An Interview with Mr.Ron Bell, Director and Founder of the CPG Student Sponsorship Program
Q. Ron, what inspired you to begin this program?
My first experience as a volunteer for Caring Partners Global occurred in 2004 when I taught for seven weeks at Matangwe Primary School. I taught math and science for grades 6, 7, ad 8. I had to function with none of the equipment I was used to as a teacher in Canada before my retirement. There were not enough desks for all the students, and those fortunate to have a desk had to share the seating with 3 other students packed tightly together. I also realized, during afternoon classes, the students tended to become somewhat lethargic, since most hadn’t any food in their belly since possibly the previous day’s evening meal.
However, despite the challenges they faced, I became impressed with the potential possessed by most of my students. In Canada, I taught chemistry and physics at the high school level, and feel I am strong mathematically, but the truth is the math expectations for grade 8 Kenyan students forced me to be well prepared before entering the classroom to take up some of the math questions they were required to solve. Also, I was impressed by the fact that students in the upper grades, 6, 7, and 8 were able to converse in 3 languages, Luo, Kiswahili, and English.
When it was time to return home I realized it was not fair to create an emotional connection with these amazing children for a period of 7 weeks, but then disappear forever out of their lives. I vowed if I should ever return I must develop educational projects which will positively impact their lives forever.
By 2006 the student sponsorship program was initiated along with the feeding program and uniform provision for between 500 to 600 primary school students each year.
“All these students need is an opportunity; they do all the rest!”
Ron Bell, Founder of the CPG Student Sponsorship Program
Q. What were the obstacles you had to overcome to get this program off the ground?
With regards to the student sponsorship program, I obviously had to find people in Canada willing to provide the money required to sponsor a student at boarding schools at the secondary level. It was imperative we send our sponsored students to boarding schools, since day schools lacked proper facilities and trained teachers, resulting in very few, if any, graduates obtaining the academic results required to further their education at a college or university.
In 2006 we asked a sponsor of a secondary school student to donate $550. At that time I pursued relatives, former teaching colleagues or students, and friends, and fortunately in 2006 we were able to sponsor 15 secondary school students. Raising the money required to support the feeding program and uniform provision was initially a challenge, and for 9 straight years, beginning in 2005, we raised money by organizing an annual fundraiser.
I am aware that without donors and student sponsors nothing gets accomplished. Donors and student sponsors are my highest priority, and I must always be completely open and honest in order to gain their trust.
Q. What is one of your favourite highlights from your experience with these students?
My greatest highlights occur when I return to Kenya and meet post-secondary students and post-secondary graduates in groups at various locations throughout Kenya, and realize how they have matured and progressed since they began their sponsorship as form 1 students at secondary schools. I wish all our supporters could personally experience what I experience when in the presence of these confident and talented young Kenyans.
Q. What does the future of this program look like?
I believe the future looks promising. I myself am getting older, and realize at 76 years of age nothing is guaranteed. I hope to be able to remain involved and travel to Kenya for a while longer. However, I am hoping younger people, including some of my own adult children, will decide to experience what I have had the pleasure of experiencing as a volunteer for Caring Partners Global.