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By Hayley Imel B


eatrice Williamson was just nine years old when opportu-


nity came knocking on the door of her family’s small mud house in Kenya. Op- portunity came in the form of Anna Larson, a grand-


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mother who had traveled all the way from Sweden to meet little Williamson. Months earlier, Williamson had found a mis- sionary’s wallet with $8,000 in cash and several passports. She said she was illiterate and could not read the documents, but her conscience told her the wallet was something important. Williamson and her father returned the wallet, and its contents, intact. Moved by the act of integrity, Larson came to Kenya to ask Williamson’s father one question: “What can I do to help?”


Help was one of many things that were in short supply for the Williamson family. Even though both her parents had jobs, they still made less than one dollar a day. Williamson remembers being able to count the number of days she had a meal.


Kenya and asked her the same question Anna Larson asked years before: “What can I do to help?”


Williamson’s mother was a schoolteacher in her home village. She said a young girl in one of her classes, Michelle, would die without $50 for a tetanus shot. Williamson said she didn’t hesitate to send $100.


“I wanted to give back because someone gave something to me.”


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Despite the seriousness of the family’s cir- cumstances, instead of asking for food or mon- ey for himself, her father asked Larson to help him send his girl to school.


“If you are a woman, education is not a high priority for you, period,” Williamson said. “But it was not my father’s heart’s desire for me to be a second choice.”


Larson said as long as she was alive, William- son’s education would be taken care of. She kept her promise and paid for Williamson’s tuition until she passed away when Williamson was a sophomore in college.


“Looking back at her, she was just an or- dinary lady,” Williamson said. “To this day I don’t know what she had to give up to send me to school.”


We saved $650 on energy costs... and we have a greater


comfort zone. A New Life


Little did Larson know, her seemingly or- dinary gift to Williamson would begin an ex- traordinary legacy.


Legacy of Hope Williamson was able to fi nish all her school-


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10 OKLAHOMA LIVING


ing in Kenya; then she came to the United States to attend college in Oklahoma. How- ever, she could not afford tuition after her sophomore year. That’s when she said she saw not only that America is blessed, but also that Americans have giving hearts. She was hired as a youth minister for City- church in Oklahoma City. After getting a job, Williamson said she called her mother back in


In 2007, Williamson founded Maisha Inter- national Orphanage to feed those children. However, Williamson began to notice the kids were hungry for more than just food. She said she remembered her father’s focus on educa- tion.


EVELYN KENNEDY Gales Ferry, Connecticut


Maisha’s mission is to feed, clothe and provide the children with means to receive an education. The children in Kenya must pass a national ex- amination in order to move on to high school. Four years ago in the


Beatrice Williamson, Maisha International Orphanage founder


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Michelle was an orphan. Both her parents died of HIV/AIDS, and as is common in Ke- nya, she was already the breadwinner for her siblings at just 10 years old. Williamson’s par- ents didn’t have much food to spare, but they told Michelle she and her siblings could come by any time they were hungry. The next day, her parents woke up to 27 mal- nourished children outside their home. Soon after, more than 60 starving kids were waiting outside. Williamson said her mom cooked every ounce of rice and beans they had in the house.


“These kids, these conditions, it’s just the


saddest time ever,” Williamson said. “They didn’t choose this life.”


It was then Williamson realized she would be sowing seeds of hope for a better future.


A breakthrough in pure comfort.


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