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Change-maker interview with Mama Lucy

Friday, July 23, 2010 by Marianne Elliott

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Mama LucyMama Lucy Kampton is the founder and headmistress of Shepherds Junior School in Tanzania. Mama Lucy used to sell chickens. Convinced that education is the key to overcoming poverty, she saved her income and, in 2003, used it to start a primary school near her home. Over the last seven years she has grown the school from one classroom with fewer than ten students, to a school that now serves more than 300 children at eight grade levels.

Stacey Monk, our next change-maker guest and founder and CEO of ,Epic Change, met and worked with Mama Lucy when she volunteered at Shepherds Junior in January 2007. This is what Stacey had to say about Mama Lucy:

She is an incredibly savvy business woman who runs her school with grace, charisma and humility. She’s proud, but never arrogant . . . I cannot personally believe all that she has built – single-handedly – simply to make the lives of these children better. She is totally generous, has utter faith that whatever resources she needs will be delivered, and never expresses a single doubt about the school’s future.

Stacey isn’t the only one with good things to say about Mama Lucy. I met one of her young students on Twitter and he sings her praises. Gideon Gidori (whose latest Twitter update reports that he learnt about circumference in maths today) says:

Mama Lucy is a very intelligent and a person who works hard so that we can get good education.

Let’s face it, the fact that Mama Lucy has enabled her student to learn about and access tools like Twitter is a sign of her foresight and her passion for their futures.

Here, then, is Mama Lucy:

What is it that breaks your heart? What fills you with hope/joy?

My heart breaks when I come across people with negative attitudes towards development or positive change in this world.

My heart is always filled with hope/joy when I’m able to bring even a slight positive change. Whenever I succeed to bring a smile/hope to someone by touching his/her life in a positive way, my heart pumps with joy. True joy must accompany others too!

What are you doing about it?

I play my part every day to do something to make this world a better place to live in for someone. I know, as a human being, that is my responsibility. Whenever I do anything, I never think of failing or not succeeding. I always believe, for anything good, the universe will never let me down.

When I started a school, I aimed to have a school that could provide the best education to all the children of my community. I knew that to have something good, we needed enough resources/funds. Because I didn’t have enough funds, I came up with the idea to mix children whose parents could pay, with those who are less fortune. I knew that from the parents who pay I could support orphans and others.

This system has helped a lot! Since I started, children of different backgrounds and situations all enjoy studying at our school, sharing everything equally. No one can pick which kid is from a well-off family or which is an orphan at our school. They look alike – they are all happy and study together, share the same food, compound etc. We don’t talk about the differences, because we don’t want to affect them psychologically or remind them about their status. This makes me very happy and proud of what I’m doing.

How did you get started doing this?

I can say this was in me, since I was a young child at school. I was always happy to help others solve their problems. I felt very good when someone came to me for help in class and when I was able to help them. When I was running my poultry business, many people came to me to seek my advice and I was always happy to assist. There are so many people who were able to start their own business and succeed through my support and encouragement.

When I started a school, some of my friends and relatives said I wouldn’t succeed because it required a lot of money. They all thought it would be too difficult. Now, they are happy and some of them are enjoying the fruits of my efforts. Thank goodness I always look forward, I expect obstacles to come. I always hope for the best to come. That’s the way I am.

What do you do to take care of yourself and to make sure your work is sustainable?

No one can do this kind of work alone. You need people to think, plan, and work together. I always look for good people to work with. I look for people who can help create what I’m dreaming of. I needed good teachers who would be willing to accept what I could afford to pay, knowing that together we’re supporting our people and community to bring changes.

My work is just to manage the school and to see that everyone is working towards our goals. It’s my job to give space to everyone to share her/his views about what we are doing. This makes everyone feel valued and part of our success. Another part of my job is to make sure we have the money to pay the rest of the team. I have to find ways to get funds to maintain and develop our school.

By sharing the work, the work gets done and we can reach our goals. It also empowers everyone working with you. As for taking care of ourselves, we don’t need much for our family, we have enough from my husband’s income. The challenges I’m facing are common ones and I’m sure everything has its challenges.

Do you have any advice for someone who dreams of doing what you do?

As long as what you want to do is good and important to this world, there is no need to have any fear. The only thing you need to do is to plan and put your hand in to start. From there, the universe will support you. The world is waiting for people to take charge. When you take a step, the world will take you a mile.

Twitter chat with Mama Lucy and Stacey Monk

Mama Lucy and I will be chatting on Twitter (use #zpchats to find us and join in with any questions you may have) on Tuesday 27 July at 16:00 GMT, that is 5pm in London, 12 noon in New York, 7pm in Tanzania (where Mama Lucy will be) and (eek!) 4am here in New Zealand. This will be a double chat, Mama Lucy and I will be joined by Stacey Monk, who I’ll be interviewing here early next week. So don’t miss this chance to talk to two amazing and inspiring women!

The beautiful photo of Mama Lucy that accompanies this interview was taken by Tim Llewellyn who also took a stunning series of portraits of the students at Shepherds Junior School.

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4 Responses to "Change-maker interview with Mama Lucy"

  1. Sam Guthrie says:

    What a beautiful person and an inspiring interview! Wow! This has really helped me today. Thank you.

  2. This is so great! Mama Lucy and Marianne, thank you… as I plan this year’s Summit these are the exact words I needed today:

    “As long as what you want to do is good and important to this world, there is no need to have any fear. The only thing you need to do is to plan and put your hand in to start. From there, the universe will support you. The world is waiting for people to take charge. When you take a step, the world will take you a mile.”

    THANK YOU for these words and all the good work you do! Hope to see you ALL there! (I’m looking for sponsors again, Mama Lucy. Can you come 15 – 17 October?)

  3. […] so she pours her energy into supporting people who are making positive changes already. People like Mama Lucy. Stacey is gracious, enthusiastic, savvy and compassionate. I’m a big fan of both Stacey and […]

  4. […] you’ll recognise the names of some of the other people who have also been invited: women like Mama Lucy, Stacey Monk, Letha Sandison, Maggie Doyne and Jen […]

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