My One Cent: Florence Amadi
“When one person manages to escape poverty, it improves the welfare of the entire family”
December 13, 2017
Florence Amadi is an advocate for CARE from North Carolina, but her history with CARE and her advocacy for women and girls began in Kenya where she grew up. This is Florence’s My One Cent Story:
I am a first generation immigrant from Kenya. I have lived in the U.S. for 20 years and I am a U.S. citizen. I have two children, ages 19 and 11. I have a MPH in maternal child health from UNC Chapel Hill and I work for a global health organization called CureAmericas Global, as a program manager. I oversee maternal and child health and poverty reduction projects in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Guatemala and Bolivia.
The issues that mothers, women, girls and children face are near and dear to my heart because I grew up in Kenya. I witnessed a lot of issues and some of them perhaps I even experienced myself. As you grow and expand your knowledge, you learn that many of the health problems women and children face are preventable.
My mother was passionate about community dialogue and involvement so, from church to community women’s groups, she brought people together. She helped people, because even though we didn’t have much, we certainly had more than many. That’s what pushed me to be mindful about giving back to the community. She is why I decided to study public health. I have seen the difference good health makes on people’s lives, especially when they live in poverty.
I have also seen that when one person manages to escape poverty, it improves the welfare of the entire family. Not just once, not even twice! Many times I have seen it in communities in Kenya. If just one person has an opportunity to escape poverty and build up their family, then their family moves up an entire economic step. One person in one family! If one person gets to go to college because someone supported them, paid their tuition or gave them a job or a little money, then that person can improve themselves and before you know it, they’re building a house for their parents and helping their siblings go to school.
It’s extremely hard to finish high school in Kenya and many other countries. Once you get to university level, you have access to loans and grants that are not offered in high school. These are the most dangerous years for teenagers, especially for girls. Teens tend to drop out because their parents cannot afford to pay for tuition and fees. Girls are most vulnerable because if a family has to choose to take the boy to school or the girl, they’ll most likely take the boy. It’s not only the belief that it’s not worth it to pour money into education for girls. There are also reproductive health issues and the fact that girls tend to be caregivers for their families. So many issues can hinder their potential.
I have known CARE ever since I was young because I grew up in Kenya. CARE is a household name that has always been in my head and it’s always been positive. If you went to the village, you saw a CARE water tank or project they were supporting. When a friend invited me to attend the CARE National Conference three years ago I said, ‘of course, CARE!” I didn’t have to ask what CARE was.
I’m always looking for ways I can make the world a better place and improve the health of mothers and women around the world who are most in need. My parents had seven sons and four girls and gave all of us equal educations and opportunities to succeed at a time when it was difficult to educate girls. We all prospered but I grew up seeing people who did not have that opportunity and it pains me. I reflect back on people who were talented students, even more than I was and the only reason they are in poverty now is because they didn’t have that opportunity. So now I ask myself, ‘what can I do to improve someone else’s well being?’
I reflect on the women and children in my village and I feel like it’s my obligation to advocate for them and for others who don’t have a forum to voice their issues. They do not know that I advocate for them, but I know that their lives can be better if we support them. Helping just one person get out of poverty can make a difference for a whole family and community.