Lana's Dreams

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Once upon a time lived a young girl called Lana who had great dreams and ambitions. She lived with her grandmother, her parents, and her five brothers in a small village in a land called Trepa. Life was hard for Lana. In the mornings, before going to school, she had chores to do. These chores would take about two hours to complete and included getting water from the nearby river, weeding the family plot, and collecting any edible vegetables produced during the night. Then, Lana, her mother, and her grandmother Yaya would prepare breakfast for the entire family although Lana ate her eggs and bread sandwich as she walked to school because it took another hour to get there. Lana was happy to go to school and she wanted to be a teacher. She wanted her grandmother to be proud of her, so she told her about her dreams. "Yaya, what do you think about me being a teacher? Do you think that I can do it?" Her grandmother would answer: "No, my Lani, that is not written in the stars." Yaya was always discouraging her, no matter how many times she asked the same question. So, Lana studied very hard to prove her Yaya wrong. She studied at night, after finishing her chores when everyone was asleep.

Once Lana was eighteen, she wanted to continue to study but her father said that it would be best if she were married. It was well known that Lana was a hard worker and many men of all ages had asked for her hand in marriage. Lana had no interest in marriage. She wanted to leave this small village that offered no escape from the daily drudgery. She called her aunt who lived in a city where there was a public university that offered a degree in Education. Without her parents' approval, she left to live with her aunt and her family where she stayed until she graduated from college. Life with her aunt's family was not easy but Lana managed. Her aunt provided a room which Lana shared with her cousins. Lana had a small income from her tutoring and a scholarship from donors that sponsored women. Lana was content. Soon, Lana graduated but she had dreams that she could do more, especially for girls who had to be subservient to the men in their families, so she joined an organization called "Teachers for Change" that empowered teachers to work with students so that together they could improve their schools by joining associations, participating in school boards, running for local offices, and holding rallies for various causes.

Lana soon felt that she could start her own school, one where students would have more freedom to voice their opinions, and one which would be funded by the government as well as by local companies that hoped to hire the graduates of this school. Lana told her parents and her Yaya about this dream. "Yaya, what do you think? I have studied at the University. I have experience teaching and now I want to help girls in a school where they won't feel alone. I want them to talk to each other and feel empowered. Girls can do anything. I know it because I am one of them. I want to build my own school."

Her Yaya replied: "No, my Lani, that is not written in the stars."

Lana was mad this time. "I will stop asking you. You never understand. What world do you live in? Why are you so pessimistic? I feel sorry for you." Again, Lana worked as hard as possible and, soon, her school, Lana's School, became a reality, thanks in part to her efforts talking to donors of the University, discussing opportunities to the families of potential students, and to advertising in the local papers. At first, she only had a few pupils in each of the classrooms but once they graduated and showed their successes not only on standardized tests but in creative endeavors such as creating webpages for companies and improving the quality of life of the farmers by testing their water and soil, Lana's School had to have a lottery system to admit students. However, this wasn't enough. Lana wanted to help the farmers and the families that relied on young children to complete the chores. It wasn't fair that children had to work so hard on the farms. She remembered how difficult it had been for her to find time to study when she had to get up at three in the morning every day as a child. This time, Lana did not ask her family for advice. Instead, she asked her students. "Would you be able to help out in local farms during the summer?" "Would you be able to tutor the children of farmers during the school year?" Many of the teenagers agreed and with their parents' consent, they volunteered during the summer months as well as one or two weekends every month to tutor children who needed extra help because they could not attend regular school during the year. Their program, called "Students for Change" became so successful that it was a model for other schools across the land of Trepa and Lana received an honorary medal from the President of the land who called Lana "one of the brightest stars in Trepa."

Sadly, Lana did not enjoy this recognition for long. She had been suffering from a weak heart that soon rendered her incapable of walking and confined her to her bedroom. She had one final conversation with her now-dead grandmother. "Yaya, you did not believe in me. You did not help me to leave the village. You did not help me build my school. Will you help me now? Can you save me? Yaya, will I die?" She listened to her Yaya's reply: "Yes, my Lani, you will join me soon. This time I am right. That is written in the stars. I am sorry that I did not believe in you. In your dreams. I was afraid for you. I have always been afraid of changes. And I wanted to keep everyone together." And finally, near death, Lana and her grandmother agreed. Lana accepted her fate. She was not sad at her Yaya anymore. With one last look at the photographs hanging on her wall, Lana died remembering how she had graduated from college, established and directed a new school, made a difference to hundreds of female students, and received an honorary medal even though her Yaya had told her so many times, "No, my Lani, that is not written in the stars."

The End


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