I first met Richard when he was a small 13 year old as he walked home with his fathers cattle. He was dusty and happy, smiling broadly. I had heard that he had invented a flashing light system to deter lions at night. I was running a small lion project with Michael Mbithi to address the human lion conflict south of Nairobi Park. I wanted to know if this flashing light system was real.

My brother Dominic joined me (he knows about electronics) – he looked at the system, turned it on and then talked to Richard about the various aspects of his invention.

To be honest we had our doubts that such a small boy could have done this, maybe an adult put it together and gave it to him we thought. But the adults all stood around equally ignorant as I about electronics. Dominic tested Richard on his understanding of the components before declaring “This kid really knows what he’s doing”.

I took lots of photos and asked many questions of Richard – like how he knew about electronics. He wasn’t in a school with any classes on such matters. He just said “God”

None of us imagined how momentous that day would become. We sipped sweet milky tea made by his mother and met his siblings and his dog “Corporal”. It was a weirdly pregnant calm, quiet moment.
His parents James and Veronica, we’re so proud of him. They said they wanted Richard to go to a good school. I only promised to try and help.

As Dominic and I drove home I started listing all the schools I could think of to ask for a scholarship. Against each school I put the names of people I knew.

At home I wrote them on a white board – my list had only 6 names, it started with Brookhouse. I called Davina, she introduced me to Carrie Gammon, she put me in touch with Joyce Gacheru, and then I called the principle John O’Connor. I hadn’t even finished my explanation when he said “We will offer him a full scholarship and boarding to complete his school education”.

I had not expected it to be so easy! I had underestimated how special Richard was back then. The scholarship was worth millions.
Before I said anything to his family, i called my trusted girlfriends ….some said the school was too high end, it would be too much of a shock for a boy from such a different background.

You see Richard had grown up walking to school, tending livestock and going to a public school on the top of a hill. He was top of the class. Brookhouse is a very fancy school -the Primary School looks like a castle complete with moat.

I used to think it snooty until I learned that Mr OConnor gave kids the opportunity to design their own school – they chose Hogwarts. It made me like the school even more.
But would he cope against kids who have had every privilege – including arriving at school by helicopter? I began to question my judgement, what if this didn’t work? But then I thought about my own life, how scholarships gave me opportunities that made me who I am. My first year at University in UK was such a culture shock that I almost failed most of my subjects. I was at the bottom of the class! It was so tough – but by year 3 I was at the top.

“if I could do it, anyone could” was my thinking. And, if it didn’t work we could still look at other options. He was only 13 and in primary school.

So 3 months later, after consulting counselors, holding many meetings, and discussions we enrolled Richard in Brookhouse. We went into it eyes open, knowing it would be a big challenge and that we had many blind spots.

Brookhouse welcomed Richard into primary school then secondary school – a move that transformed a boy who was herding cattle in the Maasai plains, into a world class scholar.

At his parents request I became Richards legal guardian until he turned 18. By the time he was completing high school he had travelled to three continents, made presentations on global stages including TED, and had been courted by local and international universities including one in USA.
He chose ALU in Rwanda, known for its wildlife focus.

Like everyone who has been tracking Richards career, supporting him and urging him on, I am so proud that today Richard he’s earned his undergraduate degree. What an amazing journey! I cannot claim to have been the only one tehre for Richard. So many people have stepped in to help him and I’m so thankful to everyone who supported Richard along the way.

The world is your oyster Richard. Go out there and make more pearls.
While Richard soars I have another young charge, Rita from Laikipia, whom I’ve been supporting since she was 13. She is now 16 and we’re heading out on a wild adventure tomorrow. She’s another one to watch.