Mercy Mueni lives in Kenya. She is from the Kamba people, and life has not been easy for such a young woman. Her mother left the family when she was just a girl, and her father has been ill most of her life. Mercy is a good student, but often has to leave school because the family cannot pay the bills. Mercy is nearly 19 and still in her lower levels in school because she cannot attend consistently, yet despite this, last year she was in the top three students in her class of 45, which included both boys and girls. She received two letters of recommendation from teachers and counselors at her school who both want her to be able to attend classes consistently.
The problem for Mercy is greater than not finishing school. She is of the age that if she gets sent home again, it is more than likely she will be circumcised and forced to marry. Female genital mutilation is still quite common, and it does more than end a young woman’s education—it can end her life. At the very least, it usually leads to a lifetime of horrific health problems and challenges.
When our contact Shannon met Mercy, the only application she had to give her was our post-secondary application. Despite the fact that Mercy is still in secondary school, she happily and thoroughly filled out the much more extensive and involved application. We include her answers here because they are lovely to read. They are thoughtful, mature, and caring, and they indicate a young woman who wants better for herself and for the women (and people) of her community. We could not be more delighted to welcome Mercy to the ONE family.
Our contact Shannon just came home from a visit to Kenya, and she sent us some wonderful photos and more information about Mercy. We had all believed Mercy to be of the Masai tribe. She is instead of the Kamba tribe. Shannon says Mercy is a “treasure.” She is the fourth child of six. Her mother left Mercy and her two youngest siblings with Mercy’s father two years ago. She was one of the ten best students of her graduating class 8 and awarded a place at Nori Secondary School. She is currently among the top students at Nori Secondary in the town of Mashuru, Sultan Hamud on the Eastern edge of Kadjiado County of Kenya. Her current goal is to become a doctor specializing in cardiology.
Mercy’s father lost his job after experiencing an apparent cardiac issue three years ago. Since then he volunteers at the community health clinic that helped him and picks up casual labor as he is able. Nori Secondary, the school Mercy attends, employs him as a painter and simple laborer when they can in exchange for school fees. The family struggles for food and basic living essentials.
Shannon says that Mashuru was interesting in that the townspeople actively discuss ways for their farms to manage the changes they have seen in the climate. Those gathered at the local market no longer seem to believe that the rains will return to their previous pattern or even marginally increase. She said this was quite a subject for discussion during their brief stop in town. The change in crops has left Nori Secondary in a more difficult position. The school is run by the Brothers of Montfort, with the assistance of several sisters from India. The school tries to provide supplies for their increasingly desperate student body and say that they do not “chase” students from the school for nonpayment of fees. Keeping students despite their inability to pay is highly unusual for either private or public schools in East Africa.
Mercy would like to eventually earn a place in medical school and become a doctor. Mercy says that she learned to love reading as she waited during her father’s care at the community clinic. The nurses were kind to her and gave her books and magazines to help pass the long days. Unfortunately, Shannon had no books with her on the day of their visit, and says she will bring an assortment for her when they return. Shannon tells us that this school seems to be a truly good place for Mercy and the students there. The grounds are clean. The students appear respectful and confident with the staff. Despite the poverty, their results are among the best in Kadjiado County. Although it takes a full day to travel to get there, Shannon plans to visit them again on her next trip.
We are so delighted to hear that Mercy is in a good school, and doing well!