I met this month’s inspirational person at an art class a few years ago when we both made a copy of a tiger painting from one of the teacher’s art books. At the time other than knowing her to be very artistic I had no idea of the incredible force she actually was. Some people know her by her African first name Liphethiso, some by her second name Monica, but whatever you call her she is a truly inspirational person.
I think the story Monica told me about herself as a child says so much about the determined, norm challenging kind of person she would grow up to be! “in primary school I played truant, doing everything I could to avoid it, from making my clothes dirty so that whoever was getting me ready wouldn’t send me, to feigning illness. Then I started taking myself to different schools in the area, joining any class that took my fancy! Obviously, I couldn’t follow any of the lessons, I never had any idea what the teachers were talking about. Fortunately, at some point I settled into school and began to enjoy it”. Even a spell in hospital as a child is described as serendipitous, as it led to her interest in the healthcare sector. “I was impressed with what those healthcare professionals did, despite my very young age I told everyone I was going to be a nurse or a doctor”.
At the time Lesotho only had a few high schools, so anyone who wanted to go often had to be sent to boarding school. Which is what happened to Monica, her father although struggling as the only breadwinner managed to pay her fees, but she was still in her first year aged just thirteen when her father died.
Family members knowing that the school fees were beyond her mother’s means suggested work for Monica as a nanny, something that she had already done before starting high school. And for many girls that would have become their path, however, Monica rebelled against this plan and told her mother she was going back into education, and took herself back to school! Again, touched by serendipity intelligence and determination were noticed by the nuns who ran the school, and they worked to find enough sponsorship to cover Monica’s entire high school years. Without this she could easily have not even finished high school, let alone go on to lead the life she has.
Using a local government scholarship scheme Monica went onto university in Lesotho, where she finished her first degree in Botany and Zoology. Not having any idea what to do with it apart from teaching, she did start working at a couple of high schools, but continued to look for a scholarship to study to be a doctor (or nurse). It was then that something unexpectedly changed the course of her life.
Out of the blue she was offered a scholarship to study Veterinary Science in Canada, but she was only given one week to make a decision whether to leave Lesotho and go. Although worried about passing up the opportunity she felt there was no way to sort everything out, and leave for a foreign country within that short space of time. And she was reconciling herself to the possibility of never getting an opportunity like that again, she was offered the chance of a scholarship to study Pharmacy in the United Kingdom.
This time with two weeks to make up her mind, apply to a university and leave Lesotho, Monica applied, was offered a place in Belfast and went to study Pharmacy, later training as a practising pharmacist. Which she did happily until her retirement.
It was during her working years that she became aware of the charity Action Aid, that helped poor children in Africa access education. Seeing this as a way to thank the people who had helped her stay in education, she chose to sponsor a girl. In many African communities girls from poor families can be relegated to caring roles, often with no benefit to them, and perpetuating the poverty in these communities. Leaving women unempowered, with no resources, and no choices beyond raising children. Monica told me that she has always been concerned about the place of women in society in general but more specifically in poor developing countries. She understands the role of women in these society, and is aware of the unique contribution women make in their communities to bring about positive change. That’s why for her, educating a woman has more impact on a community than educating a man.
Unfortunately, unlike Monica’s story there was no such happy ending to the story for the girl Monica sponsored, not only because she didn’t attend school, but because she was married off at the age of fourteen.
Devastated Monica stopped donating to the charity and decided to look for a girl attending the Lesotho high school that she had attended herself, to sponsor directly. She says now that at the time she had no long term plan other than to change at least one girl’s life in the way her sponsors had done for her. But as she began to speak to friends and family about the girl she was sponsoring, other people were touched. And by setting up a charity Educare Fund, gradually the number of girls supported annually increased, until by the end of 2023 sixty girls were being sponsored. Sixty lives changed, young women’s opportunities expanded due to the determination and spirit of one woman.
Monica’s plan for the future is to secure continuation of the work that Educare Fund is doing well into the future, hopefully until it is no longer needed. She is currently working on finding younger people with enough empathy and passion to carry Educare Fund’s work into the future, reaching many more girls from disadvantaged families.
I asked Monica to share a pearl of wisdom she’d like other people to know:
Kindness is a gift that keeps on giving. Throughout my life, I received a lot of kindness, some from people I knew, and some from those I did not. Most without the expectation of getting anything in return. It taught me that this is the best way to give. Give in this way, and hope that those you give to will give to someone else. Experience the joy of giving as I have.
If you would like to help Educare you can make a donation on the Global Giving platform:
Or if you would like to volunteer to help with organising fundraising initiatives, on making effective use of social media to spread the word about the work of Educare Fund. Or help us to improve our website (which is in a really sorry state) please contact Monica directly by email email@example.com
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