Every pioneer has a life story and a life lesson. In 1989, 40 young women, aged 13-16, stepped onto Clinton’s campus and unknowingly forever altered the course of CRS and their own lives. They were courageous settlers of a new home, a new spirit, and new opportunities that reached hundreds of young women years following. Where are they now? Thirty years after CRS first started girls’ programming, 6 of those pioneers shared a glimpse of their Camp experience, of their post-Camp life, and of the lessons they carry with them! Each pioneer from 1989 was interviewed by me, Monica Janvier, one of the over 1,600 young women who have followed in their footsteps!
Meet Grace Kombe
Grace grew up in Zambia, specifically in Kalulushi and Copper Belt, a mining town. Her father worked as an Accountant and her mother managed the household. Throughout Grace’s childhood, her father was one of her role models.
She reflected on his passing in September 2015:
Grace admires her father’s accepting nature and how he made decisions by considering the input of everyone. Although Grace still values this strategy, she also values the idea that some of the best decisions are made by valuing your own beliefs and outlooks on life.
The CRS Decision
When Grace decided to fly to New York for CRS, it was the first time she had ever been in the United States. As the oldest child of 6 other siblings, Grace carried an especially heavy sense of responsibility throughout her journey.
As some people in the world decided to focus on differences that separate people, Grace made the decision to view the world through a “colorblind” lens.
“Believe it or not, there was a time growing up... -I think it was probably before my fourth grade- I never saw color. All I saw was the person… and color was not a factor. I think that is something marvelous that I think the whole world could learn from. If we act colorblind the world would be such a better place.”
This strategy of being “colorblind” helped her connect with others as she became known for crossing ethnic lines and becoming friends with every camper.
Grace reflected on learning about different cultures:
The Career Decision
After leaving Clinton, Grace was soon confronted by a conflicting, life question:
Grace graduated from a mine (Trust) school in 1991 and the University of Zambia in 1996. For most of her life, the mining community would sponsor her and other students throughout their educational career. Due to their sponsorship, they were expected to show their appreciation for the mining community by working in mining-related jobs. However, against the norms of her community, Grace began her own educational center in 2017 called Learn for Life Learning Support Center, located in Kitwe, Copperbelt Province, Zambia.
Grace reflected on the outraged reactions of others:
Despite these reactions, Grace proudly continued to establish her educational center.
“I believe that if you’re doing something that you love, and you truly are passionate about, you will never work a day in your life.”
Learn for Life Learning Support Center is a multinational and multiracial center that educates children from ages 5 to 18. This center became a Cambridge Associate School supervised by British Council Zambia which offers assistance in professional development for the school’s staff.
I believe that Grace’s courageous decision to break away from her community’s expectations and defy the norms by pursuing her passion for teaching, is an element that makes her educational center even more impactful on the lives of her students.
What especially warmed my heart is Grace’s commitment to teaching students to celebrate and appreciate their different abilities. She enforces the notion that any child can thrive whether they are or aren’t “academically gifted” or if they have disabilities.
She powerfully said, “They call them disabilities, but I say abilities that make them differently abled.”