Fifteen years ago, the two of us were very busy running a small independent publishing company out of our attic. We worked hard producing a fine little newspaper and doing a bit of freelance graphic design on the side. We paid the bills and made sure the kids were picked up from school on time. Life seemed fine in our little bubble.
Big changes appeared on the horizon when we began sneaking away from work and spending more and more time at our kids’ school. The volunteerism started adding up and soon we found that we were developing a passion for education that was cutting into our work life. Further complications arose when we hosted a small group of giggling girls from Uganda at our home as part of an African Childrens’ Choir tour. Despite the difficult circumstances of their upbringing, they radiated pure joy and they spoke passionately about the role of education in their lives. Fast forward a few years and you’ll find us on the other side of the world doing exactly what we love: teaching kids.
As part of our international experience, we’ve been privileged to meet children and educators from all over the world. Our educational connections soon grew to include contacts in South Korea, North Korea, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cyprus, Mozambique, Tanzania and, most recently, Kenya. Painfully, it is too easy to observe that educational opportunities worldwide vary dramatically. While so many kids enjoy free access to education, others suffer from a chronic lack of opportunity.1 They are slaves to their circumstances.
A good friend back home told us this of his father: “Education set him free.” Growing up in a developing nation, my friend’s father felt that emancipation came only through educators who helped him break the bonds of illiteracy. With this inspiration and an unfolding array of opportunities, Freedom Through Learning was created. Another story comes from one of the many IDP camps that were established in the wake of post-election violence in Kenya several years ago. The two of us were working alongside some youth who were labouring to rebuild their shattered community when they invited us to share their vision. After acquainting us with their tree farm, their youth soccer league and ongoing peace rallies, they asked if Freedom Through Learning would join them in a partnership to combat idleness among the community’s young people. Over the next two years, the Vumilia IDP camp was transformed into a permanent village with a Freedom Through Learning library at its centre. An emerging partnership with Kawelle has seen the library evolve to an even more functional role as it has been combined with an innovative Information Technology centre.
Beginning in 2010, when we moved to Nairobi, Kenya, we were able to cultivate even more sustainable partnerships with educators. Spending time with our partners face-to-face, we have come to understand the needs of Kenyan students in some specific contexts. Most meaningfully, we have developed an ongoing partnership with Maasai educators near Mount Kilimanjaro and Amboseli National Park; a small elementary school called Morningstar Youth Education Centre in the Kangemi slum of Nairobi; the Vumilia IDP camp with its library project; the well-known Starehe Boys’ and Girls’ Schools in Nairobi (where the brightest of Kenya’s disadvantaged youth are educated); and St. Peter’s Thunguma Secondary School near Mount Kenya. More recent partnerships include the launching of a brand-new science lab and a library at the MCEDO school in the Mathare slum. Our latest efforts have seen over 400 textbooks — all locally aligned curriculum — delivered to Kimuumo Secondary School in rural Kenya.
Our local connections mean that we can assess needs and respond directly, allowing our supporters around the world to become involved and make a difference in the lives of hundreds – if not, eventually, thousands – of young people here in East Africa. Contributions continue to come in from educators and supporters around the world who want to use their own freedom to serve others in love.2
That’s the philosophy behind Freedom Through Learning. It’s a global collaboration between extraordinary educators and caring people who are willing to step up and make a difference.
If this philosophy is something you support, then let’s all join hands and take the next step together.
Brian & LeeAnne Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the right of the child to education on the basis of equal opportunity.  Galatians 5: 13, 14: For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”