Tree of Life

Date posted: Friday 01 December 2017

If you've shopped for wood carvings during your travels in Tanzania, you've probably seen the towers of human figures, one figure standing on another and others supporting the next. Carved from a single piece of wood, these 'Tree of Life' or Ujamaa carvings depict the interdependence of village life. They show lives intertwined, with each generation standing on the shoulders of those before them.


Those carvings came to mind at the end of September when I was part of the team interviewing and selecting students to receive scholarships for university studies. The BKB Post-Secondary Scholarship Review Board met with 21 students on a single day and awarded over $20,000 in scholarship support.


The students we met told us of their hopes, dreams, and the obstacles they face. Their families contribute support as they are able. One student's family struggled, making bricks to sell, selling trees they had grown, and still he could only pay half of the first year's fees. Other families made the commitment to provide the student's room and board if BKB could provide tuition fees.


The review board members wished we could have given a scholarship to every student we met that day.


But with limited funds, we were guided by the mission and vision statement of the Iringa Diocese. First priority was given to those students in the fields of theology, education, and medicine. Second priority was given to students in the field of community development. Grants ranged from $300 to $2000, depending on the cost of the school and the family's ability to contribute. Consideration was given to gender balance among the award recipients.


Several Saint Paul Area Synod congregations have been providing college scholarship support for a number of years, and their experiences have informed the policy and procedures for this new post-secondary scholarship program. One thing we've learned is that scholarship recipients go on to give back to their communities. They become another figure in the Tree of Life, supporting younger siblings with school fees, remodeling a home for an elderly grandmother, and sending money to their home congregations to buy iron sheets for a chapel roof.


Your gifts to the BKB Post-Secondary Scholarship Fund enable you to be part of that community of support, too, giving life and opportunity to the next generation. Asante sana.


Kirsten Levorson
Chair, Iringa Committee