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A Heart Opening Experience

meeting Syrus, a success story

We all have those moments---a time when you just feel your heart open.
It could be a especially spectacular sunset, or an awe inspiring vista, or just the touch of someone you love.

I had such an experience in one of the worst slums in the world.

Many years ago, Rick's relative Gary Cohen suggested I might want to contribute to a charity that he has funded for years.
It's called AmericaShares. (AmShare for short). They are an NGO whose goal is to improve the lives of vulnerable children and women in the Mukuru slum near Nairobi. They offer a sustainable program of education, community outreach and economic empowerment.

So I signed up. This was YEARS ago! My monthly contributions went to support a specific child, in this case a young boy named Syrus Tama. I got hand written letters from him several times a year. Sometimes they came with pictures he had drawn and at other just times the letters were full of wishful thinking, things any boy of that age might dream about. His parents had died and he was being raised by his elderly grandmother in one of the worst slums in the world. However, once he was selected by AmericaShare and had a sponsor, he was introduced into an oasis in the heart of this slum---a place with a library and running water and classrooms and helpful adults. And even some trees and grass!

But it's not enough to just be selected---once you're in, you have to work hard and that's exactly what Syrus did.

So I arranged a time and place for us to meet while I was in Kenya. I had no idea what that meeting would be like--and had some trepidation about it....would we understand each other? Would he want to meet me? What would we talk about? Could we bridge the wide cultural gap?

I needn't have worried---in walks this amazing, confident, handsome young man, full of fun and intelligence, with an easy way about him. With him is Christina,a beautiful young Kenyan woman, also a beneficiary of AmShare, now graduated from the program and working for it. We laughed, we joked, we ate KFC,I told stories, they told me about their lives. I was able to embarrass Syrus with his cute drawings plus a small valentine he made for me years ago. Now he is in his third year at a good local University, working on a BSC in Integrated Forestry, and will most certainly be a leader in preserving environmental resources in Kenya. Here is his wonderful smiling face, taken at the AmShare oasis in the middle of Mukuru slum:
Syrus smile

Syrus smile

And both of them:
Syrus and Christina

Syrus and Christina

But just to give you some perspective, here are pictures of where he lives, the Makuru slum in Nairobi:

Meeting Syrus and Christina gave me such hope. The pictures tell the joy we all felt:
Syrus Phyllis Christina

Syrus Phyllis Christina

Rick Syrus Phyllis

Rick Syrus Phyllis

I recently asked Syrus to write little bit about himself. Here's what he wrote:

My name is Syrus Tama. I can’t for sure put it in words the impact Amshare has had in my life. I mean, where would I even be? Being part of Amshare has been one of the greatest opportunities in my life so far. What’s more important than having a chance in education? There are not many kids from Mukuru Kwanjenga who can relate to what I have had at my disposal.
Eventually, I want to own a company based on green energy especially here in Kenya and maybe in the whole of the African continent, who knows??Sometimes my dreams scare me but as a friend once told me, one starfish at a time. So for now I think what’s important to me is graduating with good honours.
Dear Phyllis, thank you so much for the believing in my dreams even before I had a chance to dream. I wouldn’t trade such love for anything.
Tama syrus
Natural resources consultant

Check out AmericaShares website: https://www.americashare.org/

There are so many of you out there who contribute to the good of the world. Most of the time your good works and your money just drift out there, and you never quite know what happens to it. This was one of those rare times when another hand reaches out to hold the one you have offered.
And we are both lifted.

Next Blog: Licked by a Giraffe.

Posted by pebergman 09:01 Archived in Kenya

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Phyllis, What a truly inspiring entry. I am also 'lifted' by the story of Syrus and Christina. Thank you so much for so generously sharing your experiences which are full of hope and joy. Barb (and Ken)

by BarbLeviton

Thank you so much Barb and Ken. I really appreciate your words. And I look forward to seeing you both when we return! Hugs, Phyllis

by pebergman

inspiring story! Seeing the pictures of the slum in addition to the background story puts things into perspective :/

by jillandloic

Phyllis, What a beautiful and heartwarming post. Thanks so much for sharing this story and the pictures. Brought tears to my eyes. It's wonderful to read about a success story and so glad you were able to meet Syrus. I hope he is truly able to make his dreams come true.

by carrotlover

Truly a heart opening/warming story. Good for you for supporting him through the years. Another starfish saved.

by Lynne H

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