Natalie Portman lends a helping hand to build Kenyan school

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Natalie Portman Kisaruni School
natalie Portman with pupils from the Kisaruni School. Photo: Sara Cornthwaite / Free The Children

Travelling to Kenya with Free The Children, Star Wars star Natalie Portman gained an insight into the disparity between opportunities available to boys and girls as she helped construct a girls’ school.

Speaking to InStyle magazine, the ambassador for Free The Children said: “Boys are going to school five times more often than girls in some regions. Even if you’re the smartest girl in your village, it’s likely that you simply won’t have access to secondary schooling.”

The Academy Award-winning actress helped 24 outstanding young girls at the Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School through full scholarships for the past four years, and in January, she met with all them for the first time.

Natalie Portman at Kisaruni School
Natalie Portman joins students at Kisaruni School. Photo: Sara Cornthwaite / Free The Children

Although she was courted by many different groups undertaking meaningful work, Portman wanted to focus all her energy on one to allow her to commit fully to the cause. She says the issue of girls’ education appealed to her because it has an impact on so many other things.

“The knowledge gained will delay the age at which a woman has her first child, reduce the number of children per women, and ensure that each child is better sheltered, educated, and fed,” she said.

Her decision to support Free The Children was down to the “incredible success” the charity had enjoyed with the schools they have built due to the sustainable systems put in place which will continue to function well after the group leaves. The charity sets up microfinancing for parents and a train to transport the girls to and from the schools. This is important because the inability to get to school has been found to be one of the main reasons why girls don’t attend in the first place.

“It can be discouraging and upsetting. It reminds me every day that I’m very lucky to have been born by pure chance into circumstances that allowed me to eat, have shelter, go to school, and be healthy.”

– Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman at Kisaruni School
Natalie Portman joins students from Kisaruni School. Photo: Sara Cornthwaite / Free The Children

During her Kenyan visit, the Hollywood star helped build the first secondary school for girls in the region and some of the first graduates of that school which she found “impressive”.

“It makes you ashamed of all the times you complained about school because they just love it so much and realize what an opportunity it is. You have to convince these girls to sleep because they want to stay in the library all night long studying.”

– Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman is not only an ambassador for the charity, but she is enthusiastic for others to get involved too.

“There are places in the world where girls are having acid thrown at their faces just for walking down the street to go to school and learn. As individuals and as a nation, we have to be protective of girls whose basic rights as human beings are being challenged by protesting these injustices,” she said.

“It was one thing to be a part of the process of building the Kisaruni School from afar, but even more significant for me to personally see the results.”

– Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman goes on a water walk
Natalie Portman goes on a water walk. Photo by Sara Cornthwaite / Free The Children

During her stay in Kenya, she also had a chance to experience Maasai culture first-hand when she rolled up her sleeves and got to work carrying a 22-pound water jug. She also learned traditional Maasai beading with ME to WE Artisans.

For more information on Free the Children, please visit their website.

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