By Lee Sullivan
Random Writers Week 8 Topic: Write about someone you consider to be a hero.
My original plan for this topic was to write about a woman who has been a huge inspiration to me for over a year now. That woman is Stacey Monk, and I’m pretty sure I would follow her to the ends of the earth if she asked me to. The goodness and beauty and love in her heart is surpassed only by the light that she radiates to those around her. She is a bright, shining soul that I’m honored to call friend.
When I first met Stacey and her now fiancé, Sanjay, in early 2010, I was taken aback a little. I’m not a person who sees auras and I’m not even sure I fully believe in the idea of auras, but for that day, I did. I’m not sure what it was but I came home that night and told Gil I thought our lives might be different because of this woman I just met. That night I learned a little of the story of Stacey and how she and Sanjay started the non-profit Epic Change a few years earlier. I had no idea that night just how impacted my life would be.
Over the next 18-20 months, I would work with Stacey and support her dream to build a school in Tanzania. I would devote time and money and crazy amounts of love into a project that meant nothing more to me than the fact that it meant something to Stacey. It was also during this time that I began to understand just why this school was so important to her. For Stacey, she had found hope after a devastating tragedy, all because of one woman and her dream. While in Africa, Stacey had found Mama Lucy, and in doing so, found hope in her life and her world.
Mama Lucy Kamptoni is a mom who had to take her children to neighboring Kenya in order for them to get an education. After leaving three children in the care of strangers, she knew something needed to change so that other mothers and fathers did not have to do this for their children. In 2003, Mama Lucy told her husband she was going to take the money from her small chicken business to rent the house next door, and that she was going to start a school. And that’s exactly what she did. After hiring a teacher, she posted notes throughout her town and in churches that she was starting a school; and the children came. Six showed up on the first day. By the end of the week, there were 10. The children came and came and came.
Mama Lucy continued to educate as many children as she could in that rented house until one day she was told the house and land would be sold and she would need to find a different place to teach the children. This news came shortly after Stacey and Sanjay had visited and volunteered at Shepherds Junior School. When Stacey and Sanjay heard this news, they knew they had to help. Oh, and help they did. Through some of the most successful social media fundraising campaigns ever, Mama Lucy got her new land and a new classroom. Soon, more new classrooms were built. When the need for a dormitory to house some of the children was announced, more funding was found.
Mama Lucy had a dream of educating the children of her country, and what began with six children is now 503. What was a small rented house is now a Pre and Primary school with multiple classrooms, a computer lab, a dormitory and a staff of 47 educators and administrative support.
I asked Mama Lucy if she found that people told her she couldn’t do this? She responded with an emphatic “Ohhhhh YES. How did you know?” I knew because it’s often our first reaction when someone throws some farfetched idea out there. I can only imagine people’s reactions to her dream. “Who is this chicken farmer to think she can build a school?” I never got a chance to elaborate with her, but in my next face to face conversation with Mama Lucy, I firmly intend to find out what her responses have been to those people. She obviously didn’t let any of those Negative Nellie’s slow her down in pursuing her dream. Throughout all of this, Mama Lucy has never given up. She’s had her struggles and each time, she has found a way, either through her own hard work or through the sharing of love from around the globe or from some ginormous combination of both.
I met Mama Lucy on Tuesday. I also met two of her amazing students, Leah Albert and Gideon Gidori. Earlier in the day I had posted a blog about how I felt a darkness creeping into my life. It was just one of those bad mood feelings that I couldn’t shake. Within moments of meeting these three people, the bright light shining from their souls left me blinded. I was no longer consumed with my own feelings of hopelessness. I had been filled to the brim with two four letter words: HOPE and LOVE. You can see both so clearly in Mama Lucy and in these kids. I have no doubt the hope Leah and Gideon have is a direct result of Mama Lucy’s perseverance and unwavering dedication to love these children and provide an education so that they can grow up to be pediatricians, astronauts, or anything their beautiful hearts hope to be.
Mama Lucy is my hero. She had a dream and she made it come true. Now, because of that, 503 children can also hope for their dreams to come true as well. The thing with Mama Lucy is, not only does she channel the ability to hope into these children’s lives, she also showers them with unconditional love. By doing that, she has also flooded my world with love. For this reason, I can’t help but put that love right back out into this majestic universe we live in. How amazing is it to be filled with so much love that you HAVE to share it with others?