Betty (MSc (Econ) Development Studies, 1993) and David Icharia's life has taken them from their birthplace in Kenya to their current home in Edmonton, Canada, via Aberdeen, London, Vancouver and Calgary. Here Betty and David look back on their journey and their decision to leave a legacy gift to LSE in their will.
A scholarship to LSE
The Icharias’ journey began in Kenya - in farmland just outside the capital city. But it was not love at first sight for the couple. “Certainly not,” laughs Betty Icharia (née Luusa), “I was 9 and he was 11 at the time!” The neighbour of family friends, David lived outside Nairobi, and happened to meet Betty’s family, who were visiting their friends in the area.
The next step in their journey began when Betty went to study at the University of Aberdeen – an unusual choice, she reckons, as it was ”my parents plan to keep (my siblings and me) out of trouble”. She did well and received an offer from LSE to study for a master’s in Development Studies. But then came the catch: “My parents said they would prefer not to continue funding my studies, if possible, as my younger siblings had yet to get through university.”
Understanding the situation, but still hopeful, Betty applied for a scholarship to LSE. It came in the form of an Overseas Development Institute Studentship, which paid for tuition fees and a generous living allowance. “I don’t know how to describe the feeling of receiving this news,” she recalls. “I had all these aspirations, and to know that I could realise them with the scholarship – I almost passed out with excitement. I started making plans that would have been quite different without this opportunity. I wanted to study International Development at LSE because I had dreams of ‘changing the world’ in whatever small way I could, and it made sense to acquire the knowledge required to help resolve development challenges, especially those I was aware of back in Kenya.”
A life in London
The LSE scholarship brought her to the heart of London, the “most amazing city in the world to me – one with a special vibe”. Classes at LSE were intellectually stimulating, with “incredible professors dealing with quite difficult topics around international development”. These were combined with late night studying sessions, and enjoying all that London had to offer. “I had a diverse group of friends, a very different mix of individuals. Some quite young and some very mature; many at the time were from South America, Asia, Scandinavia, Africa and North America,” says Betty. “My time at LSE changed my life. Professionally, the LSE name and reputation opened many doors for me; personally, the intensity of the experience I had at LSE definitely helped me to learn the importance of balance, and develop into the calm andself-assured person I am today.” After graduation, Betty spent several more years in the UK before eventually returning to Nairobi in the late 1990s where shere connected with David. She found a role at the British High Commission which brough ther back to the UK occasionally. “Those were really good years,” she reflects. “I loved my work as a senior commercial officer witht he UK Department of Trade and Industry’s local Commercial Section. It enabled me to advise on business, trade and investment priorities between the UK and Kenya from an economic and international development angle, which is what I had trained for.”
Betty and David married in 2001. Their yearning to try something new took them to Vancouver, Canada, where they lived for 16 years, and where Betty helped start the Vancouver chapter of the Canadian Friends of LSE. After a brief stint in Calgary for Betty, the couple moved to Edmonton in Alberta in 2017 when Betty received a transfer to the head office of her company. It was in the Alprocess of moving to Edmonton that the Icharias came upon legacy giving.
“Different Canadian provinces have their own unique policies about wills and estates,” says David. “We had to undertake some legal administration to update our wills and estate planning when moving between provinces, and our lawyer in Edmonton suggested that we consider where we would like our estate to go, since we don’t have children." The Icharias decided on mirror wills – identical wills where one person in a couple leaves their estate to the other in the event of their passing –with the aim to leave something behind for those seeking an opportunity to improve their lives and to make a difference to others through education. “A good education is one of the most important gifts you can give or receive,” resumes Betty. “That’s something my parents always reiterated to their children. I feel that if even one person enjoys the benefit of an LSE education that I’ve had, the contacts I’ve made, the impact it has had on my life, and the doors that the LSE brand has opened for me, then our legacy gift would be worthwhile.”
David supported the idea, and they have generously decided to jointly leave half of their estate to LSE, and the other half to specific family members. What would Betty’s message be to anyone considering bequeathing a gift in their will to LSE? “I cannot overstate the benefit the scholarship and the opportunity to study at LSE had on my life, individually, and to my community, more widely. As one of the students who benefited in this way, I feel very strongly about supporting the School, and a legacy is a great way to do so. I just want to pass it on and I’m very grateful that my husband agrees with and supports this plan.”