Anne’s KGSA Story

“As we work to create the light for others, we naturally light our own way.”
Today we are sharing Anne’s KGSA volunteer story to remind us just how these words written by Mary Anne Radmacher ring true. Read on to hear from Anne about her recent experience in Kenya.

Sixteen years ago, I set foot in a classroom in the middle of Kibera that would forever change my life and that of hundreds of girls. That classroom is still there, but so much else has changed.

I met Abdul Kassim on the side of a soccer field in Nairobi in 2008 when I was looking for a volunteer position and he was looking for a physics teacher. Abdul’s passion was infectious, and the next day I was teaching a room of eager students in Kibera. At the time, the entire teaching staff were volunteers, there was no dormitory, and there hadn’t even been a graduating class. 

Each day I was astounded at the dedication, optimism, and energy around me. Teachers who worked long days without a paycheck, students who were studying from dawn to dusk, and Abdul who tirelessly spread the word about KGSA far and wide such that this little informal school would eventually become the renowned institution it is today. 

I ended up spending a year in total working at the school between 2008 and 2010 and had dreams of permanently relocating to this place where everything felt achievable because of the community I was honored to be a part of. But life was especially dangerous for women in Kibera at that time, and eventually, I had to make the difficult decision to return to the US.

When the KGSA Foundation started fundraising for a dormitory, I knew I had to be part of this effort. To me, the dormitory meant that the students I cared about would be safe from the violence I had experienced. I started small with yearly fundraising emails, and each year increased my volunteer efforts with KGSA and grew more confident telling the KGSA story. By the time the dormitory was ending construction, friends and family from far and wide had joined me in this mission and I was honored to join the KGSA Foundation Board. 

Fast forward to last month when I found myself standing in the same school courtyard, but surrounded by a school that had more than doubled in size. I was looking up a beautiful and safe dormitory that 100 girls called home. I turned around to see a state-of-the-art classroom building going up in record time. And all around me, I could hear the chatter and laughter of 150 students who radiated that same optimism and drive that I remembered from long ago. 

My fiance Dan and I spent 5 weeks in Kenya, working side by side with teachers, students, alumni, and administrators to write grants, teach skills, support alumni, build partnerships, and identify opportunities. But for me, the best part of this time was the opportunity to absorb that dedication, optimism, and KGSA energy again. 

Everyone reading this is a part of this incredibly special community, and my heart couldn’t be more full thinking of all the generosity and growth of this community over the years. There really is something special about KGSA, and I urge you to come experience it for yourself when we host visitors at the school next February!

-Anne Baldwin, Vice Chair of the KGSA Foundation