Hilde Back, the Swedish teacher who sponsored the high school education of Chris Mburu, the founder of Hilde Back Educational Fund passed on yesterday 13th January 2021 in Vasteras, Sweden. She was 99.
Many people are familiar with Hilde Back Educational Fund and the amazing work it’s doing in Kenya in regards to actualizing education as a human right but little is known about Hilde Back who made the foundation. Her story is incredible.
When she was a girl, a stranger’s kindness saved Hilde Back’s life by helping her to escape to Sweden from Nazi Germany where both her parents died in concentration camps. Hilde Back eventually became a teacher and, remembering her days as a Jewish girl in Germany when she was denied the opportunity to attend school under the Nazi Nuremberg Laws, she decided to pay for the education of a child who would otherwise not have a chance to go to school. The child she sponsored was Chris Mburu.
Mburu grew up in a poor family in rural Kenya whose family could not afford to pay the small tuition fee required for children to continue their studies beyond elementary school. Due to his excellent grades, he was selected for participation in a Swedish sponsorship program and Hilde Back paid his way through secondary school. This cost her $15 a month. They had never met. He went on to the University of Nairobi, graduated from Harvard Law School, and is today The United Nations Resident Coordinator for Congo.
In order to help other talented children from poor families in Kenya continue their studies at secondary school, Mburu created a foundation in 2001. With the support of the Swedish Ambassador in Kenya, Mburu was able to track down the benefactor who had transformed his life and named the foundation in her honor: The Hilde Back Education Fund.
Hilde Back Small Act
Hilde Back’s small act of kindness grew in ways that she never could have imagined. To date, the Fund has helped over 1000 children in Kenya continue their studies and Chris has gone on to become an attorney and human rights advocate for the United Nations. The students sponsored by HBEF also continue to exhibit excellence in their studies in Kenya and beyond, some of them getting an opportunity to attend some of the best universities worldwide. These include Brian Owino of Science Po University, France, Alphonse John Ochola of UWC Waterford kamhlaba , Kimani of University of Wisconsin , USA and many others.
The post beneficiaries of HBEF have also started giving back to the society through mentorship of current beneficiaries and by doing monthly contributions aimed at paying high school fees for two students in Kenya through a platform dubbed, a small act Jamii. The world is changing through Hilde Back’s small Act. Her passing is sure a great loss to the world, our duty is to keep her vision of actualizing education as a human right alive.
Her story is well told and captured through an award-winning film “a small act”
The film by Jennifer Arnold premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2010 and went on to win the Humanitas Prize for Documentary, a NAMIC Vision Award and was nominated for the Best Documentary Emmy Award.
Chris Mburu has paid a tribute to her Swedish Mother;