Mike Gershon supports this educational charity working in Africa because it really resonates with his own career and values
I first came to know about the Rafiki Thabo Foundation it because it was set up by friend of mine and his brother but in recent years I’ve become much more involved as a supporter.
As a former teacher and now educational consultant, author and trainer, I teach teachers how to be more effective. The most important thing I’ve learnt in my career is the influence of the environment on every learner and how it affects their perceived potential.
Rafiki Thabo empowers young people in Kenya, Uganda, and Lesotho to fulfil their potential and initiate positive change in their communities by enabling access to education. By providing deprived members of the communities it works in with the means to continue with their secondary and higher education, it aims to improve lives.
In any country you have to make a sacrifice when you go into education – such as time and effort for your studies – but in developing countries that sacrifice is greater. We take so much for granted in the UK, where we have a universal education system, but you can imagine what difficult choices young people have to make in other countries. A death in the family, for instance, can lead to financial demands that make it difficult to continue a course. One of the most powerful things that Rafiki Thabo does is take away that burden.
The charity provides grants to promising students (Rafiki scholars) who have a place at secondary or higher education but are unable to afford the fees and without help would remain at home, working to help put food on the table or in the case of girls, be married off at a tender age for a dowry.
Education gives individuals significant life-long benefits – in terms of work, financial position and position in society. By donating to Rafiki Thabo you are giving aid but not creating dependency. You are simply enabling determined and capable individuals to focus on what they are trying to achieve.
Rafiki Thabo has also built a secondary school in Lesotho and continues to support it, even paying towards school meals during the pandemic.
I believe that every learner has the potential to develop significantly, no matter what their starting point. But having a school available instantly broadens a child’s horizons. This filters down into the community too. If you see your older sibling going to school that becomes something you aspire to and eventually it becomes the norm, the expectation, which is a great thing.
There are bigger charities that do fantastic work too but they have to pay overheads and lots of staff. What’s great about Rafiki Thabo is that it’s a small charity so almost everything it spends is directly related to its purpose.
Over the years I’ve undertaken various challenges to raise money for Rafiki Thabo, running a half marathon and doing the Three Peaks Challenge where I climbed the UK’s three highest mountains in 24 hours. I’ve recently started a new business venture – a course to give parents the tools they need to help their child to learn from home (helpyourchildtolearn.com) – and for every one I sell, 5% of profits go to Rafiki Thabo.
I’d love to go out to Lesotho and see the project in action. It would be fascinating and humbling to see the impact on the ground, meet the community and hear people’s stories. In the mean time I’ll continue to support Rafiki Thabo because education is so important and I know I’m helping young people to build skills and knowledge that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.