Samantha Gobba and Rose Okeyo pose for a picture during a 2011 phil­an­thropy event for Tujelimu hosted by Gal­loway Dorm and the Inter­na­tional Club. Rose Okeyo | Courtesy.

At 10 a.m., the road stretched out dusty and hot.

She sat in the heat of the African sun and watched him walk to school with the tuition his mother had managed to scrounge together. It wasn’t enough; it was all the money they had to spend on clothes and other neces­sities. The little boy’s khaki shorts were so worn the back was riddled with holes.

“He was really happy, and he talked to me about being excited to go back to school,” said Rose Okeyo ’13. “That really touched me, and I was like in the future, when I get a chance, God willing, I would like to help such kids. He had a passion for learning, but his cir­cum­stances weren’t good.”

Okeyo met the boy when she was 18 years old, and her family gave the boy another pair of pants.

Okeyo didn’t forget the little boy. In 2014, when Okeyo was attending Hillsdale College, she founded Tujelimu Charity to help the stu­dents attending Wang’arot Sec­ondary School in the Rarieda Dis­trict of Kenya.

Okeyo was able to attend Hillsdale because donors and other stu­dents helped her, and she wanted to give back to the com­munity and prove to other Kenyan children that they too could earn a better future.

“For me, what really inspired me to work hard and come to America was the people who came to our school and talked to us,” Okeyo said. “I was someone who couldn’t afford to get an edu­cation in America. But I made it, I got a schol­arship to Hilldale and worked hard and earned it.”

At Hillsdale, she befriended Samantha Gobba ‘13, and as the two met to study for their math class, they began to talk about Kenya instead. During their junior year, they part­nered with the Inter­na­tional Club to host a Kenyan dinner that raised over $1,300 and sent 226 text­books to Wang’arot Sec­ondary School before.

“She shared her heart for stu­dents back home in Kenya who are good at school and need to be in school but who can’t be because of finances or the lack of resources,” Gobba said. “So I jumped on board with her, and we started Tujelimu.”

While they were still in college, they began using Tujelimu to sponsor four stu­dents through sec­ondary school, helping an orphan boy pay his tuition and a widow put her child through school. All of them have since grad­uated and started their own careers or con­tinued their studies at uni­ver­sities.

When Okeyo phoned a girl they spon­sored, she cried. As one of eight children, the girl wouldn’t have been able to afford to con­tinue her edu­cation without Tujelimu’s help, Okeyo said.

“She has never met me or seen me in her life, but she cried when I called her to talk,” Okeyo said. “She was so humbled that somebody who didn’t know her took it upon them­selves to support her through her edu­cation when her parents were really strug­gling. And now she is making a life for herself.”

Both Okeyo and Gobba have estab­lished sep­arate careers: Okeyo is studying net­working tech­nology and IT service at Durham Tech, while Gobba is studying to be a teacher and raising two boys in Cal­i­fornia. But Okeyo and Gobba still hope to get a 501(c)(3) cer­ti­fi­cation, which would establish Tujelimu as a tax-deductible non­profit.

“Right now it’s slower than when we first started out. We’re both busy, we both have lives to take care of,” Gobba said. “But there are some things we would like to see happen. We really want to start a men­torship group with older stu­dents men­toring younger stu­dents and helping them with homework and learning.”

With the help of Hillsdale’s Inter­na­tional Club, Tujelimu will be able to buy more text­books for the stu­dents. The Inter­na­tional Club hosted a fundraising dinner and an art auction on Sept. 13, where they col­lected $800 for Tujelimu.

“I’m really happy with the outcome … We had been planning this since last semester, so we’re really glad we finally did it,” said Nour Ben Hmieida, senior and pres­ident of the Inter­na­tional Club. “$800 is nothing for us here, but for them, it really helps.”

At the dinner, junior Ritah Ogayo spoke about the children in rural Kenya who cannot afford decent clothing, edu­ca­tional mate­rials, or the time to study. That need hit home for Hmieida.

“When I came here from Libya, I didn’t think I could afford to go to college because there were a lot of obstacles,” Hmieida said. “And I’m just really pas­sionate about it. I want to help give other kids the oppor­tunity to learn and be able to work.”

Okeyo has yet to determine how many text­books she will be able to pur­chase for the stu­dents, but both Okeyo and Gobba said they were grateful to the club for donating to Tujelimu.

“If you work hard you can do any­thing and go any­where — if somebody sees that effort and is willing to help you,” Okeyo said. “And that’s what I am trying to do: There are bright stu­dents at home in Wang’arot but they need to be helped to see their potential.”