14-year-old Ella Kahrl is the great granddaughter of Pathfinder’s founders, Clarence and Sarah Gamble. Join her as she meets a girl named Yusta Mafunda, whose courage she’ll never forget.
I felt the sun blazing through the one window of the classroom. Sweat ran down my arms and legs, onto the dirt floor. This was even hotter than our August classrooms in the United States. Here in Tanzania, the heat lasts all year. For me, it would take some getting used to.
All around me sat 30 girls in matching blue and white uniforms, packed together in plastic chairs. Many were shy, smiling nervously and giggling, intrigued by the people that had come to visit. I met the eyes of one girl. Her name was Yusta.
“I got pregnant when I was 15,” said Yusta, sharing her story with me. “For seven months, I hid it from everyone. Then my family and teachers found out. My brothers beat me. My family chased me away.” Yusta was forced out of school. And her pregnancy could have killed her. “I needed a lot of blood. I had to stay at the hospital for weeks.”
It’s hard to imagine going through that—becoming pregnant before finishing high school, being forced to grow up so fast, having to find ways to make money. She wanted to create a better life for her son.
But what about Yusta’s life?
“I heard Pathfinder was holding a training for peer educators,” Yusta said. “I was interested.”
Yusta became one of the millions of women and young mothers Pathfinder has reached. They share their experiences, get support, build self-confidence, and learn about their health.
Yusta’s pride showed in her smile; a smile that lifts up other girls. “I went back to my village and started my own support group for young mothers,” said Yusta.
Inspired by Yusta’s commitment to her community, Pathfinder made a commitment to Yusta. In 2016, Pathfinder coordinated with a local school, who gave Yusta a scholarship to continue her studies.
“I returned to school. I convinced my parents to watch my son. Last year, I took my Form 2 test, and I passed!” Yusta said. “I want to be a doctor, not because I think I’m really smart, but because I want to save more lives and help others.”
There were so many things I wanted to say. I wanted to tell Yusta how smart, capable, and inspiring she is—everything that my great grandparents believed in. But feeling a bit shy, I just smiled.
And Yusta smiled back.
STAND BY HER SIDE: Make a difference for a girl like Yusta today.