Samantha is an internationally-recognized fashion model and globetrotting traveler with her sights set on making the world a better place. Through her efforts initiating a self-started NGO and gathering a vibrant group of professionals to aid in moving a vision forward, “Kids for Tomorrow” was born. Samantha was able to take a few minutes to share her journey with us.
Please explain a bit about your background and the journey that led you to where you are today?
I am originally from Seguin, Texas, a small cow town outside of Austin. I was brought up by a policeman and a housewife turned local philanthropist. I knew I wanted to do something in this world, to make my mark and to feel that I have helped in some way. I didn’t want to just get the same job everyone else had, and go through the same routine (not that that was a bad plan). I felt like I needed to experience the world and make my life count for me. I was given an opportunity right out of high school to become a model, travel internationally, and live in exotic places for work. How could I pass that up? But through my experiences I was faced with the harsh realities of the world. I was lucky to have a strong support system at home and continued my journey, seeking fulfillment. After moving to New York and finding my home here I still felt a need for something bigger. When I took my first trip to Kenya, something changed inside of me. I met a group of people that were helping students and teachers in the slums and I felt an urge to be a part of that. I knew that there were tons of charities and nonprofits out there and I didn’t initially think I’d start a nonprofit; I just wanted to help.
Explain your connection to education and also a little bit about the history behind Kids for Tomorrow.
I grew up believing that school was a chore, though I did have moments when I enjoyed it. Like most kids in our country, school was a must, not something we wanted to necessarily do. When I met these students in Kenya I woke up and realized how much I have taken for granted in my life, and education was something I never really thought of as a luxury. As I’ve grown and seen and met new people, I realized just how important it is that we educate our youth. We need world leaders that believe in great things. Without literacy, our future looks bleak. Educated people have a chance to create a better future and I wanted to be a part of making that happen.
What was your first experience like in Africa?
My first trip to Kenya was in December 2005. I had expected the country to be riddled with wildlife, open plains, rural villages and indigenous cultures. When I landed in Nairobi, I was shocked to find a large bustling city, and it was at that point that my world was about to change. I met some amazing people that really taught me a lot about life and those people really touched my life. I remember once walking through the slums and noticing a small group of students standing outside one of the temporary shacks. They were taking notes outside of a window. Apparently these students had been turned away from school because they were unable to pay their monthly fees and the teachers could not afford to keep them in class. I was shocked that these kids were still in uniform outside of class trying to get that lesson through the window. I decided on that trip back to New York that I would be doing something to help.
What’s the best part about the schools you’ve worked with in Kenya?
The best part about these schools is watching the students learn and grow as individuals. The help that Kids for Tomorrow is extending to them is allowing for a healthy and safe environment in which to learn. Seeing the children’s excitement about education and knowing that Kids for Tomorrow is doing a part in making that happen has been so rewarding.
2012—a potential year of great change. What change do you predict in your life?
That’s a big question. I had a rough end to 2011. I suffered a major head injury in October and recovered during the rest of the year. I could not travel or work and was stuck at home, which, as a result, made me think more about my life. I decided I was taking everything for granted. I have been blessed to be able to bounce back so quickly and be back to work within a few months of this accident. 2012 has already been and will continue to be a great source of change for me. Certain things are much more important to me now and other things that I thought were important just don’t mean that much anymore. Kids for Tomorrow is growing. We are building a permanent structure for Sewa Junior Academy and we hope to see that completed this fall. We are also working on the curricula for local projects in the States and opportunities to create dialogs. Hopefully these efforts will foster mutual understanding through a peer exchange with students in the schools we are supporting in Kenya and the students in schools here in the States.
Words to live by?
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.” — Sophocles
Powered by Facebook Comments