A Stirling student will miss her graduation ceremony this month as she heads off to tackle her next challenge.
On 30 June, Susan Peattie should be joining hundreds of Stirling graduates in being capped by the Chancellor of the University, Today presenter Dr James Naughtie, to celebrate her achievement of a BA Hons in French and Spanish.
Susan had planned to climb to Everest base camp in January to raise funds for the orphanage in Mombasa that named a street after her. Instead, she spent two days sleeping on the floor at Heathrow airport due to the severe snow and ice, before she was offered the alternative to climb Kilimanjaro in June.
“I thought that would work,” says Susan, “as I would then be able to take a bus to Mombasa to work in the orphanage after the climb. I’m sorry I’ll miss graduation, but I can’t afford to come back.”
Susan first encountered children from the Calvary Zion Children's Home when she went out to teach at a nearby school in 2005. Finding that the orphans were being taught in the free state schools, which have 100 children in a class, she set up a Trust to fund private schooling for the youngsters.
“These are children who have been abandoned or are homeless,” says Susan. “One of the children was left on a rubbish tip as a one day old baby – he was still attached to his umbilical cord. Others have been snatched from their village by paedophiles and brought to the city. They will have parents, but they don’t know their own names or where they came from; they don’t know how old they are or their birthday.”
Susan set up The Calvary Zion Children's Home Support Trust - a Scottish registered charity which raises money to put the children into private school and supports them into employment. “It gives the girls a future as teachers, as opposed to going on the streets or selling mangoes by the side of the road,” says Susan.
“One of the things I’m going to research when I get out there this summer is driving lessons for the boys. The older boys we find don’t do so well at school as they started so late, so they need a skill to stop them falling off the edge when they leave. If we can pay for them to learn to drive, they can be employed to drive taxis, safari tours or buses.”
Susan knows at first hand the importance of being able to choose the right future: after 15 years working in Jobcentres in Alloa, Falkirk, Stirling and Kirkcaldy, she took a year out to decide what she wanted to do next. It was during that year that she taught in Mombasa and so met the children at the orphanage.
Since 2005, she has raised £64,000 for the children’s education and has funded the building of a new home which will allow them to take more children. It is the street which leads to that new home which has been named Susan Peattie Avenue.
After working at the orphanage all summer, Susan will make good use of her language degree – she starts work in August, teaching English at a nursery school in Kazakhstan.