Pendleton Friends of the Jane Adney Memorial School for Girls is a loosely organized group of people dedicated to supporting the school and the girls who attend. Donations can be made to the School through the Sango Foundation.

It costs $800 per year for four years to put a girl through high school. Think about linking up with 2-8 of your friends to sponsor a girl.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I became interested in the Jane Adney Memorial School when I saw a presentation about it by my friend, Diana Swanson, at a Virginia Woolf Conference.  I was moved to tears by her story of this school, started with only 10 acres of land and $10,000, which aimed to be a model for progressive education in Kenya, especially by her account of what the school meant for the girls who attended: not just a chance for higher education in a country where 90% of high schools  are boarding schools, so expensive that mostly boys attend, but also a place where, for some students, for the first time they have their own bed, eat three meals a day, have underwear and sanitary supplies, and are not beaten.

I have a particular connection with Kenya.  When I was 13 years old -- the year after Kenya gained its independence -- my family had the opportunity to visit Kenya for six months, working for the new Ministry of National Resources, Wildlife, and Tourism, which was being run by one of my dad's recent graduate students. At first I attended  Kenya High School for Girls in Nairobi, at that time a pretty Harry Potter experience.  As an American, I had never experienced Prefects, the long list of rules, and classes in which you never spoke unless called upon and stood up whenever you addressed the teacher.  My parents withdrew me from the school when the Headmistress beat my out-stretched hands with a ruler because I had apparently accumulated a large number of demerits, not realizing that after-school games were mandatory.  My hands were still red and stinging when my parents arrived, furious that I had not been listened to or believed.  I had been bored, intimidated, and unhappy in the school and was delighted to be free to go on safari with my parents.

Traveling all over the country, hunting with my dad, visiting archeological sites and fishing villages, staying at all the major game reserves, camping in our hunting block near Voi, being invited to stay at the Mt. Kenya Safari Club by William Holden -- the whole Kenya experience was magical, and one I have never forgotten.

The experience was unforgettable for my father as well, and for many years he kept up friendships with the people we had met there.  It was his dearest dream to go back to Kenya, but when my mother had a stoke, his devotion to taking care of her precluded the longed-for return.  And when she died, he had waited too long and wasn't healthy enough himself to take the trip.  

So, when I heard about the Jane Adeny Memorial School, I had several immediate reactions.  Having experienced the 19th century colonial education system myself, I was utterly persuaded of the need for more progressive schooling methods in Kenya.  As someone who had directed a Women's Studies program for a decade and had gone to a women's college, I was particularly interested in women's education. And I want to be able to give back to the people of Kenya for that magical experience that changed in in so many ways.  My father was a born and compulsive teacher.  Although he ended up specializing in Fisheries, all his degrees were in Wildlife Management, and my childhood was one long Biology class.  He had grown up hunting, and everything he shot became an anatomy lesson.  (Once he shot a pregnant gazelle for camp meat, and the fetus stayed in a jar in our kitchen pantry, much to the annoyance of our cook/housekeeper, though it was a beautiful little thing.)  To this day when I walk beaches, people can ask me what organisms are, and the names fall out of my mouth: I don't even know that I know them.  My mother's great passion in life was women's education and birth control.  For years she donated to Planned Parenthood; I think she somehow knew they'd kept me safe through college.  So when I heard that the Jane Adney school was trying to teach biology to 65 girls with two old microscopes, I decided I had to buy them some more.  

After my father died, I decided that helping the school build a much-needed science building would be the perfect memorial for both my parents, honoring my father's love of Kenya and Biology and my mother's work as a chemist and passion for educating women.

So, I am sponsoring a girl for four years, starting this May.  And I've given the school some seed money and agreed to match any other funds they receive.  And I am organizing this group -- the Pendleton Friends of JAMS -- to raise more money and help sponsor more girls.  

If you would like to cost me money and help build the science building, please consider giving to SANGO.  I will match your donation.