In the summer of 2013, Jacob Nzuma was scheduled to be the driver for SeaVuria’s small professional development team as we led teacher training in rural Kenya. Always smiling, Jacob turned out to be not only a wonderful driver, keeping us safe and getting us to our appointments on time, but also (much to our surprise) an amazing game driver, spotting animals lying in the grass and showing us this breathtaking ecosystem. Our daily commutes through the stunning beauty of Kenya became mini-safaris, both serene and exciting as many of us saw herds of elephants, running giraffes, and regal lions in their natural habitat for the first time.
Our assigned driver Jacob soon (and easily) became our friend, endearing us all to him. Every time SeaVuria visited Kenya, from 2013 until 2016, we requested the happy reunion, that Jacob be our driver once again. He became like family, once driving all night to retrieve us when we found ourselves stranded in Nairobi. He taught us his songs, about his culture, and about the magnificent land that he called home.
The summer 2015 group of Seattle teachers (pictured, right) remember being taken immediately by Jacob’s joyful character. Knowing our scientific bent (and love of birds), he would often bring small pieces of bread to help us get a close-up view of the more adventurous species! And none of us will forget his keen-eyed spotting of a most beautiful jaguar. A steep and rocky mini-van climb to get closer proved well-worth the trepidation, as MaryMargaret snapped some remarkable photos.
We met Jacob’s family on two occasions, as he was very proud of his lovely wife and two beautiful daughters, both focused on education. Jacob once shared with us that although he very much enjoyed school growing up, he was compelled at one point to quit school and work to help his family financially. When he later tried to re-enter school, he was not allowed to return. His experience was so close to the heart of SeaVuria’s mission, and we seemed to have a shared motivation to provide every opportunity for students, and in particular girls like his daughters, to continue their education despite the challenges.
In August of 2016, MaryMargaret received a message from Jacob’s wife, Elizabeth, that Jacob had passed away suddenly from a diverticulitis, a condition that could have been caught and cared for with U.S. medical care. Shocked and deeply saddened by this unexpected loss of our friend, we reached out to see what we could do. Elizabeth shared that their daughter Esther was going to have to drop out of college because they now would not have the funds to complete her education. Knowing of Jacob’s experience, and how important it was to him that his daughters be given the chance that he never had, friends of SeaVuria rallied together to pay for Esther’s final year of college, and for her room and board during schooling. Esther graciously reached out and thanked each contributor personally, continuing to keep in touch through e-mail about her progress and how much she appreciated the support and encouragement to finish school.
This month, November 2017, Esther finished her college education and graduated. The Girls to Girls Scholarship Club has also now sponsored Jacob’s youngest daughter, Tabitha, so that she too can continue to attend her private primary school and be continually encouraged through Penpal correspondences with the Girls to Girls members.
We feel so blessed to have known, to remember, and to honor Jacob. Even in the small amount of time in which we knew him, it was clear to all of us that he was a warm and genuine spirit, with an eager smile, a generous laugh, and a great and loving heart for his family. Our prayer is that his girls would continue to grow into a strong and intelligent woman, full of the kindness and laughter that will be a legacy to their dad.
Thanks for everything, Jacob. Rest well.