Author: Kathleen Retourne
When I first started as the Business Manager here in Livingstone, Zambia there were times when the sheer scope of what needed to be done could be overwhelming. But, I realized it was the individual stories which, when added together, provide a bigger picture of our impact.
The African Impact Foundation and Justina
Earlier this year I met 17-year old Justina from a village near Livingstone, Zambia. I was immediately struck by how bright she is, particularly her grasp of the English language. Her academic ability was obvious, although she was shy and often nervous. At the time, she was receiving sponsorship from Sam Peisch and ZAMFUND through the African Impact Foundation’s Sponsor a Child program.
It wasn’t long after that, with the support of the African Impact Foundation team, she was accepted into the highly competitive Yale Young African Scholars program (YYAS) – a summer school course held in Ghana for high-achieving African students. An opportunity made possible not only through her sponsorship, but also her own personal drive to succeed and achieve her goals.
All of the African Impact team have been touched by her story, her willingness to run with every opportunity, regardless of how much it pushed her outside her comfort zones.
Having come from an under-privileged background, Justina didn’t own a passport and had never stepped foot on an airplane.
But, thanks to you, we managed to fund Justina to travel to Ghana.
The young lady who returned was transformed. Her new-found confidence obvious, visibly glowing as she chatted excitedly about her journey.
Your generosity did that. Your help allowed us to alter the course of someone’s life. You made an impact.
In her own words, Justina tells us what happened next…
The Yale Young African Scholars Program
After I applied for the scholarship to attend this program, I waited for the results with little hope that I would make it. When I heard that I had been selected, I was extremely happy. I have always wanted to travel abroad and venture out to see what happens there.
Doing something for the first time always gives me anxiety, but I always love to try. I was always afraid of experiencing new things because of the fear in me.
My dad, brother and I walked into the airport, but the joy was short-lived as I had to say goodbye and check-in alone. Fortunately enough, I found another YYAS participant by the name of Terrance. Together we passed through the vigorous airport procedures that took long enough to make me tired before my flight.
The plane was very big and spacious with luxurious seats. Though excited, I was not mentally prepared for everything that was about to happen.
As the plane started moving, a sudden gush of acceleration overtook everything. My body was elevated up as if some mysterious power was lifting and I clenched my arm seat tightly, feeling a little nervous, but excited. All the while the trees, buildings and rivers seemed flying away, backwards, with great speed.
Soon, I was engrossed in enjoying the panoramic view of the city that I forgot real fear and nervousness.
As we reached the school, I was awed by the beautiful architectural buildings of the school, the lush green grass and the far-reaching trees. We received a warm welcome from the Yale facilitators who then gave us name tags, books, t-shirts, pens and pencils, drinking bottles and bags. We were then given time to settle in our rooms. I met my four roommates; one from Ghana, one from Uganda, one from Nigeria and one from Ethiopia.
The following morning after breakfast we had an SAT exam. I had little knowledge on what that was and how to answer critical questions in a short period of time.
As the days went on, my SAT scores improved tremendously as I had an influential lecturer who knew how to get the best out of their students. The lecturers were amazing as we were taught by professors from different universities.
We would later break into discussion groups and talk about the lecture we had. I liked my discussion leader, she gave everyone an opportunity to ask questions and express opinions.
Later in the day we had our seminars which taught me a lot of things about Africa I never knew. After lunch we had university guidance on how to apply for university – particularly how to apply for financial aid.
At the end of it all, we were given certificates. It felt a great achievement to go on stage and receive a certificate of completion.
This program has helped me mature in so many ways. I will continue to share the knowledge I have in the hopes of making a difference. Thinking back to where I come from, I will always be grateful to everyone who made an effort to bring me this far. Not forgetting God who makes all things possible.
This experience left an indelible impression on my mind that I will never forget.