Bringing Two Worlds Together: An Interview with Holly and Robert King

Holly King pulls a manila folder from her desk. It’s packed full with letters; handwriting covers both sides of the papers. Middle school is still in session, but we’re sitting in her French classroom. The panoramic view from the window is of downtown Wayne in its entirety. Her husband, Rob King, sits down next to her. Holly keeps the folder on the table in front of her, occasionally sifting through the papers or reading out a quote.

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Both Kings are teachers in Radnor Township School District. Holly teaches French at Radnor Middle School, and Rob teaches American Studies, Government and Economics, and AP European History at Radnor High School.

The Kings have been sponsoring students within the African Education Program for years. They happen to know the executive director quite well: “Julie Anne was our student in history, French, and Italian. We had her multiple times.”

When talking about how they first heard of the program, Rob discussed its unique origin story: “She started this in high school with a couple of friends. That’s how we became aware of it. After Julie-Anne graduated, we stayed in touch. She shared with us what she was doing, and it was a no-brainer that we would become a part of it.”

Smart joined the African Education Program’s youth center in 2008 and the Kings provided their first scholarship in 2009.

Smart joined the African Education Program’s youth center in 2008 and the Kings provided their first scholarship in 2009.

The community values found in Kafue, Zambia were also developed as a result of the program’s presence here in Wayne, PA. Rob said, “Julie-Anne’s parents were instrumental. They were doing fundraisers, and we attended. It was fun to see so many people in the community with like minded ideals and concerns for a community across the ocean.”

Rob elaborated further on the important role that the Radnor community can have in the program, despite the distance between these two nations: “It’s about human beings helping human beings. It’s not an American helping an American. It’s one community that has the ability to help another and see a change, see growth.”

When asked why they decided to sponsor students, Holly delivered an emotional response: “For both of us, education is so important. To learn that these children don’t even have access to simple secondary education for lack of funds, it makes me so sad. They’ve all lost members of their family.”

The Kings found that they were able to get to know the students they sponsored incredibly well. Initially, they funded the education of a student named Smart:

Thanks to scholarships provided each year by the Kings, in January, 2017, Smart graduated with BA in Demography with Economics from Zambia’s best university.

Thanks to scholarships provided each year by the Kings, in January, 2017, Smart graduated with BA in Demography with Economics from Zambia’s best university.

“Smart was our first. He started in middle school and went all the way to college […] We got to know him intimately because we would write and send pictures back and forth. It made it really personal. He told us about school, his dreams, his family; he became an extended member of our family. […] Smart is the one we know the best; we’ve had him the longest. To meet him was unbelievable. He has faced so many hardships that we can’t even imagine. He is so optimistic, just a go-getter. He is so bright; we had wonderful conversations. He taught me so much about Zambia that I didn’t understand. He has much to share, and he has a passion. He is going to make a difference for so many people.”

The Kings meet Smart for the first time at the African Education Program’s annual fundraiser in May, 2018. Smart was in the U.S. for an entrepreneurship exchange with James Madison University.

The Kings meet Smart for the first time at the African Education Program’s annual fundraiser in May, 2018. Smart was in the U.S. for an entrepreneurship exchange with James Madison University.

The Kings’ roles as sponsors allows students like Smart to fulfill their potential. Providing this funding and consistent support is transformational for these students. However, these students have been just as impactful on the lives of their sponsors. Holly reflected, “When you look at the youth center and what they’ve accomplished, and how each day things are better for kids who don’t have enough to eat, a home, or support, […] just having an adult role model is huge. To know that AEP is accomplishing all this, it gives you perspective. Everything is relative. We sweat the small stuff here, but when you read these letters it helps to recenter and find gratitude.”

The Kings’ relationship with the students they sponsor is a unique instance of citizens from different sides of the world helping each other grow and prosper. Holly spoke about how easy the process of sponsoring a student is: “It’s super simple. They do all the work. It’s a simple matter of donating. […] They find a good match for you, once you’ve been matched the letters start to come. It’s an online donation once a month. You don’t even have to think about it. “

We are incredibly grateful to all of our donors for changing the lives and futures of Zambia’s youth.

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