By Pauline Masson
A 1993 Pacific High School graduate, who has transplanted to Kenya where she fosters education for elementary schools through university students, is getting help from Pacific area friends and family.
Sheila Murphy moved to Kenya in West Africa after a circuitous route. Her mission to help young people get an education began when she attended St. Bridget Elementary School, then Pacific High School and Western Missouri University and eventually visited 35 countries.
Along the way, as a member of the Peace Corps, she visited St. Gerald Children’s Center in Endarsha, Kenya, and encountered a program educating small children that captured her heart.
During a 14-year stint with Boeing Aircraft as a financial analyst and internal auditor, from 1997 to 2011, she took a two-year hiatus to work in the Peace Corps from 2005-2007. She joined Amway of Grand Rapids, Mich., as an internal audit manager in 2011, which involved more travel.
In 2013, she decided to return to St. Gerald in Kenya and work to help young people get an education.
“I love what I do. I go to sleep at night so thankful that this is my life,” she said. “I support projects and students at St. Gerald Children’s Centre (STG).
“Also, when the children are on school break, STG looks for guardians/families for the orphans to stay with,” she added. “However, there are typically 10-20 kids with nowhere else to go and remain at the Centre/orphanage living in the dorms.”
In 2013, Murphy built a house near St. Gerald so the kids remaining at school could stay at her house in a family environment.
Once students graduate from the eighth grade at St. Gerald, they cannot go further unless someone sponsors them for high school. Murphy now helps find sponsors for the students.
“I monitor the progress of each of these students which includes attending parent-teacher conferences and activities at their school,” she said. “As the students finish high school, I help to advise and support them on transitioning into the next phase of their lives.”
Pat and Charlie Murphy, Sheila’s parents, recently made the 28-hour trip for a family visit. The journey requires a three-stop, 24-hour flight, from St. Louis to Detroit, Amsterdam and Nairobi.
Sheila had a friend with a car who met them at the Nairobi airport and drove them the 3 1/2 hours to Endarsha.
The Murphys have four other children — Christopher Murphy, an electrician who lives in Pacific; Sharon Haaser, a nurse who lives in San Diego, Calif.,; Timothy Murphy, a gutter company manager in Pacific; and Stephanie Murphy, a student at Logan University, Chesterfield.
The Murphys are not surprised that their second daughter has decided to build a house in a far-off land and help children get an education.
“She was always independent,” her mother said. “She loves it there because she knows she can make a difference — and people are helping her.”
Sheila does not have electricity, her mother notes, but she does have enough solar power to have lights in the evening. And she has enough bunk beds for 16 students to do a sleepover on school break.
One of those helping Sheila is Sierra Edmond, a Pacific High School junior, who hosted a fund-raiser trivia night Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Tri-County Community Senior Center to benefit Murphy and St. Gerald Children’s Center, with help from her mother Tracie Edmond; fellow PHS junior, Brigid Toney, her aunt, Tonya Lewis; and Greg Myers. The event raised $2,100.
On March 8, Barry Geatley will host a dance at the McHugh-Dailey building, on the third floor, to benefit Sheila and the program. Anyone interested in attending can contact Geatley at 314-560-9665.