Over the last three and a half years, I have been working with a friend in Kenya to support orphaned children living in child-headed households or with elderly relatives who struggle to look after them. Martha had a vision of reaching out to orphaned children in her local area, a township called Kangema in the Central Highlands of Kenya, and I had the means to back the vision. We had worked together in the past and were committed to working together on a shared project that could help the wider community. In October 2010, we set up a community based organisation called Wamumbi Orphan Care in Kenya and from there it has grown from supporting a few children to more than 50. I have now set up a small charity in the UK called Wamumbi Orphan Care Foundation to work in partnership with the organisation in Kenya. Our approach is a holistic one, taking into account each household’s needs and having open discussions with the children and their guardians.
Since starting, we have run workshops on nutrition, reusable/washable sanitary pads, biointensive kitchen gardening, sexual and reproductive health, and beadwork. From meetings held with the guardians of the children over the past few years, we came to the realisation that it was essential to provide professional counselling for the children. Without it there was a greater risk that the children would not be able to turn their lives around and make the most of what they were given.
Last year, we provided 40 teenagers with the counselling they desperately needed through the medium of a 10 day residential theatre therapy course. They all have traumatic life experiences that they need to work through to become more positive in their lives so this was life-changing for them. We are currently funding 14 teenagers through secondary school and four on practical training courses in dressmaking, mechanics and hairdressing. A boy and a girl we funded last year to do dressmaking and carpentry courses were offered jobs as soon as they finished and have already moved on to support themselves. We still check on them and they know they can always call in for a chat but they wanted to make room for other orphaned children to get the help they need.
We have one or two big group meetings every year to bring everyone together, share a meal, distribute donated clothing and foodstuffs, and discuss any issues freely. I travel to Kenya as part of my work with a university so this enables me to catch up with Martha for a weekend or two whenever I’m over there. In a few weeks, I’ll be there again and we are planning the next group meeting at the moment.
Our constant need for funds is a challenge but so far friends and family have helped us achieve so much with very little. This is also thanks to the children and guardians in our group who are fantastic to work with and have real enthusiasm and dedication to be part of what we do. We gave five of our children four hens and a cockerel in May 2012 and by March 2013 they had bred enough to share with the remaining 31 households. The children were each given a small amount of money at a group meeting in August 2011 and advised to ‘invest it wisely’. Just over a year later, two of the children had bred more than 60 rabbits between them and took it upon themselves to share with everyone else in the group.
Our latest initiative is beadwork to generate income on a more sustainable basis. Martha has just finished a training course on beadwork and recently held a workshop to teach the teenagers different designs. The grandmothers come and sit in our office in Kangema making jewellery and see it as a way for them to actively contribute to the organisation. They have already been receiving orders and have sold some on local markets. We have many ideas to implement over the coming year and it’s an exciting time for us!
Contact me for further details on any of our work: firstname.lastname@example.org