A Hero, by Sara Goff

March 3, 2013 · 1 comment

the-savoy-photo

Valentine’s Day was special this year. My husband and I attended The Prince’s Trust Invest in Futures Gala Dinner held at the Savoy Hotel in London. Comedian Michael McIntyre hosted the evening, and singer Gary Barlow OBE, which means he’s received high honors from the Queen, provided the entertainment. The guest list has boasted plenty of celebrities in the past, including Cheryl Cole, Jools Holland, and Lulu, to name a few, but consisted mostly of leaders in the financial services industry. Celebrity chef Lorraine Pascale designed the three-course menu with a grand finale for dessert, poached-pear in wine with jelly and crème anglaise, each served within a life-size baby swan ice sculpture. Needless to say, for this event, they went all out.

The Prince’s Trust is the leading youth charity in the UK. Founded by Prince Charles in 1976, it helps tens of thousands of disadvantaged youth every year, giving them the skills and confidence needed to turn their lives around. Last year alone, The Trust raised over 50 million pounds, which allowed them to assist 54,000 young men and women in finding employment or starting their own business.

I’ll never forget the young man who spoke at the Ball, buzz-cut, mid-twenties. He stood on stage, before 400+ highly successful artists and professionals, and with heroic courage shared details of his life that he was probably still struggling to accept himself. Battling a speech impediment, a stutter he developed at an early age, he spoke about how he moved from country to country with his brother and parents, about how he and his brother took the brunt of his parent’s abusive relationship, and about the name-calling and bullying he endured, school after school, because of his stutter. Then his mother died of a heart attack at the age of 38. Still in his early teens, he began many painful years of drug and alcohol abuse. He remembers longing for an education, a skill, any hope for the future, as he fell deeper into depression and addiction.

That is his story prior to entering The Prince’s Trust program. Now it is his testimony. He received computer training, rebuilt his confidence, and became a leader within the charity, helping other youth. He made peace with his father and the two of them work together, repairing computers and game consoles.

I have something in common with Prince Charles, HRH The Prince of Wales. No, no, I am not royalty, but I sincerely and wholeheartedly believe in the hidden potential of our underprivileged youth. In 2010, I started a charity called Lift the Lid, Inc. We sponsor schools throughout the developing world and encourage creative writing.  For every donation of $20 (£15) or more, a student from one of the schools we sponsor writes a poem or personal essay, which is published on our website at lift-the-lid.org. We have seen how self-expression and positive feedback builds confidence. That, coupled with the financial support for education and training, can turn a depressed and angry young person with no self-worth into an intelligent, active contributor to society. While Prince Charles acts locally, for good reason, our focus is global.

One of our Kenyan students, Zipporah Nyongesa, wrote an essay in exchange for a donation. She titled it “A Hero,” and in it she wrote:

“A hero to me is not just someone who fought for his/her country. Or went inside a burning building to save a life. But a widow who survives everyday by herself. A teenager against all odds getting through life.”  (Here is the link to her full essay: http://www.lift-the-lid.org/2012/11/a-hero-by-zipporah/)

Zipporah, just 12 years old, has the natural ability to express her thoughts and shows tremendous understanding and compassion for human nature. Though her family sees her talent, they unfortunately do not have the money to pay for her schooling. Her parents are uneducated, jobless, and rely on their small farm to provide for her 7 siblings. She comes from Lugulu in western Kenya, which is near Kitale, a rural town situated between Mount Elgon and the Cherengani Hills.

Zipporah is rather shy, but when asked about her biggest dream, she says it’s to make it into Lenana Girls High School, a self-sustaining, scholarship-based girls school being built in Kitale. (You can learn more about Lenana Girls High School and how Lift the Lid is supporting it at http://www.lift-the-lid.org/schools/kenya/lenana-girls-high-school/.) We are looking for donors to help keep Zipporah in school so she can advance to high school and then, hopefully, university. She has the potential; she just needs the opportunity.

So what will be remembered by the hundreds who attended The Prince’s Trust Charity Ball? The waterfall of orchids over each table? The diamonds sparkling throughout the room like a constellation of stars? For me, it will be the moment that young man concluded his speech about how The Prince’s Trust changed his life . . . the ballroom erupted into applause, he smiled, and everything else paled. Where there is opportunity, there is the potential to shine.

  • http://LifttheLidandseeWhat'sInside Alfredo Olavidez

    What a better way to promote a ministry than to present a real-life experience of change. Although for us there are very few and the wait-time is long, we do have some success stories which I would be glad to share.

    We equate Ziporrah’s concept of a hero to that of our “Street Angels”. We once promoted our ministry by searching for “Street Angels” to assist us in reaching out to the children on the street. We might do that again by printing “Street Angel” on the back of T-shirts to give away to donors.

    We are told that each of us has a Guardian Angel to help and protect us. I too would like to believe that God will call His “Street Angels” to serve as His instruments to bring about His purposes, and will for each of the street kids under our care.

    What joy would it bring us to see the children succeed after the opportunities given to them!

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