Limitless Through Every Limitation by Mercy B.

December 17th, 2018|

I think of two words every time I read Mercy’s poem: Fire and Optimism. Through her words, in just three stanzas, she is a leader and she is humble. “Being limitless through every limitation,” says it all.
You might say, How the heck am I supposed to live limitless? I'm limited to who I am, first of all, and, secondly, what does that even mean?
I'm sure the word can be interpreted many different ways, maybe even an unlimited number of ways. 😉 Living limitless to me is simply trying new things: taking a walk you wouldn't ordinarily take; talking to someone you wouldn't ordinarily talk to; treating yourself to something, in an act of self-love; pushing yourself to do something, overcoming a fear. Layer by layer, peel back your limitations by opening new doors for yourself, welcoming the possibility of positive change beyond what you can see or know.
Mercy earned Second Place in Lenana Girls’ High School (Kitale, Kenya) Sixth Annual Writing Competition sponsored by Lift the Lid. This is a big accomplishment, but even bigger is the effect her words will have on all those who read them. I’m proud to support her and every student at Lenana in ever becoming their best. Thank you to our donors for giving our students the opportunity to share their talent, hard work, and passion. By caring, you give them the chance to shine!

A High Stakes Lesson in Peer Pressure

December 6th, 2018|

Lilian Kaluki was this year’s Second Place winner of Lenana Girls’ High School writing competition sponsored by Lift the Lid. I'm happy to share her essay with donors who gave to our end-of-year fundraiser. So far we’ve raised enough to buy eight computers for the students at Lenana, and we’re hoping to purchase at least two more.
Lilian writes about a recent lesson learned when her girlfriends went to a disco after being sent home from school because of unpaid fees. She writes, “One man in the club had the idea that the ten girls were school children. He organized a deal with two more men. They attacked the girls and hid them in a small dark room. Three girls were raped while the rest were beaten thoroughly.” Her essay addresses the fact that still in many countries and towns young women, even in groups, are not safe out at night.
Lilian listened to her instincts and stayed home, but she could’ve easily gone with her friends. Telling her story is important. The horror her friends endured and continue to live with leaves a warning not to be forgotten. One that may influence other teens to forego excitement for safety when there are risks.
I'm grateful for all our donors who support our students, their writing, their education, and their good decision-making. Below is Lilian’s essay: Lilian Kaluki-Peer Pressure1-2ndPl 6th Comp-Skillen-Lenana-Dec2018 Lilian Kaluki-Peer Pressure2-2ndPl 6th Comp-Skillen-Lenana-Dec2018

Writing Competitions – Here’s Why

November 15th, 2018|

I have applied to and have not won many writing competitions, but as I tell our students, it’s your preparation, your courage and your feeling of accomplishment having entered that makes applying an invaluable experience.
After many hours of thoughtful writing and rewriting from 29 of the 60 students at Lenana Girls’ High School in Kitale, Kenya, and the many enjoyable hours I spent reading and rereading their work, Lift the Lid announces the winners of Lenana’s 6th Annual Writing Competition. Two First Place winners, four Second Place winners and ten Honorable Mentions have been chosen, with monetary awards for the First and Second Place winners.
Tracey Wamboi-6th Comp-1st pl-Lenana-Oct2018


The school receives a donation of books in celebration on the competition and all participants are given writing tips and individual encouragement. Every year, students who haven’t placed in our previous competitions go on to win awards, but the heart of the competition is about becoming a stronger, braver, more honest writer.
Our 2018 First Place winners are Tegla Chepchumba and Tracey Wamboi. Congratulations! We are so proud of you. I always highlight what I feel is the best sentence (or two) of every participant’s essay. Here are the sentences I highlighted for Tegla and Tracey:
“I came to learn that experience is the best teacher, as I am working hard in school so that I can restore my friends, relatives and my father about Female Genital Mutilation beliefs.”  –Tegla Chepchumba
“In that trauma, I sought comfort in painting and drawing pictures.”  –Tracey Wamboi
Below is the first page of Tegla's essay. To read more, as well as Tracey's essay, click here.

The Jerrycan Girl

August 14th, 2018|

Dorothy Chepkemoi is the winner of Lift the Lid's Eighth Annual Writing Competition at Mogonjet Secondary School in Bomet County, Kenya. In her essay titled “This Is Me," she describes the moment it sunk in that she was without a father. She writes, “When I was in class five, I realized that I had no father. This really gave me the motivation to work extra hard in school. Since we were many, poverty started knocking at the door.”
In order for her mother to keep up with school fees, Dorothy and her seven siblings went hungry. Villagers called her “the Yellow Jerrycan” when she’d go out looking for milk and food. They’d close their doors. Classmates avoided her for her tattered clothing and lack of soap and oils. But she didn’t give up.
She accepted her obstacles, as great as they were and still are, and decided to fight back. She knew if she stopped trying, she’d deny herself the opportunity to make a better life for herself and her family. Now Dorothy is creating a reality in which she’s no longer “the Yellow Jerrycan,” rather the First Place winner of her school's annual writing competition with Lift the Lid.
I remember a time in high school when I was particularly low on self-esteem and really wanted to be good at something, anything. I knew I wasn't the lucky type who easily racked up achievements; I had to work for them and fail a few times first, at best. But instead of becoming angry and discouraged, I decided I'd do whatever it took to earn some kind of recognition and feel proud. After listening to "Break My Stride" by Matthew Wilder many times over (yes, from 1983), I gave my best in school, sports and theater. Just mustering the courage to try, I felt proud.
I cannot compare my challenges to Dorothy's. She knows how it feels to be hungry and shamed, and her family continues to make sacrifices for her education, but setbacks big and small have the power to pull us off course, if we let them. Fighting back means making the decision to give more and then looking for the support and motivation to "keep on movin’," as the song goes. Maybe Dorothy’s essay “This Is Me” is the inspiration you need?

Dorothy receiving her award

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation on our secure site: Lift the Lid, Inc. Or purchase "I Always Cry at Weddings," and 100% of my proceeds will go to the children.

Hard Work Pays Off, by Kitkat

July 17th, 2018|

Here is another post showing the power of charity giving, especially when funding serves the cause and only the cause. Nothing makes us more happy than to see how music gives the children a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and pride. They can hear the results of their hard work and find pleasure in making others happy as they share their talent. It is a win on many levels and is proven to have lifelong benefits.   Also, below is Kitkat’s Thank You letter, the translation from Tagalog and her original writing: "Thank you for this is the first time I would be joining a Battle of the Bands. I hope someday I would learn to play different musical instruments. I am Kitkat, the smallest in our group and I play the keyboard. I wake up very early every day so I could go to [The School in a Cart] Center to practice. I am glad my sacrifices and hard work are paying off. I am thanking the Lord for helping me. Thanks also to Sir Iddo (Alfredo) and Sir Nonie and to big brother Jerry and also to our neighbors who do not get tired of listening to our singing even if we are repeating the songs many times. Thank you very much!"

The Power of Creative Outlets

May 21st, 2018|

  I have been working on a daily basis with The School in a Cart in Cubao, the Philippines through my charity Lift the Lid since 2011, and many thanks to generous donors, started The Push Cart Children's Band in 2014. The children have enjoyed many holiday and school celebrations, but when they write about their best days, they describe the hard work they’ve put into the band, such as their fear of learning new instruments, the times they've failed to get the notes right, the countless hours they’ve spent practicing, and their insecurities performing in front of crowds.
We can provide and encourage and reward the children of The School in a Cart with happy days, but it is up to them to do the hard work, to overcome their fears and insecurities, and to step out on that stage or show up for the exam.
These are their happiest days . . .

Abet with his drum buddy and mentor Stephano.

Buy a book and help a child! Consider buying author Connie Mann's third book in her Safe Harbor suspense series, Deadly Melody between May 22nd - 29th. All author royalties will go to The Push Cart Children's Band at The School in a Cart in Cubao, the Philippines. Thank you, Connie!
Below is a Thank You note written by 12-year-old Abet. He is one of five siblings, all boys, and his younger brothers are also participants at The School in a Cart, while his eldest brother and their mother act as volunteers. Unfortunately, being accustomed to living on the streets, they still believe collecting garbage to be the only way of providing for themselves. Following the English translation, you will find Abet's original essay in Tagalog:
"I am glad I was given an opportunity to join the coming Battle of the Bands. Initially, I found it difficult to play the drums because my hands and my feet were not yet used to it. But I set aside more hours after our group rehearsal and practice by myself so I would get used to it.
I thought I would no longer be a part of the All Younger Boys Band because I did not come during days of practice. But I was given another chance to join. I would no longer take this opportunity for granted. I would rehearse and rehearse and hope one day I would become a good drummer.
I thank God for giving me this talent. I am also thanking our sponsors who do not get tired of helping us. Thank you also to Sir. Iddo (Alfredo) and Teacher Nonie who are with us every day guiding and helping us."
Speaking for Lift the Lid and the many donors who drive us forward, our happiness comes from each and every one of our students, from every small step of achievement they take and all the words they proudly brave writing for us. It’s amazing how much they are capable of giving!
Learn more about Lift the Lid and read our many posts on The Push Cart Children's Band in the Philippines among other children's writings from Kenya and soon Tanzania!

Piggyback Rides, by Patrick Korir

May 2nd, 2018|

  Patrick writes, “I sometimes find myself longing for those [piggyback, superhero] days, if for no other reason, they represent a time when I believed my parents could protect me from everything.”
A junior (form 3) at Mogonjet Secondary School in Bomet County, Kenya, Patrick thinks back to his childhood as he writes an essay on love. People around the world can draw a connection to his memories of being innocent and idolizing his parents, despite the hardships. His words are a reminder that we all start out craving the love and support of our parents or caregivers. Even though we grow, we become parents, and we age, we never forget the feel of their capable hands on our backs.
“Life was so simple when they propelled me forward [on the swing] like an airplane and gave me the boost to get me where I wanted to go. [Higher!] Hopefully, the memory can serve as a lasting reminder that they are always behind me in everything I do.”

A Parent’s Ultimate Sacrifice

February 12th, 2018|

As the mother of two young boys, I can say without hesitation that I’d give my life to save theirs.
I can’t claim bragging rights for this pledge, though it is clearly brave and selfless. Parents, whether human or in the animal kingdom, are wired to protect their young. Across cultures and creeds, races and generations, our youth, their innocence and untapped potential, has more value than our own. The love, hope, and sense of duty parents feel for their children is why we have life and why the cycle continues.
We see our children suffer and want to kiss away their tears. We long to right them and pray, If only I could take their pain. Conscious thought is not required, our instinct for survival dissolves. Suddenly, the greatest sacrifice becomes the easiest decision.
Do you know of a parent who has given her life for one of her children? Sarah Chebet of Lenana Girls’ High School in Kitale, Kenya has a new heart to sustain her and a story to tell.
“I was given the heart of my father and he died. Nobody believed that he would do such a thing for one child when [my parents] already had four. But he chose to save my life…out of love.”
Here is her full essay, which earned Second Place in Lenana’s Fifth Annual Writing Competition hosted by Lift the Lid:

And So It Goes . . . Love Never Ending

February 1st, 2018|

Deborah writes about love with a child’s unfiltered honesty. “Love is like the sunshine. It shines for a while and then it’s gone … It is like the birth of a child. It hurts for a while, then is soon forgotten, leaving you with only the memories of a wonderful and loving life.” Deborah is only in grade school, but she knows that with love there is also heartache and loss. How early do we learn that love is both perfect and flawed?
When I founded Lift the Lid eight years ago, my first fundraising strategy for our schools was to ask my family to make donations in lieu of my birthday and Christmas gifts. At first, they were uncomfortable without a gift in hand, but they have since come to understand the gift the students are to me. I love each one wanting nothing in return.
The students experience my love through our writing projects, through the basic needs Lift the Lid covers, and through their education, which we strive to improve every day. Their actions and writings pass that love on to their parents, teachers and friends, and so it goes, love never ending.
We are channels of love and connected by it, a force strong enough to unite the world, if allowed to grow.
Thank you, Mom and Tim, for your love and for this year’s Christmas gift, your donation to Namelok Junior Academy in Kisamis, Kenya, where Deborah attends the third grade. Our current priorities at Namelok are to buy text books and to pay the teachers’ salaries.

The Price for New Slippers

January 24th, 2018|

Begging can’t be easy. It takes will-power and a resilience no rejection can break. Patience. A certain amount of acting. And in Cubao, the Philippines, the physical strength to jump on and off jeepneys (open buses), to push through crowds, to run from trouble. The rewards are high: money and survival, so you can see why children, especially, might feel proud to beg.
Lift the Lid received an anonymous donation to The School in a Cart in Cubao, the Philippines, and as always we show our appreciation with a student’s letter, personal essay or poem. Today we have a personal essay from Alexis, or as her friends call her, Kaykay. She describes how she spent Christmas, giving gifts, eating a special meal, and begging. Kaykay does not complain or talk about her shame, rather we see how begging has become a past-time, a means to an income for herself and her family, and perhaps even something she can feel proud of.
Our partners at The School in a Cart, the teachers and caregivers, discourage begging. They reward the children who resist the practice for going to school and doing their homework by taking them on field trips or out for special dinners. They warn of the dangers interacting with strangers, jumping the jeepneys, and traveling out of their neighborhood. But, still, it’s clear that Kaykay does not feel remorse for her actions. It’s an understandable, yet sad, truth.
We will continue to discourage begging, to encourage school, books, play time, music and prayer. We will continue to love and protect these beautiful children, who have an abundance of will-power, resilience, patience, and hope for life.
Kaykay is ten years old and in the 3rd grade. She is the 5th of seven siblings. Here is a translation of her essay from Tagalog, as well as her original work: “Thank you very much Ate (big sister) Sara for everything you have given to us! This is what we did this Christmas. We went to the Riverbank to eat. I also bought a pair of slippers from what I got from begging. Also at Christmas, we were at the sidewalk waiting for gifts from people. There were a few who gave us food and toys. I also gave part of what I got from begging to my mother and she bought me a few pieces of clothing. I Love you Ate Sara. Please do not get tired of helping me. I will study harder.”