LICHA WAS FOUNDED BY ESTHER M. MBAJAH
Esther's story: I was born and raised in Kenya. My father was an Assistant Chief and my mother was a farmer and devoted Christian woman who was amongst the first converts into Christianity in my community. The value of education for girls was instilled in me at a very young age. Being one of the six girls in our house without any brothers, I was taught all the hard chores the boys did, in addition to the normal girl chores. For example, I ploughed with my dad early in the morning before running to school a mile away and herded cattle during the holidays until I was in high school.
Kenya gained its independence from the British government when I was in grade school. Education for girls was one of the initiatives the Assistant Chiefs were directed to promote in their areas. My father took us to his community meetings to demonstrate that girls were expected to go to school. I was one of the first girls in my community to pass Standard Four national examination, 4th grade. I was able to continue my education, graduating from high school and then the university where I earned a Master’s in Business Administration.
I worked for the Kenya Government before joining United States Agency for International Development in Nairobi, Kenya. I was promoted from Budget Analyst to Program Specialist. In the United States I worked for Pierce County, in Washington state for about 25 years rising from Grant Manager to Budget & Fiscal Services Manager in the Human Services Department. I received a Commendation from the Pierce County Executive.
I established LICHA in 1993 to assist the less privileged members of the community where I was born. The establishment of LICHA provided an escape from the horrors of the assassination of my brother-in-law and various escapes from staged car accidents and harassments after my husband had been exiled. Escaping through “no man’s land” between Kenya and Uganda with my four children, we reached the United States as refugees. I needed to focus on something bigger than myself and to make a difference in other lives less privileged.
The assistance I was given to settle here in the US by people who care about others and go the extra mile also impacted my desire to help someone else. Being a beneficiary of this selfless service to others drove me to start LICHA and focus on that, instead of the pain of the lost life. LICHA began with funding high school scholarships. As these students have graduated from schools and have become absorbed in the employment sectors, I have felt a satisfaction of making a sustainable impact in many people’s lives.