At Brillect, we think what you do outside of work is just as important as what you do inside our four walls. That’s one of the reasons why we’re starting a new blog series to shine a light on the special interests, volunteer work and personal passions of our own Brillect team members.
Making a Difference One Student at a Time
This amazing nonprofit identifies talented, motivated students from economically disadvantaged, rural communities in South Africa and provides them with five-year scholarships to Uplands – one of the country’s leading secondary boarding schools.
“This access to education is completely transformative,” says Anne who recently joined KLM’s U.S. board of directors. “It lifts our scholars out of a life of poverty and puts them on a path to realize dreams they never thought possible.”
Anne recently had the good fortune to visit South Africa to get know some of the KLM scholars and witness firsthand how KLM is transforming their lives.
“My visit to South Africa was life-changing,” said Anne. “I met a student who grew up in a two-room cinderblock house sharing a bed with four cousins. She’s now taking drama lessons. Another student had been helping her mom sell candy out of her garage to support her family and now she plans to pursue a career in dentistry.”
Seeing the Impact
Attending Uplands is the first time many of these students have slept in their own bed or used indoor plumbing. And while the barriers to poverty are tremendous, Anne said she is struck by the resilience, dedication, and hard work of KLM’s scholars.
“These students are incredible,” said Anne. “Despite having to adapt to a new dialect, social network, academic rigor and living environment, they’re committed to changing their world and pursuing big dreams. I’m in awe.”
In recognition of the challenges associated with making such a major life transition, KLM sponsors a maximum of two students at a time.
“KLM is about much more than writing a check to cover tuition,” said Anne. “We wrap students in a cocoon of support, both at Uplands and as they transition to university.”
Whether it’s funding an English tutor, buying a new pair of shoes to play rugby, or outfitting a dorm room, KLM is fully engrained in their students’ lives every step of the way to set them up for long-term success.”
KLM’s supportive approach appears to be working. In a country where only four percent of students earn a university degree, every KLM student who has graduated from Uplands has gone on to university.
And despite rampant unemployment among South African youth, every KLM student who has graduated university has a full-time job in fields like accounting, social work, or law.
More Than Meets the Eye
One of the most indelible moments from Anne’s trip was her meeting with one of KLM’s earliest scholars who started at Uplands in 8th grade and is now a lawyer now in his 30s. He told Anne that KLM was instrumental in helping him build not only a life, but a life worth living. And while some of his friends and family members had successfully overcome a difficult climb out poverty, he said KLM gave him a 10-year head start which shaped his positive approach to life.
“My experience in South Africa was a powerful reminder that there is so much more to people than what you see,” said Anne. “You only know the tip of the iceberg, and there is a much deeper layer.”
It’s a lesson Anne says can apply to her work at Brillect as well.
“There’s more to our consultants than what they present on their resume,” said Anne. “I want to get to know their story and dig into the journey of how they got to where they are today.”
Support Near and Far
Anne’s colleagues at Brillect are among her biggest cheerleaders for her work with KLM. She vividly remembers a co-worker’s reaction the moment she got the invitation to meet KLM scholars in South Africa.
“I came out of my office with a look on my face that caught our co-founder Kristine’s attention,” said Anne. “I told her I was invited to visit South Africa with KLM and the first words out of her mouth were, ‘you’ve got to do this!’. She knew my passion for KLM well enough to know that I needed to go and the support from all my colleagues at Brillect has been completely amazing.”
While she’s returned to the U.S., Anne’s trip to South Africa, and the children she met, are never far from her mind.
“So many things are universal between these children and the ones in my community – like their love for pizza, french fries and milkshakes,” said Anne. “But for the fact they were born into very rural, impoverished parts of South Africa, these children are just like yours or mine.”
Anne looks forward to continuing her work as a KLM donor and board member, helping the organization develop plans for growth and identifying new fundraising streams.
To learn more about KLM Foundation and their incredible work in South Africa, please visit their website.