EFAC Volunteer Travels to Live and Work with Students at VGGS for 3 Months

Education For All Children is excited to introduce you to our newest volunteer – Mona Kyle! Mona is travelling to Kenya on August 25th and will live and volunteer there at an EFAC partner school, the Vanessa Grant Girls School, for 3 months. Mona is from Malibu, California where she has lived for 25 years. Mona is a J.D. and recently went back to school to earn a certificate to teach English as a second language. Mona believes in education, and that education is what is going to help us survive as a people in each and every country across the globe.

Looking for an opportunity to give back and do something of value at this stage in her life, Mona was in the process of considering the Peace Corps when she had a serendipitous meeting with EFAC Founder, Nancy Van Sciver. As EFAC’s best advocate, Nancy shared the story and needs of EFAC with Mona and invited her to consider traveling to Kenya to find her opportunity to give back. As Mona was already in search of an opportunity like this, this sounded like the perfect commitment. Mona hopes that three months in Kenya will allow her to understand if this type of global volunteerism is something that she can do to make an impact and hopes that this will be the next phase in life for her.

Mona will be living and working at Vanessa Grant Girls School in Rongai, Kenya. She is really looking forward to working with high school age girls. She has heard about how excited these students are to have the opportunity for education and she is excited to see this in person. Additionally, Mona loves spending time with young people and watching how their minds work. She will be tutoring students in all subjects and will specifically be helping students with computer skills and English classes. She may also spend some time working with students at the Rongai Boys School as well.

Mona is an avid yoga enthusiast and sent 25 yoga mats to Kenya in advance of her trip. She hopes to find time to share yoga with those students who are interested at VGGS. Mona hopes to provide them with a peacefulness that she has always found in yoga. EFAC is excited to provide our students with this opportunity.

Mona’s goal for this trip is to immerse herself in the cultural experience of another place, another country in hopes of gaining a larger world view to share with her son, her family and others. EFAC is so excited to have Mona join us in Kenya and we look forward to posting updates from her upcoming travels both here on the blog and on social media!

The Importance of EFAC's Mentor Program in Teaching Communication Skills by Walker Royce

One of the important values of EFAC is the mentoring that sponsors provide to the students. The financial support is a necessary prerequisite, but the wisdom of life experience is a precious resource for guiding their education investments toward a rewarding future. We sponsors need to also act as mentors and help teach the stuff that they don’t teach you in school.

Communicating more effectively tops the list of almost everyone’s self-improvement aspirations, yet it usually gets little emphasis in mainstream curricula. This is also the #1 goal of most business organization’s strategic plans, most family counselor’s advice to partners, and most supervisor recommendations to employees who want to grow their careers.   

Why are students, employees, supervisors, parents, spouses and teachers so laissez-faire in teaching effective communications? One hypothesis is that communicating more effectively is personal and introspective. It requires people to get outside their heads to evaluate what they need to do to improve. It also takes objective critique, and forces us to make judgments about personal style. Such objective self-reflection is rare, limited to the few truly egoless people who can do it well. Finally, the most effective communications are honest, and we all know how hard it is to be honest with ourselves and with others, especially when discussing sensitive topics.  

I was lucky enough to attend excellent public schools and several elite institutions of higher learning (the U.S. Air Force Academy, Cal Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and UCLA). I have worked at companies that are considered standouts at investing in employee education, including TRW, Rational Software Corporation, and IBM. Surprisingly, as I reflect back on my privileged path of education, I can’t recall any courses spending much time on the topic of improving communication. Furthermore, most of my primary sponsors and authority figures didn’t encourage me to care.

We could blame our schools and parents for ineffective teaching, but we students were equally at fault: We were so smart in our teens and twenties that we didn’t listen well to our instructors or parents. My father, who earned a PhD in astronautics from the California Institute of Technology, was an expert in the benchmark of hairy stuff, better known as rocket science. Although he was a gifted writer and communicator, he never emphasized to me the importance that those skills played in every facet of life. Or maybe he did, and I wasn’t listening. My mother, a voracious reader, writer, and lover of crossword puzzles, did emphasize the importance of communicating well in her words and her actions, but my brain was not wired to listen to her as I went through my formative years. That was my loss, because she was right. I was naturally gifted in math ability, so science and math became my self-proclaimed identity. Most of my school clique had no use for the more social skills of English. Our future was certainly some sort of engineering or scientific pursuit. English, literature, writing, speaking, and teamwork exercises were for the social-studiers, not for engineering studs like us. How naïve we were.

There are few growth paths in this world that don’t require strong communications skills. Just look at any profession and you will see that most of the standouts have learned how to communicate more effectively than their peers.

As mentors to EFAC students, our one-on-one communications are a powerful channel to make an impact. Emphasizing the importance of communicating effectively is a gift we can all bring to our students and to their teachers. We can do it in our words, and we can also do it by practicing what we preach in our direct communications with them. We must also make this lesson fun and relevant or it probably won’t be attractive to our youthful students. That next email or letter you send off can make a big difference.  

Walker Royce is the Chief Software Economist at IBM and the author of three books. Walker and his family are also EFAC sponsors.