Arts graduate Jane Bachner-King remembers the smells of Edinburgh and explains how she is helping save Colombian orphans' lives one stitch at a time with vocational training through machine knitting.
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Your time at the University
In 1971, I was an American student who, due to my father’s overseas jobs, had spent the previous five years in an English boarding school. When I was deciding on where to attend university, I chose Scotland for no other reason than I had never been there. I was accepted at St Andrews and Edinburgh. The travel books at that time said that St Andrews' biggest draw was golf and, not being a golfer, I decided on Edinburgh. It turned out to be the best decision of my life; I got my degree and met my husband of 39 years.
One powerful memory is of walking down the early morning busy streets from Pollock Halls to my 9am class in the David Hume Tower. If I close my eyes, I can smell the brewery and feel the chill of the morning and the joy that would suffuse my being, from living in a city I came to love.
Edinburgh is a magical city that draws us back time and time again.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
I came to Austin with my now-husband and got my teaching certification from the University of Texas. I taught for a number of years and then moved into the food industry.
In our mid-50s, we adopted a 14-year-old girl from Colombia. During the course of the adoption, we had to stay in Bogota for three months. I got to know other girls from our daughter’s orphanage and discovered that after aging out of an orphanage, job opportunities are limited, with prostitution and drug-running becoming the worst-case scenarios. Their plight broke my heart, so I came home and started a non-profit: Friends of Colombian Orphans.
Over the past 11 years, we have created a successful vocational training programme in the form of machine knitting at one of the more forward-thinking orphanages in Bogota. Only four of us run the programme, three of us in the USA and one in the UK. We take no salaries - every penny goes to the programme. It is well managed by the orphanage administrators whose vision for the programme is the same as ours: to establish a cooperative for teens when they age out of the institution.
Running a non-profit from afar has been a long, often frustrating, learning experience but if you visit our website you can see our successes. We are changing lives, one stitch at a time! We are a registered non-profit in the US and the UK and accept donations online. We are truly a grassroots organization and my motto is Shameless Advocacy! I found a mission that makes my heart sing and I fundraise all year long to keep that mission alive.
The University of Edinburgh gave me the confidence every young person needs to succeed and to take risks. I took a risk going to Scotland without knowing anything about the country; my love of travel and risk-taking have served me well over my lifetime.
Don’t ever say “I can’t do this”. After all, would the University of Edinburgh have accepted you if you couldn’t?