The Ripple Effect

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By Julia Kurnia

Charles Owino grew up in a small village on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya.  Orphaned at a young age, Charles was forced to earn his own living.  By the time he was six, he was laboring on the fishing boats, cleaning fish and mending nets under the hot sun.

Charles’ life took a turn for the better when well-wishers in the local community gave him the chance to attend school.  Thanks to their help and his own perseverance, Charles acquired an education and later moved to Nairobi.

There he encountered many children who were missing out on education because their parents could not afford the nominal fees and required uniforms of the government primary schools.  Charles opened Fortune Learners Centre to teach these children, asking each family to pay only what they were able.

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The teachers of Fortune Learners Centre are volunteers.  To help fund the school’s administrative costs, Charles started a side business of retailing school uniforms in the neighborhood.  His first Zidisha loan enabled him to acquire a wholesale inventory of uniforms – just in time for the start of the new school term in January.

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Though space in Fortune Learners Centre is limited and there is no shortage of demand from parents in the community, Charles goes out of his way to admit children everyone else has overlooked.  “I have a lot of love for them because I also grew up as an orphan so I understand what they go through,” he wrote.

Today, there are twenty orphans and other vulnerable children studying at Fortune Learners Centre.  Their lives have taken a turn for the better, because someone made the choice to see them and invest in their potential.

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