“A Small Act” is a documentary that has won many awards, not the least of which is an official selection in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. The film, directed by Jennifer Arnold, takes viewers into the heart of Kenya as they tell an extraordinary story about the importance of education. In Kenya, as in many poor countries in the world, the children and their desperate parents know one thing: education is their ticket out of poverty. An education means jobs, which means money, which means no more hunger, sickness and homelessness.
Chris Mburu grew up in a very poor village in Mukubu, Kenya. Though Mburu was a bright child his parents could not afford to pay for his secondary school education. But, as Mburu tells the story, “an angel came for me.” That angel was Hilde Back, a Swedish citizen who decided to make a donation of $15 monthly through a special program that helped put Kenyan children through school. “It wasn’t much, a drop really,” Back says in the film. Maybe not, but Back’s contribution enabled Mburu to continue his education.
A drop for Back; an ocean for Mburu.
Mburu was at the top of his class, attended the University of Nairobi and received a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Harvard for his graduate studies. He is now a lawyer with the United Nations investigating human rights abuses. Mburu, forever changed by Hilde Back’s generosity, decided to create a similar scholarship fund to give needy children the chance at an education like he had. He named the fund “The Hilde Back Education Fund,” and began a search to find his benefactor to thank her in person. The film follows his search and, ultimately, the close bond he creates with a surprised Back when Mburu locates her.
Intertwined with the newfound relationship between Mburu and Back, the filmmakers tell us the story of three young, bright, and very poor Kenyan children who are studying for a national placement exam. A certain score will qualify the children for a scholarship from the Hilde Back Education Fund – the only way these children could afford to go to school. Watching the tense moments from test taking, to finding out results, to awaiting news of the scholarship, is a heart wrenching walk through their pain. They and their families know that this is their only way out of poverty. I cried as I watched, realizing how many children in developed countries take education for granted. These children would give anything for the chance to go to school.
An interesting side note to the whole story is that Back is a Holocaust survivor who escaped Nazi Germany with the help of a stranger. She never forgot that one small act, which meant everything to her, and it is this attitude that she carries with her that motivated her to make the $15 monthly donation in the first place. It is an attitude that was passed to Mburu, the recipient of her kindness, who is now passing it on to others.
“When you do one kind thing, it ripples,” Back says in the movie. It sure does. Giving back, paying forward, what comes around goes around, one small ripple makes a wave – whatever you call it, what it is about is one small act of charity having one huge impact on humanity. Don’t ever tell yourself that you can’t make a difference – you always, always can.
For more information about “A Small Act” and where you can see it:
A Small Act
For more information about the “Hilde Back Education Fund”:
The Hilde Back Education Fund
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