Alex Lee: My Giving Story

My name is Alex and I grew up in a family where giving back is a way of life, so it is no surprise that my giving story was first inspired by my Mom, Bonnie Lee, co-founder and president of Learn For Life Kenya.

Our relationship with the people of Kenya began together in 2011 when we participated in a massive shoe collection project with the organization Think Kindness. We traveled to central Kenya to put some of those shoes on the feet of destitute children living in two orphanages in central Kenya. I was amazed at her ability to build such deep bonds with these children halfway around the world, and my number of siblings grew right in front of me as she took orphaned children under her wing, loving them as her own. For example, there is Grace who wants to go into counseling to help young children who have been abused, since her own tragic background equips her to relate. There is Peter who can run like the wind and is training for a spot on the national running team. There are Carol and John, friends who want to go into healthcare and law, but don’t have families to finance their schooling. Each of them call me brother, and each call my Mom “Mum.” They opened their hearts to us and ended up giving us much more than what we brought to them.

In 2013, we participated in another shoe collection and I caught Mom crying tears when we didn’t have enough shoes to give to children living outside the orphanage walls who desperately needed shoes, and so much more. She considered going into town to purchase shoes for the children arriving from the nearby slum but knew there was no way to provide sufficient relief. Their need was so overwhelming.

Wanting to provide something that would not wear out as quickly as a pair of shoes, that summer my Mom began the process of starting Learn For Life Kenya with one of her best and most trusted friends, Anne Muindi-Shemenski. They are committed to economic development to help youth in Kenya have hope for a better future and break the multi-generational grip of poverty. I watched her grow and persevere as she read numerous books on nonprofit management and grant writing so she could better serve these kids. I saw her build relationships with the Kenyan youth through Facebook and expend so much emotional energy giving extremely hard advice to people with no parents to call their own. I saw Mom and Anne build Learn For Life Kenya, an organization dedicated to providing vocational training opportunities to impoverished communities, from the ground up, fighting through bureaucracy without faltering. I watched them build a board of directors committed to the mission of Learn For Life Kenya and embracing its inaugural project, The Tumaini Vocational Training Center building project and certified programs implementation. I saw Mom deliberately transform herself into exactly the kind of person who can impact positive change, the kind of change I want to be a part of.

So I give to Learn For Life Kenya because her example has opened my eyes to the power of perseverance and teamwork. We started our Kenyan adventures together and we will continue to inspire hope, because that is how we can transform lives.

Originally published on the Learn For Life Kenya page at GreatNonprofits.