I knew it was coming but it still made my heart beat a little faster, my "purr" a little louder. We have a scholarship girl!
It's been worth the tremendously hard work to get it all into place. It really has.
A very, very close friend of mine died almost two years ago. She left money in her will for me to use for our mutual friend in Africa and the refuge she runs for unaccompanied children. We could have used the money for the day-to-day running of the refuge or - we all thought long and hard about this - should we use it for something else?
As is all too often the case in Africa the boys have had more chances than the girls. Where possible they have had schooling beyond the primary years. So far only one boy from the refuge has been to university. What about the girls? They hadn't even been able to think about finishing school although several have had two more years at the high school. It's hard work if they make it that far because they also have to help at the refuge far more than others do at home. So, only the most determined make it.
A scholarship for one of the brightest and best and most determined who wanted to do something in the areas my friend was interested in like science, health, and education, seemed a possibility. We "talked" via the internet. A friend in Belgium looked at what it cost. Was there enough money? Probably not. We would need to raise some more. I wrote passionate pieces about where the girls come from, how they were being cared for, what their education was like, what some of them might be able to do given the chance. The friend in Belgium added all the financial figures and showed how it would pay to do this. Our friend in Africa wrote more.
We didn't need a lot more money - not the sort of money which other people try and raise. We wanted enough to invest so that there would be money for one scholarship for one girl to go on and be something like a nurse or a teacher or something similar.
Perhaps it was that modest goal which made other people donate. Our friend in Belgium talked to people. They wrote to me and I wrote yet more passionate letters. I kept my mental paws crossed. We had to write very strict conditions about the way the fund was to be used - to satisfy the laws in more than one country. We had to be sure that the money could not be used for anything else. It's a trust we hope nobody can break. If the refuge goes - and we hope it will one day not be necessary - then the scholarship will remain.
We wanted it in place as soon as possible. These things can sometimes take years to set in place but education cannot wait for years. We knew late last year that this year we could offer one scholarship . Who?
We left that to our friend in Africa. She worked with the teacher, the head of the high school, the priest (because, although for all faiths and creeds, it is a Catholic establishment) and the inspector of schools. It was a hard decision even though there was a stand out candidate. It meant that just one girl would go on.
Yesterday there was a letter to me from the girl who has won the scholarship. Like other children at the refuge she has written to me from time to time. The children tell me things. They love getting answers. Having a "friend" in a far distant country is something they love to have. But her letter was something different. She described her emotions as up and down, as happiness for herself and sadness for her friends who won't go as far.
But our friend in Belgium is working on that. It will happen. And, in the meantime, we have our first scholarship girl. She's going to be a leader.