PHOTOGRAPHY: An Interview with Brique Topaz, Chairwoman of Feed a Smile

“Whatever can be done to make life worth living for others will make your life even more worth living by helping.”
– Brique Topaz

Lavender Fields

Angela: Thank you for joining us for this interview in our October Awareness issue, Brique! I’m so excited to ask you a few questions and help our group and other readers get to know you better! My first question is what inspired you to begin with
Feed a Smile?

Brique: As the RL chairwoman of Live and Learn in Kenya International, I am always looking for ways to raise funds for the cause. Besides providing everything that nearly 500 desolately poor children need to go to school, we also provide meals for them 6 days a week. Feed a Smile is a fun, enjoyable and entertaining way to do this – giving the children a reason to smile as well as the Second Life residents who come to the events – and as I always hear from the performers – a joy to be able to really help poor children in a realistic way by doing what they love to do.

Angela: When did you realize SL would be a good vehicle for fundraising?

Brique: I actually joined SL to become a member of Nonprofit Commons. It proved to be a fabulous and well-known platform for charity organizations. After being a member for some months I got the idea to open my SL home to the public for concerts. That led to being given the use of a sim, which was the beginning of the Lavender Field – nearly 10 years ago. Sadly, the sim owner left SL and we were forced to rent a sim. We cut down to ½ a sim to save money. Most of the monthly tier is being donated by a very generous person. The rest is donated directly at the Lavender Field in a donation box designated for the tier. We are able to provide hundreds of meals through Feed a Smile every month. We also give out our donation boards to shops, stores, private people for their parties and venues. They are attractive boards in 3 sizes and people really like having them. Anyone could contact me about having one.

Angela: How do you maintain hope in the face of the impoverished slums, dangerous gangs and crime in Nakuru?

Brique: Where people are forced to live in poverty, there will always be crime. That is just a fact of life – and one that needs to be politically faced, questioned and solved. There is enough to go around for every man, woman and child on this beautiful planet of ours – if only there wasn’t so much greed. Nearly 20 years ago, when I founded Live and Learn in Kenya Int’l, I decided to leave my mark in this world with the possibility for people to pass it forward from generation to generation. What better way is there than through eduation? Knowledge is power. When you know what it’s like to have lived in poverty you use your knowledge to make sure that – at least – your own children will not have to experience it. Our motto is “Education is the Key to the Future.”

Angela: Lastly, I think we’d all like to know what does it feel like when you go to Nakuru and see these heathy kids, knowing you are helping them have a better life?

Brique: When I am preparing to go to Kenya – I take a large group of up to 30 volunteers with me every year – I am too busy to be very excited about the trip. There is so much to organize. I don’t especially like flying – it’s so uncomfortable and the flight is so long… But when our van pulls up. The the Live and Learn in Kenya Education Center and I see all of “my” children waiting for me – I jump out of the van at the front gate and run to to them while they cry out MAMA BRIQUE, MAMA BRIQUE and nearly knock me down. Then I know why I work an average of 8 hours a day, 365 days a year for them! It is a joy to watch them grow. We have several “children” that I guided up the educational path from kindergarten to a university degree. During an annual visit we had a group of doctors come for check-ups. After all of the children had been checked, I asked the head doctor if there was anything else that we could do – healthwise – for the children. His answer was “Mama Brique, I have never seen such healthy slum children in my entire career as a doctor”. It’s a good feeling.

One thing that I would like to make very clear is that everyone at Live and Learn in Kenya International – except for the Kenyan staff who need to live from their work (teachers, for example) are volunteers and receive no money whatsoever. Myself included. In fact most of the members donate a good amount of funds every year to keep things going and to sponsor children.

If you want to see a nice replica of the school, please visit Lavender Fields. We are now raising funds to build the kindergarten classrooms – in RL. Our website in English is: http://llk-selb.de/?lang=en and in German: www.llk-selb.de.

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