Etienne Rech-Ley, a junior at The Bush School, and Lillian Wamuyu a teacher at Bridge International Academies, came to Soundview to speak to our Middle School and Intermediate students. The two women have partnered together and are visiting as many schools in the Greater Seattle area as they can in order to raise awareness about two programs: Bridge International Academies and Days for Girls. Zachary Amador and Jennifer Amezcua recently completed their 5th grade Exhibition projects which centered around education, so they were excited to hear about the global educational connections and Etienne’s volunteer work in the schools. In Humanities, the 8th graders have been focusing on diverse communities around the world and have engaged in a variety of service. Hearing about Etienne’s volunteer work in Kenya, and Lillian’s work as a teacher for Bridge continued to educate them on ways they can participate and engage in educational service in underserved and underrepresented areas.
During these presentations, students learned more about where the Bridge schools are located—Kenya, India, Liberia, Nigeria, and Uganda, and how the program works: families pay six dollars a month for access to trained, high-quality teachers. Lillian and Etienne both mentioned the continued issues with government run schools in places like Kenya. Teachers cannot be counted on to be trained and often do not show up for work. Moreover, if the teachers are working in government run schools, they are often alone with a 120 students and in very harsh teaching environments. Lillian grew up in one such community in Kenya, so she spoke to what it was like to live in a slum to our students. She spoke of how neglected children often are in these areas and how important schooling is for helping them to overcome these situations. Lillian now teaches for the Bridge school in Kenya and spoke of the organization’s mission to educate teachers and provide them with continued training so that they can continue providing quality classroom instruction. Both speakers addressed the importance of girls attending school and how often the lack of menstruation supplies can keep girls out of the classroom for multiple days each month.
Etienne first heard about Bridge International Academies through a family friend. Then, last year, Days for Girls, came to visit her school. Days for Girls is an organization that was started in Bellingham, Washington and builds kits for young girls so that girls have access to clean and non-stigmatized sanitary supplies. This non-profit organizes volunteer sewing groups in local communities to construct these vital supplies. Etienne mentioned to the group that she was already going to Kenya to visit the Bridge schools, so she asked for and received sixty kits to take with her and distribute to these Kenyan schools. Moreover, she showed a video to our students of the instruction she gave to the Kenyan girls about how to properly use and clean these kits. Because of these kits, girls no longer have to stay home or hide, and they are more mobile and able to attend school.
Etienne discussed how she’d started a Girl Up group at The Bush School and other ways our students could be involved in the process. There are sewing groups in the area that students can attend; they can start a sewing group of their own; or they can do educational outreach about these two programs.. Etienne also mentioned to our students that she is continuing to raise funds for the students of the Bridge schools through her gofundme page. By donating $12, a person can sponsor a child for a month!
Having Etienne and Lillian in our classrooms allowed our students to see how easily what they’ve been studying and researching can connect to larger global organizations. They became even more aware of what they can accomplish on their own and how their actions can have an immediate impact on groups in need. Etienne and Lillian were clearly an inspiration for our students.
If you would like any more information on either of these programs, Etienne has offered to answer any questions you may have. You can contact her at the email below.