya came to West Linn High School to learn and live among us. One of those students was Edwin Sambirir. He lived with us for several months in 2007 and 2008.
Edwin was a sophomore in high school at the time. For those of us who knew him, we understand his amazing gifts as a young man and his love of education. Over the past four years since his return to Kenya, his life has been full of challenges.
Here is just one amazing story we learned as we kept in touch with him: He has had to live in refugee camps at times, given the occasional instability in Kenya. Sometimes he could not afford soap to wash. Several months ago, he had the opportunity to attend a computer class.
In order to be close enough to the class/school, he had to leave home, move in with his cousin and walk two hours each way to the eight-hour-per-day, four-week course. He had no money to eat lunch while in school all day; he went without eating some days.
Over the past four years, several families in West Linn and Portland have given Edwin long-distance emotional and financial support for his education. He is driven by the dream of attending college. His journey, so far, has included completely repeating his senior year of high school to better his grades for the Kenya National Exams. He had to retake the National Exams to improve his scores.
Finally, earlier this year and after a great deal of paperwork, he was formally accepted into his dream college: Oregon State University's Engineering Program. Over the phone he was jumping up and down with joy. But, as an international student, the tuition was $35,800 per year. OSU could not offer funds/scholarships at the time, making attendance impossible.
This summer we took another direction in looking for college funds: We wrote Oprah Winfrey five times asking for scholarship monies. Long letters, videos of Edwin, photos and news articles were all included. Often the letters to Oprah were returned unopened. The fourth and fifth letters were not returned; however, to date we have not heard back from Oprah.
Finally, with a small donation from some of us, Edwin, along with a dear friend and mentor, took a several-hour journey three weeks ago to Nairobi, Kenya. They explored the option of attending Kenyatta University in Nairobi.
What happened is a very long story, as getting into the day/full-time university program in the career of your choice is extremely difficult in Kenya. We were told that Edwin was accepted into the four-year B.S. degree program in engineering. Wow!
His classes start January 9, 2012. The tuition is highly subsidized by the Kenyan government.
Tuition, room, board and books are only $3,500 per year. Our deadline is Jan. 8 to raise the funds needed. Can you help us help Edwin?
Donations can be sent to: Edwin Sambirir Educational Fund, Chase Bank on Blankenship Road in West Linn.
Joanne Pinelli is a West Linn resident.