This article appeared in the January 31, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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‘Can I help?’ How Naledi Thimbela got to college

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Naledi Thimbela sings during a Sunday service at Twelve Apostles church, on March 4, 2018 in Jan Kempdorp, South Africa. Her mom, Olga, adopted six AIDS orphans after two members of her family died and cared for them in addition to her own children. Naledi is just starting as a freshman at the University of Free State in South Africa, the first of her family to go to college.

College acceptance letters are generally cause for celebration. But one young woman’s has prompted rejoicing on both sides of the Atlantic.

For more than a decade, the Monitor has followed the story of Olga Thimbela, a South African woman who, at the height of the country’s AIDS epidemic, took in six orphaned children and raised them as her own.

A housekeeper with no formal education, Olga fought to make sure those six children – as well as her own – stayed in school. Last year, Olga’s oldest daughter, Naledi, passed her high school exit exams with flying colors, qualifying to attend university.

There was one problem. She owed her high school $208 in fees. Until that was paid, the school wouldn’t release her transcript and she could not apply to college, her mother’s dearest wish. After the Monitor wrote about Naledi’s, and her mom’s, achievement and the new barrier they faced, emails came flooding in.

The message: “Can I help?”

Thanks to people’s generosity, Naledi not only paid her debt but was able to buy a laptop, apply to college, and pay the registration at the University of the Free State.

“Today, as I write this message, she is settling into her dorm, hanging posters, and choosing classes.... In February, she’ll start her degree in agricultural sciences,” writes Ryan Lenora Brown, our South Africa bureau chief.

The Monitor tries to, as Ryan puts it, draw the world in close. “My job reminds me constantly of how mean the world is, but also how much kindness it contains, stubborn and resilient, kindness that reaches across oceans and borders to ask, How can I help? What can I do?”

From all of us, thank you.

Now, here are our five stories of the day.

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This article appeared in the January 31, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/31 edition