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2014 July
2014
Jul 15

New Uniforms

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.

2014
Jul 2

Introducing Christine Pothier, TCP’s Program Executive

Introducing our recently appointed Program Executive, Christine Pothier. Raised in small town Northern Ontario, Christine has been living in Ottawa for 15 + years. Her interest in international development led her to spend the better part of a year in Southeast Asia, where she traveled, worked, and conducted archival research. She now splits her time between her career as a public service, her young family and her volunteer work.

I am a person inclined to be introspective. Every so often, as I enjoy simple, beautiful moments in life, I’ll recognize how fortunate I am. While I sit at a coffee shop reading a book, chatting with a friend, or updating my blog, another woman is hunched over a sewing machine, working in horrid conditions for a sweatshop owner. While I share views and opinions over a glass of wine with my husband, another woman suffers the physical and emotional blows of her own husband or boyfriend. While I travel freely from country to country, another woman’s travels are limited to a route between her hut and a dirty well.

Since becoming a mom, I sometimes look at my girls and think what ridiculous lives they lead. While they run carelessly through the playground, another child attempts to do the same only to step on a landmine. While my daughters have yet to understand the concept of monetary exchange, someone else’s daughter is forced to sell her services, whether physical or sexual. While they sleep soundly and safely at night, other children are awakened by the sounds of artillery. And while I watch them play, eat and sleep, another mother watches her child die of starvation.
Biology is the only reason why I’m here and not there. Recognition in this simple fact is why I hold myself responsible for my good fortune by working to make a small difference, as small as it may be. It’s why I accepted to play a greater role in TCP. Helping a group of kids gain access to education, thereby enabling their climb out of a cycle of poverty is the least I can do.

It’s easy not to think about what happens in other parts of the world. The media doesn’t report on it, few people discuss it, and our government doesn’t play a heavy role. And what difference does it make anyway? Does it really matter that a few children have access to school? Does it change anything in the grand scheme of things for a few children to get new books, new uniforms, or new shoes?

I can’t speak to the grand scheme of things but I can speak to my own scheme. I don’t have to fight for my girls to access education. They will never have to hustle tourists as a way to put food in their mouth. They will never lie scared and helpless in the street at night, fearing for their safety. The debt of gratitude I owe for this translates itself into leading TCP’s efforts in Kisumu Kenya. It also translates itself into raising my girls to be well aware of these efforts so they’ll in turn do the same. After all, biology is the only reason why we’re here and not there.