In 2014 Jim Hacker was invited by his longtime friend, Bob Ackerman, to go to Friends of Ngong Road’s Annual Gathering to learn about a program Bob cared about. Bob knew the founder of the program, Paula Meyer, and had become a sponsor shortly after the organization was founded. Bob had told Jim several times about his involvement prior to the event, but Jim said it was like “reading readiness” for him that day – he was in the right mindset at the right time that year.
At the Annual Gathering, Jim was impressed with the transparency and strategy of the organization – to make a lifelong difference for students who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance. He saw an opportunity to teach his own granddaughters about the realities of global poverty and for them to potentially form a relationship with someone living a completely different life than theirs in Minnesota.
The day after the Annual Gathering, Jim went online to see the students waiting for sponsorship. He said that after reading their stories it would be hard not to do something. Having four granddaughters, Jim was drawn to sponsor Winnie. Winnie’s HIV positive mother was doing well on her antiretroviral medications, but the family was struggling to pay their rent, afford food, and send Winnie, her sister, and her two cousins who were also living with them to school. Her mother ran a fruit stand, and the few shillings she made each day could not keep up with the family’s needs.
Winnie started going to Jagiet Primary School. She made new friends both at the school and in the program who gravitated toward her and her sunny personality. At camp that year, she was seen with friends all around her and sporting a constant, joyful smile. Winnie for the first time felt like she belonged and had a group of friends and counselors who understood her.
In the U.S., Jim anxiously awaited Winnie’s handwritten letters that included hand-drawn flower borders and pictures. He loved to share them with his granddaughters on their morning drives to school. Jim admits that the relationship has not gotten as deep and communications not as frequent as he would like, but in Winnie’s last letter, she wrote, “You know, I am now twelve years old.” He thinks that is a hint that she is ready to move into more grown-up conversation.
Jim’s involvement in transforming Winnie’s life started by just saying “Yes!” to a night out with a friend. Since then, he has had a dramatic impact on one little girl’s life and encouraged his sister and son to also start sponsoring students. Jim is considering leaving a gift to Friends of Ngong Road in his will as he believes in the long term impact the program can have and wants the mission to live on well beyond his own lifetime.
Jim is a hero to Winnie and all of the students at Friends of Ngong Road. Thank you for your support, Jim.