News and Events

Spreading the word in France

HBEF Founder Chris in France joined by HBEF Post Beneficiaries John Meshack of Ecole Centrale de Nantes  University and Edward Karumba who recently joined Science Po University for a run in promoting Education is a Human Right Campaign. Both students are doing very well in France.



Last Updated on Thursday, 07 February 2019 08:30

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"a small act Jamii" is here!!

Wednesday 3rd October 2018 was a great day at HBEF. It was Ms Hilde Back’s 96th Birthday! In commemorating the day;   ‘a small act Jamii’ ; a community of HBEF stakeholders coming together to support the work of HBEF, was launched. HBEF Founder Chris was in Sweden to celebrate with Ms Hilde while HBEF Board Members, Staff, Post Beneficiaries and friends joined together in making ‘a small act Jamii’ a reality. Below are the photos for the event. To read more on ‘a small act Jamii’ click here;








Last Updated on Thursday, 04 October 2018 12:00

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Aspiring to Give Back to Her Community

I am Purity Mutisya, I joined the Hilde Back Education Fund Scholarship program from 2014-2017.

I was introduced to the program by the area Member of County Assembly because I had performed well.

I did my KCPE in 2013, joined high school in 2014 to 2017 attaining a grade that granted me a university pass. I leave with both my parents; I will be joining Kenyatta University to undertake Nursing, However; they are financially unstable to cater for my university studies. So am still waiting for financial assistance to begin my further studies.

My greatest benefits from the 4 years with the HBEF program are the motivational talks and the POA skills that helped me a lot. The lessons taught during the program highly motivated me to attain my Grade and I still apply them out here.

My goal is to be a nurse, serve and give back to my community in health care and also internationally in my career. I will be a dedicated & devoted health care advisor to the entire community and society at large.

My own ’small act’ is that am currently volunteering in my former school as a teacher for young children.

Thank you very much HBEF. Wishing you all the best.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 October 2018 10:54

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UWC Waterford Kamhlaba doors open for Alphonce.....

Alphonse John Ochola, one of our 2017 KCSE best performers with our Executive Director when he visited our office. Alphonse will be joining the United World Colleges (UWC) early next year and we at HBEF are so happy for his achievements so far and we wish him well in his education journey.

Please give us a brief about yourself, your family, your upbringing and schooling.

I live with my mother, two older sisters and a young sibling who is in primary school. My father died when I was twelve. At seventeen, I have molded into a positive young man who hopes to find it in him to be able to impact his society. From when I first joined school, I have excelled academically and latter this has spurred wholesome growth in me. From my family and experiences growing up, I have adopted virtues such as kindness and compassion and purposed to project that out onto the world. School has been the defining factor for me. There, I have learnt to engage different kinds of people at varying levels and to be focused and determined on what I want to achieve.

Most of all, I have wanted to think of myself as a good boy.

When and how did you get in the HBEF Scholarship program?

When I sat the KCPE exams in 2013, I was sure I would score high marks and gain admission into a top secondary school. This brought with it the realization that a lot of money would be needed to see me through high school. Luckily, I had a good relationship with my school`s head teacher and he had advised most of us top students to seek scholarship opportunities as soon as the results would be released. One day he called me to school and showed me the HBEF booklet/questionnaire. We promptly filled it and on the day of interview at Migori County Education Offices, my mother and I made our plea. Luckily, it all ended well.

In summary, what could you say were the greatest benefits you derived during the 4 years you were under HBEF Program?

The fees at prestigious institutions that offer quality education are often a discouragement to ambitious young people who happen to hail from financially disadvantaged families. I have been most fortunate to survive this disheartening bit of reality and I feel obliged to express my sincerest gratitude to the organization.

I had a solid basis from where I could spring and envision myself whichever way I wanted to go. I was able to savor a world of unending possibilities. Such grounding is important for anyone that wants to achieve something immensely positive.

Did you hold any Leadership responsibility at your former school? If Yes, how did this contribute to your own development and success in your performance?

Yes. In my second year, I vied for and was elected as class representative by my colleagues. Through that, I learnt to be responsible and not only for myself. I also had to foster strong interpersonal relations with everyone I worked with, from classmates to the administration.

My biggest take- way remains that the greater welfare of the entre fraternity is always more important that the individual. Also, until one is willing to leave their comfort zone, they will not be able to discover some of their innate abilities.

Handling fellow teenagers can be tough call, but only until you find ways to get them to respect you.

In third form, I captained the Houses Football team during inter-house competitions. This was largely because I was one of only a handful of house members who played in school team where I had worked my way into the starting eleven. Belief and drive was low in the house`s team due to performances in recent years. It`s a long story but with the help of two or three other individuals, we marshalled our house`s team to the final of that year`s last such competition, an unprecedented achievement through the four years I spent in the school. Every time I remember this, I remind myself, ``You have only to believe, and then go about it’’

Tell us about the scholarship opportunity at Waterford Kamhlaba including how you got to learn about it.

In December of last year, Moses, who works with HBEF was, the one who would usually attend my County’s BMSV sent my mother a text message with a link to UWC website.

What I learnt there (and later reinforced when the interviews for scholarships were held) instantly left me impressed> United World Colleges is way more than about schooling. It is about harnessing the power of education, bringing people together to advance peace and for the betterment for our world. Diversity is embraced and the education transcends. This is evident in the foundational structure of the organization`s schools. School populations are multinational, an array of out-of-class programmes carried out that enables the students to experience the world in all its spheres, and emphasis is put on the relation between the school and the community in which it resides, and finally several rare disciplines are offered to allow wholesome growth.

It should be life-changing experience and only for the better I can hope.

What are your goals and where do you see yourself in the next 5 /10 years?

What I want to achieve is inevitably entwined with something I believe in; That we all havr great potential and should always seek to tap from it.

I envision a world where youth growing up feel free and compelled to invest their talents whichever way they want to for the good of society. This would require a shift in general perception and societal structures. Hopefully, I will be able to contribute my bit to such a cause.

In the next five years, I intend to have become a professional footballer, published a book, completed my first degree and advance in computer programming

Any final thoughts.

It all starts with a small act. Then you watch out for the ripples.

Thank you everyone

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 September 2018 10:30

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January - June 2018 Newsletter

The latest newsletter is now on the website ready to download; it serves to inform on what HBEF has been up to the last 6 months. Enjoy the read:January - June 2018 Newsletter

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 July 2018 11:40

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Taking Every Opportunity with both hands


Read about Joseph Wainaina Waitugi; HBEF Leading Student in 2017 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education.

1.      Please give us a brief about yourself, your family, your upbringing and schooling.

My name is Joseph Waitugi Wainaina. I am the last born in a family of five children. I was born in Limuru and attended Rongai primary school here in Limuru. I scored 386 marks in my KCPE and joined Moi High School Mbiruri in 2014. I completed in the year 2017 scoring an A- grade of 80 points in the KCSE.

2.      When and how did you get in the HBEF Scholarship program?

I had applied for a scholarship with the Equity Bank but I was not successful. Luckily, I got someone in the Equity Program who called my Dad so that I could apply for the HBEF scholarship. I attended an interview in Githunguri and it came out successful. That is how I became a HBEF beneficiary.

3.      In summary, what could you say were the greatest benefits you derived during the 4 years you were under HBEF Program?

It was the great opportunity to go to a good high school and continuously learn without going home for fees and the hope and motivation to achieve my dreams.

4.      You emerged the leading student out of 112 HBEF students who sat for KCSE in 2017, what can you attribute your success to. 

Most of all is about hard work, discipline and smart work. Motivation from teachers and HBEF made me succeed. 

5.      Did you hold any Leadership responsibility at your former school? If yes,how did this contribute to your own development and success in your performance?

In 2016, I was elected as the school captain. This made me to be a responsible person and trying to be the best example, made me to work even harder.

6.      Tell us about your admission in the Equity Foundation Leadership Program

I was admitted in the Equity Leadership Program in January 2018. I was the top student in Embu County


7.      Which University and course have you been admitted to?

I have been admitted to the University of Nairobi for a course in Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery

8.      What are your goals and where do you see yourself in the next 5 /10 years?

I want to see myself as a successful doctor owning my own hospital. I want to see myself as a role model to young people and also a mentor.

My goal is also to one day help a needy child go to school.

9.      Any final thoughts.

I would want to thank the HBEF for the scholarship given. Lots of gratefulness from my parents because where I am today is because of that small act from HBEF.

A word of encouragement to other HBEF beneficiaries is that this is a golden opportunity, exploit it and make sure that HBEF will never regret having you. Remember to have a vision. A vision without implementation is just a hallucination.

Thank you HBEF, God Bless.

Kindly click here for the video interview;


Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 June 2018 10:11

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The Sky is the Limit Edward !!!


Edward Karumba, one of HBEF leading students in the 2017 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education was recently awarded a scholarship by Master Card Foundation to study at Sciences Po University in France. At HBEF we celebrate with Edward and wish him all the best as he proceeds on with his education journey.

  1. 1)Please give us a brief about yourself, your family, your upbringing and schooling.

My name is Edward Karumba, I’m 17 years old and I was born in Kinangop, Nyandarua County. My family consists of five children raised by both parents. My father who is a driver and my mother who is a casual laborer. My brother recently graduated from college (Diploma in community development). My three younger siblings are in elementary school. I have been raised in a Christian humble background. One thing that echoes in any family setting is, how education is the only key to bring change in the community, and this is something I hold onto dearly. I studied in Kanyungi Primary School, scored 393/500 marks proceeded to Kenyatta High School through a God sent scholarship opportunity and managed to get an A- and at this point I humbly wait to enroll for my University studies at Science Po University in France.

  1. 2)When and how did you get in the HBEF scholarship program?

After completing my primary education, I got a letter of admission to Kenyatta High School. Unfortunately, there stood a barrier, a challenge in paying the school fees. It was a very troubling time since no aid was forthcoming and time was running out, it actually brought me down to some depression moments. However, sometime back through my head teacher we got to know about HBEF, with faith I got the papers and applied for the scholarship and eagerly anticipated for a positive reply. Fortunately I was granted a scholarship to continue studying and things have never been the same ever since I joined HBEF.

  1. 3)In summary, what were the greatest benefits you derived from HBEF program under the period of 4 years now.

Primarily, I’d say that financing my high school education was the major benefit and I always had it in mind that I should work hard to show that I was worthy to receive the scholarship. Thanks to the monitoring programmers held thrice a year this was made possible. I got many skills not just to cope with education but life at large. I would want to extend my sincere gratitude to Madam Sarah who constantly encouraged me and the rest of the team to continuously work smart. I also learnt of the important role HBEF was playing in so many young peoples lives and vowed to do the same in future; to help bright challenged students financially.

  1. 4)Did you hold any leadership responsibility at your former school? If yes, how did this contribute to your own development and success in your performance?

During my high school days, I was an academic representative for my class thought the four years. Having a responsibility to speak for a group of peoples’ needs (academic) was a major milestone for me. I learnt to always be vocal about minor things that contribute to fulfill long term goals. Actually something dubbed “action focus” at one of the monitoring forums. The ability to concentrate on small actions to achieve the major goals.

  1. 5)Tell us about the scholarship opportunity at Science Po University including how you got to learn about it.

After receiving my form four results, I was very happy to have scored fine grades, but that joy momentarily lived. Again the financing of my University education was a problem. I’m a living testimony to God’s miracle because I received a call from HBEF informing me about a possible highly competitive scholarship by Master card foundation (MCF) at Science Po University. At first I was nervous to apply for it is only given to five candidates from sub Saharan Africa would qualify. Yet again, God worked a miracle and I was granted the scholarship through a series of long applications and interviews. At this point I want to greatly thank my mother, because she always believed in me. The scholarship is offered by MCF to help needy students to learn a special program at Science Po (a leadership program comprised in a bachelor of arts) in order to come back and integrate change in the community. It is a fully fledged scholarship which I intend to make the most out of it. After the Bachelor of Arts, I intend to major a masters in Economics or Law.

  1. 6)What are your goals and where do you see yourself in the next 5/10 years from now?

I wish to make the most out of my studies on campus. I tend to major in either Economics or Law. Thereafter, school I want to possibly start a program that gives back to society. This should be aimed at mentoring bright needy children. To uphold and make the motto “Education is a basic human right” not just a dream but a reality. I’m passionate about the possibilities of poverty education through careful economic plan, proper representation of the citizen and intolerance to a major vice in Kenya “corruption”. I hope that in the looming near future I should be taking strides to achieve the above.

  1. 7)Any final thoughts.

I sincerely, want to thank the Hilde Back Education Fund, all the above would surely be impossible without their kind help. May God Bless this organization abundantly. I would also like to send a message to my fellow brothers and sisters currently in High School saying that, “the sky is the limit, by working smart in school, all doors will stand a jar before you”. Always at all times make sure you stand worthy to HBEF scholarship. THANK YOU HBEF.



Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 November 2018 11:42

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Young to young: An exemplary American youth changing the lives of kenyan children

By: Niamh McDonnell


As a Kenyan charitable organization, Hilde Back Education Fund has allowed for connections throughout the world.  Creating these educational opportunities in Kenya has helped to form global networks between sponsors and recipients.  Sam Finkel, a high school senior from Rockville, Maryland, is one of HBEF’s most inspirational donors. He’s been sponsoring two students through their secondary education from the time he was 12 years old. As the son of a physician, and court appointed special advocate (CASA) for children, Sam has grown up with the same values based in educational work: empowering kids in every way one can.  Last week, Sam sat down to chat with us about how he first began to get involved with HBEF and the impact it’s left on him. The work that he’s put into sponsoring HBEF students has helped to create two more leaders of the future; the fact that he himself is a student makes that work even more meaningful. Sam exemplifies the change one can bring about in the world, even from a young age. He’s a shining example of what we can expect from the generations of the future.  It’s never too early to be making a difference in the world, big or small. Having accomplished so much already, it’s clear that Sam aims to make a big impact on the world; we’re excited to see where the future takes him, because we know it’s going to be bright.

HBEF:  You’re a senior in high school, but you’ve been a Hilde Back donor for quite some time.  Tell us a bit about how you first discovered HBEF, and what inspired you to donate your money for students in Kenya?


Sam:  “It all started in December 2012; I was 12 years old at the time.  My mom came to my family and said ‘You guys need to see this HBO Documentary.’  It was called A Small Act. [The film focused on] Hilde’s story as a Holocaust survivor, and her sending small amounts of money to a program which she knew was for education. She didn’t really know who she was helping— but that was Chris, who went on to become very successful.  He attended Harvard, and now works for the UN. [Seeing that journey] was the start of it for me. At that time, I was also preparing for my Bar Mitzvah. My synagogue, Temple Emanuel, requires each student to conduct a meaningful service project during their Bar or Bat Mitzvah year.  [I’ve always found] education to be really important, and I wanted to do something that was significant to me. I also wanted to do something that could impact someone close to my age. So when I saw the documentary, and I had my Bar Mitzvah project, it all came together. Last Fall, I had the privilege of meeting Chris and his local family, who live near us in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  He was working in Washington, D.C. at the time and joined myself and my family for the breaking of our fast. When we observe the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, we fast for 24 hours. Then, we break the fast with a dairy meal. It was a really special meeting, and we had an awesome time. Chris brought me a cool shirt from Kenya too.

HBEF: Chris mentioned that you’ve been sponsoring multiple students? Do you know them or keep in touch with them?


Sam: Yes. I started sponsoring one student named Samuel Sila; he was the first student.  I had actually only planned to sponsor one student. I had to raise money, and I did so through making speeches at my school, and fundraising sermons at my synagogue.  I contacted the filmmakers of A Small Act to show it at my synagogue as well.  After viewing the movie at that same event, I skyped with Chris, who was in Ethiopia at the time.  I moderated questions about school in Kenya and the Hilde Back Education Fund. So I had begun with Samuel in mind, but I [ended up] raising over $4000, which allowed me to sponsor John Waweru as well.  Through social media I’m able to contact them on Facebook. Samuel is currently studying at Pwani University-Kilifi, and wants to pursue a degree in Arts Education. John recently finished his final exam of the 4 year secondary school sponsorship.  He did extremely well— only 17% of students scored with an A or A- grade, and he was one of them. He’s now planning on attending Nairobi University for a Bachelor's Degree in Real Estate.   When they were still in High School, I used to get reports and letters from them each month and I would write back. t was really cool to not just be sending this money, but to be keeping in touch with John and Samuel and really seeing their progress.  That was really rewarding for me.

HBEF: You’ve just been accepted to Tulane, which is amazing! Congratulations.  What do you plan on doing in the future? Is it related to non-profit work?


Sam: I definitely think so.  I got into the Honors Program at Tulane, but my major is undecided so I’m not exactly sure.  I’m leaning towards a pre-med track, and potentially helping health and medicine in underdeveloped countries such as Kenya.  I definitely plan to stay involved with the Hilde Back Education Fund, and possibly go to Kenya this summer to work with Chris.   

HBEF: What does education mean to you as a sponsor of HBEF who is a student themselves?


Sam: As a student I’ve always loved education, specifically teaching.  In class, I really enjoy the feeling of helping kids who maybe don’t understand the material in the moment.  Being able to help them, and see that look on their face when they understand the material is really inspiring to me.  In school I do a lot of education-related activities. As the president of the National Honor Society, I get to interact with students, and talk to underclassmen about their struggles, whether it’s academically or socially. I’ve always been really interested in education, but HBEF really inspired me, and further motivated me to help other kids my age.

HBEF: What has HBEF meant to you over the years; what impact has it had on you as such a young sponsor?


Sam: As a student here in the U.S., I think a lot of kids take education for granted; they don’t really think about it.  With Chris, I know his motto is ‘Education is a Human Right,’ and that’s something I really agree with. In Kenya, it’s obviously not guaranteed that kids get an education.  I think Hilde Back Education Fund, has really made me think about how grateful and blessed I am to be able to have an education without having to really worry about it.

HBEF: As someone who has been doing inspirational work from such a young age, what’s your response to those who don’t believe young people can really be taken seriously?


Sam: That’s a tough question. I would say that obviously it isn’t true.  Whatever you want to put your mind to, if there’s something you want to accomplish, you’ve got to block out the people who don’t believe in you.  You have to continue your own journey, as Chris did— he was given the chance to do something with his education through Hilde. He was extremely successful, and he was my age.  So it’s a matter of trying to do your own thing and not worry about what others think.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 June 2018 11:59

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A Small Act That Continues To Give Back: The Story of Patrick Kimani


By: Niamh McDonnell

kimani jnr kimani now
BEFORE: Kimani in 2007 AFTER: Kimani in 2017


As the Hilde Back Education Fund sends hundreds of bright students to secondary school in Kenya, they continue to check in on students who have now further pursued their education by attending University. Those who have seen A Small Act will remember the bright young boy named Kimani- one of the school’s top students, whose dream was to become educated. Almost 10 years after filming, Niamh McDonnell, HBEF communications volunteer based in New York, interviewed Kimani to shine a light on where his education has brought him, his plans for the future, and what it was like to be given a leading role in the film. Having spoken with him, it’s clear that he is grounded in his abilities yet he never stops dreaming big. And with all that he has accomplished so far, it’s clear that there is no reason for him to think otherwise: not only is he an inspirational figure for HBEF students, but he is the perfect example of what an education can bring to the world. We hope that Kimani’s story serves to further exemplify the significance of HBEF and its contribution to the world, as well as to inspire those who are able to sponsor a student of their own.


You were one of the shining stars in A Small Act. What was that experience like for you; did you know you were going to have such a large role when they were filming?


When [the film crew] first came to my school I did not know what a documentary movie would look like. The documentaries that I had seen were [usually] about animals, so I didn’t know what a documentary would look like in my situation. And because I was really desperate about going to school, I remember my first reaction was: ‘I get a scholarship if I get to be part of this’ so I really did not care what I had to do; the possibility of me going to high school and giving me this chance was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I didn’t think past ‘I’m going to get a scholarship.’ That was my huge excitement. I remember telling my mom and my grand-mom, and those were the same [feelings] they had. They were like ‘you get to have a scholarship, we have to do whatever it takes.’ I remember we were given contracts to sign, and we never really read into them. We were not hoping to make money; we were just excited that I’d get to go to high school. So a big role wasn’t in my mind, it was just: ‘I have an opportunity where I can have enough money to go to school,’ which was something that my grandma and my mom had never thought would be a possibility. They were very excited about that aspect of it.

kimani school sm


I know initially following your story in the film there had only been one spot open for the scholarship. What was that experience like for you?


It was hard realizing that there was three of us and now they had to choose one. Obviously at the very end when the scholarships were handed to us, we were not sure who was going to get it and who was not going to get it. So it was a moment of ‘I am not sure whether I’m going to be chosen, I am not sure if I’m going to be a part of this.’ So it was hard for us to think that I get to be really excited and hopeful, but at the same time, I might not get this. [At one point] I was really hopeful and everything was looking really good, and then it seemed like it was not going to happen. So it was really hard.


Having become one of the faces of the Hilde Back Education Fund, what impact has that had on your journey through your education?


I feel really grateful for what they have done; every time I reflect on how far that I’ve come, HBEF plays a big role in that picture. And at the same time, that picture comes with a huge responsibility and obligation that I have become a success story of something that is really helpful for kids. And I’ve become an inspirational figure to kids from my school, kids from my village, and kids at the foundation. So it’s this feeling of being looked up to by people who are younger than you or people who know about HBEF. And it’s been overwhelming in the aspect of having to uphold this success story, not only for the benefit of myself but for other kids to know that it is possible for them to pursue something and actually be able to go. And HBEF has not only given them a chance to do that, it’s giving them resources to be able to access this. So it’s lots of obligations and responsibility, but it’s also a challenge to keep going and keep pushing and telling kids ‘you can do it. If I did it, if I was in the same class as you, if I was in this village with you, and there’s opportunity through HBEF, you can also be [this] person.’


Has being given this position as a rolemodel stressed you out or does it just make you happy?


It has both moments to be honest. It has moments where you feel that you’ve been looked up to by all these kids. I remember going back to my village and these kids were looking up to me. I taught a class last summer when I went home for the first time, so I had been here [in the States] for almost two years. And then I remember going back home last summer, and being in the same class where the movie was shot. I was talking to the kids and telling them ‘you can do this.’ And then I remember leaving, and coming back to the U.S., and sitting in a class feeling ‘wow, I just told someone they can do it. And here I am in a class and this thing that I’m trying to study for is not actually working!’ Ha ha ha. So there’s this balance of ‘am I going be extremely stressed or am I going to push through and stand out for other people?’ It’s been a lot of me sacrificing myself to be like ‘ok. Someone else is looking up to me; I gotta do better.’

kim mentoring



What has education meant to you over the years?


I think it’s meant access to resources. Access to people who are of different opinions from me, of different perspectives from me. It’s also brought me success in small steps that I can slowly see. I remember when I was going to school at home in Kenya, education was the only thing that I could look up to to become somewhat useful in society. It was the only key to becoming someone who could be very helpful and successful. Education was big. It was big for my family; it was big for everyone in my village. I had to do something. I had to become successful. So education has given me that hope of becoming successful. It’s also continued to push me to go beyond what I know and explore the different resources that education gives. Going to school in Kenya was completely different than going to school here. Here, I’ve had instances where someone mentions Africa, and because I’m from Africa, they look to me to tell them about it. And sometimes it’s such a general reference- Africa is big. I’m from Kenya. When someone looks [to] me, it’s like ‘ok. I need to have a perspective that I can present to them, for them to be able to understand that I might be from Africa, but I do not represent all of Africa.’ So I’m trying to immerse myself in those kinds of conversations. And open-mindedness has been the other thing that education has given me.



Having said that, what was it like moving to America for University; was there an adjustment period of culture shock?


There was a lot of culture shock, and that was just what I had to do. The movie can show you the village that I grew up in. So my access to any Western aspects were from a TV. I remember it was a seven inch by seven inch black and white TV that one of my neighbors in the village used to have. I love watching movies; and so does my mom, so we would go to my friend’s house and we would watch Hollywood movies. My mom, for some reason, also loved soap operas. I remember growing up with my mom and taking her. Because I’m the first born, I would go with her since she had to walk almost half a mile to go to my neighbor’s house to watch them. The soap operas were the Days of Our Lives, and The Bold and The Beautiful, etc. So my perspective [of the West] was soap operas, Hollywood movies, and that Western approach to us through the media. For me, it was mostly thinking that when I get to the U.S. I’m going to see skyscrapers everywhere, expensive cars, and people owning expensive houses.   I didn’t expect to see corn; I didn’t expect to see cows. But I went to Wisconsin! [At one point] I’m in Chicago and I’m so excited because it’s Chicago! I’m thinking it’s a big city and I’m going to see all this once I step out of the airport. But then I remember being in the airport and looking at people, and I’m like ‘this looks really different from what I expected. This looks so different.’ [In Western media] the presentation of people is not real, especially through the movies. I’m not seeing everyone as blonde, or big and muscular. I went to Wisconsin and everything was so different; I had to adjust. The next thing was food. I remember eating so much fruit in my first three weeks of school that my meal plan expired two months into the semester! It was the only thing I was used to. I remember being very excited to leave Kenya and to come here, and my body was really excited. So the first few days was excitement of ‘I wanna see, I wanna explore, I wanna immerse myself in this whole U.S. setting.’ After two days, I hadn’t slept. I was jetlagged but my body didn’t want to sleep. I remember after two days my body and my system just broke down. I fell asleep and slept for 14-15 hours straight. My sponsor Linda was so worried. I woke up and I couldn’t recognize it. It took me about two hours to actually readjust and come back and realize ‘this is where I am.’ So it took a while for me to get used to the food, but now I can eat almost anything. I love Italian food. And I remember the first thing my sponsor family made me was lasagna. It was delicious; I had never had that before.



You’ve mentioned to me that you’re going to school full time and working. What are you currently studying and what have you been working on?


I’m studying communications. I was heavily hoping to venture into the film industry and make films; I still have that hope. I hope to graduate this coming May. I’m [also] currently working as an intern at a law firm in Seattle. I got the opportunity about a month ago, and it’s been really fun working there. I’m there part time. And because I didn’t have a job before this, when I was talking to a bunch of my friends last year they mentioned that one of their friends was looking for a babysitter and someone who could clean their house. So I’m basically a [nanny] on the side!



Do you think that having had the experience on the film influenced you to take a media/film route?


Yes. I think that was heavily a determinant because I love cameras. Especially the practical part- doing the camera work, the videography, the editing; it’s really impressive to me how all those things fall into place and make one beautiful thing. Growing up, I always wondered how that happened. I would watch television and I would be like ‘ok. The guy is obviously not behind the TV, so where is he?’ So that thinking, and then having Jennifer [Arnold] come up to me and do the documentary, I think it changed my whole view of it. It was like: ‘this is how it actually happens. This is actually how it’s done.’ And it’s changed how I view [film]. Growing up I used to be in the school journalism club. I would read news during assemblies so I wanted to be a news anchor. I still want to do that sometime in the future. So the film had a really big influence in me taking a media route.


*Niamh McDonnell is a volunteer HBEF communications adviser based in New York, USA

Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 July 2018 12:17

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Harrison goes to America for University


Today I am a happy man indeed. Emotional in fact. Exactly 25 years ago today, on the 22nd August 1992, I left my village in Kenya, went to the airport and boarded an airplane that took me to America to begin my further studies at Harvard. This was after having had my early education sponsored by a generous Swedish stranger, Ms Hilde Back (pictured). Today, another lucky Kenyan boy has just left his village under very similar circumstances and boarded an airplane for the first time to go to America for his unviversity studies. Harrison Kitema, whose education was sponsored by the Hilde Back Education Fund (, the Kenyan charity that was named after my Swedish benefactor, is on his way to Pennsylvania, where he will study at the reputed Franklin and Marshall University. It's a dream come true for Harrison. As for me and Hilde as well as for the foundation, it's a moment of great pride.

Harrison scored A in each of the 8 subjects he was examined on. He is no doubt one of Kenya's finest young minds. We wish him the best as he embarks on this new journey in America, and look forward to welcoming him back in a few years to help us educate and empower more poor kids, for EDUCATION IS A HUMAN RIGHT!!!

By Chris Mburu - HBEF Founder

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 August 2017 07:03

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Free public screening of 'A small Act' in Seattle

If you are in Seattle and can make it for 'A small Act' screening please see the details below; there will be a Q & A session afterwards with HBEF founder Chris Mburu and Kimani Patrick who are both featured in the film.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 July 2017 05:00

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