I wore a rather unflattering uniform in high school. Each day for five years, I wore a long navy blue skirt, a shapeless navy blue vest and a white blouse. If memory serves me correctly, a single set cost approximately $200. My mother, a self-taught seamstress, bought material, copied the pattern and made me two sets that I made last for five years. Upon graduation, I burned one set, as per tradition, and kept the other. I figured as an adult, I’d surely hit hard times and would need a reminder that times were once worse.
Yet my hardships were nothing compared to those of our Tumaini kids. They face the stress of schools fees, the lack of parental guidance and support, tenuous relationships with relatives, and for some of them, disease, including HIV/AIDS.
In looking back at my high school years, wearing a school uniform gave us a sense of belonging – a sense we were all in it together. As students, we came from different socio-economic, cultural, and even geographic backgrounds, but we had one visible point of commonality. Every morning, we put on our school uniform. Most of us spent Sunday night ironing our shirts. Most of us spent far too much time attempting to individualize our outfits. As girls, we complained of the uncomfortableness of wearing pantyhose in the summer. The boys begged teachers to let them take off their blazers in the heat. Beyond the visibility of navy blue polyester, we all shared the experience of wearing those uniforms, of being students, and of navigating the trials and tribulations of adolescence.
Our TCP kids live an experience particular to their context. They may be a partial or full orphan. They may or may not have relatives visit on Parent Day. They may have a sponsor thereby completely removing the financial stress of school fees. Despite circumstantial differences, thanks to the generosity of donors and sponsors, they all have uniforms. They’re all in school. They all have a shot at ending their cycle of poverty. When they put on their uniforms in the morning, they touch their access to education. They touch hope. They touch their own potential.
Photo: TCP kids wearing their new uniforms and shoes, purchased with the funds of our donors and sponsors. July 2014.