By Professor Jerono Rotich
In Summer of 2020, Kenya Students in Diaspora (KESID) Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization registered in North Carolina, initiated a fundraising effort to support International students impacted by COVID-19. The KESID fundraising committee acknowledges the generous donations, support, and prayers received from the Kenyan Diaspora community in the USA during the one-month drive between July 1-July 31, which raised over $10,000. The committee deeply extends its appreciation to all the over 170 donors, supporters, and partners. It is greatly indebted to the following vital partners and supporters: Kenya Scholars and Studies Association, Diaspora Life Show and Standard Digital Videos, Daily Nation, Trumpet of Hope Ministry, Kassfm International radio and television, Kenyan Report YouTube, Kenyans in America COVID Relief Fund (KACRF) initiative, Chege & Kariuki Initiative, Global Diaspora Development Foundation GDDF, Interior OP Transport, and Global prayer radio, Kenya Parents Association, Rev. Wambui Njoroge among others. Through the generous donation, KESID Foundation was able to support 31 Kenyan international students. In addition, the Kenyans in America COVID Relief Fund (KACRF) initiative supported seven more students. Your generous contributions alleviated some of the anxiety and stress that Kenyan International students in the USA encountered during this time of unchartered waters.
The COVID-19 Pandemic significantly impacted Kenyan Students who are among the more than 1,000,000 International students who choose to broaden their education and life experience in higher education institutions in the United States. Although most Kenya Diaspora was indistinctly aware of the challenges international students would face, this awareness did not hit home until a collaborative zoom conference on June 25, 2020 when the Kenya Scholars and Studies Association (KESSA) Monthly zoom series hosted a joint presentation with Kenya Students in Diaspora (KESID) Foundation and Diaspora Life Show that focused on the “Impact of COVID-19 and Currents Events on Kenyan International Students in the USA. This session was a moment of awakening, thought-provoking, and life changing. This presentation was later covered on Standard Digital Videos and Daily Nation (Saturday July 11, 2020). According to this article, “Kenyan students in the USA were left to ponder their next move after leaving”. Prof. Rotich pointed out that “most international students are grappling with this new immigration policy development and are now living in heightened fear, anxiety and uncertainty amid the Pandemic”.
KESID was launched at the end of these sessions when Prof. Jerono Rotich was stirred by the student panelist’s stories and wanted to help students impacted by pandemic disruptions. She called a few friends, and after some initial passionate discussions, they created a committee to deliberate on assisting the international students who had been considerably affected financially. This resulted in the launching of an emergency fundraiser. The KESID fundraising committee members comprised of the following; Prof. Jerono Rotich (chair and founder), Dr. Jesse Muchai (vetting chair), Dr. Patrick Mose (applications and blind reviews chair), Dr. Peter Ndiang’ ui, (social media chair), Dr. Robert Chiuri (Ohio), Mr. Anthony Kamnao (Missouri), Ms. Miriam Mbotha (Idaho), and Dr. Walter Wanyama (North Carolina). The committee members started meeting from July 2, 2020 and worked diligently to strategize on raising emergency funds to help students with basic needs.
In order to maintain an objective transparent process, the committee designed an online application, and Kenya International students currently enrolled in the United States colleges and universities were invited to apply online between July 4-July 24, 2020. The funds were explicitly aimed at helping students’ basic essential needs, such as food, personal items, medication, essential bills, among other unmet individual financial costs due to loss of campus employment due to closures. A total of sixty-nine applications were received from Kenyan International Students from various institutions and states by July 5.09 pm on July 24. To ensure fairness, equity, and transparency, the committee utilized blind reviews to vet the applications and determine the recipients. Although the committee met several times, the recipients’ vetting and selection were the most emotional moments of the entire process. Even more problematic was the pains and energy it took in determining which student was more deserving than others. All the narratives and justifications in the applications were genuine, real, emotional, and sometimes heartbreaking. Ultimately, the committee had to settle on the painful reality that they could not support all the applicants due to the limited funds raised. For that reason, we were able to support 31 students (44.9% of all applicants).
At this challenging time, KESID cannot take each donor’s sacrifice lightly. The chair and the entire KESID community are grateful to the dedicated committee members for not just donating but sacrificing their time to complete this task in the most transparent manner possible. We are also indebted to the international students who presented at the zoom session and all applicants without whom this process would not have been necessitated.
Although KESID has made a dent as alluded to by the testimonials from students, this venture’s need is humongous, and through it all, we have learned that we cannot stop now. For some students, we are all they have. Below is a sample of the responses from the recipients:
- “To everyone involved and KESID Foundation, I really appreciate you helping me out with the money I just received; I saw the cheque today; thank you so much. Infact, tomorrow I have an appointment with the doctor’s office, and this money will help a lot; I will also use some of it to buy food until the school opens, God bless you”.
- “I from the bottom of my heart appreciate you and your team for the money send to me a week ago, Thanks for standing with me and the Kenyan student community here in the US, May the almighty God see you through all your undertakings!!!!!!Barikiweni Sana, (I wish to reciprocate in a big way in the near future)
- “I really appreciate it. Also, what you have done is more than I could ask for. I would also love to keep in touch. Have a wonderful week. Thank you”
- “I am writing this just to say a big thank you for your help. I was really excited when i got the cheque. You have really relieved me from the pressures I had. Thank you soo much. May God bless you abundantly and may He give you more. Thanks once again”
- I would like to thank you so much for the generous fund that I received on the 28th of August Your generosity has lightened my financial burden which allows me to focus more on schoolwork. I hope that one day I will be able to help students just as you have helped me. I appreciate it more than you will ever know.
It is also important to note that, besides monetary support, the organization will continue to partner with other stakeholders to provide mentoring and networking opportunities.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
KESID Committee Members:
- Jerono Rotich, Professor and North Carolina Central University, Founder and CEO of KESID, President of KESSA, Committee chair
- Robert Chiuri, CEO and chairman of Global Standards Resources & Institute (USA), Committee member
- Anthony Kamnao, Founder of Double Impact ministry, Founder & CEO of KEMEN (Kenya Men empowerment network), Committee member
- Miriam Mbotha (Idaho), Health Care Provider, Committee member
- Jesse Muchai, CFO of KESID, Engineer at Cummins Inc. and Chair of the Vetting of applications team
- Patrick Mose, Instructional Designer, Ohio University, Vice President of KESSA, Chair of applications and blind reviews
- Peter Ndiang’ui, Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, President of African Network of SW Florida, Social Media Chair and Co-Chair of the vetting team
- Walter Wanyama, Engineer at Caterpillar Inc., Committee member
To learn more about the Student Emergency Fund and donate, visit their website.https://www.woyogdc.com/kesid. All your donations are tax -exempt.