Gathaithi Sustainability Project – Kenya

 

The Gathaithi Orphans Children’s Centre sustainability installation has been underway for a full week. The Lift the Children team has constructed extensive raised bed gardens within the orphanages inner compound totaling over forty in number.

The construction of a new barn, one-acre orchard and vegetable garden, are underway with an impressive 1.7-acre field demarcated for further orchard and pond installation next week. A nursery and fencing system are also underway, as well as the renovation of a 6 person guest room for future volunteers and students seeking to further develop the program and their own skills in this soon to be amazing permaculture landscape.

Our team has also been training a mentor team of 8 graduate orphans from the center who will continue working with the children to ensure the success of the gardens and other systems.

We expect the orphanage to gain a savings within 12 months time of roughly 20,000 US Dollars per annum… and a further increase in income as longer-term systems come into effect.

Aaron Elton

A day in the life of a “street-child”

The nights are often penetratingly cold in Nairobi and without blankets or any form of shelter, the cold rain and damp ground can make a night seem excruciatingly long. The three young boys huddle up on a piece of cardboard and cover themselves with a sack and a piece of plastic on top of their frail thin bodies. Any unfamiliar noise awakens them; the constant fear of attack, robbery or what might be worse: a threat of Sodomy alarmingly lurks at every night-fall!

The boys live a semi-nomadic life, constantly haunted by thugs, watchmen and even the police; their entire existence consists of surviving through the starkest poverty, relentlessly forced to move from one place to the next, seeking shelter in abandoned buildings or empty half-roof shops in the market place during the cold Nairobi nights. The street is all they have to call “home”.

This particular night is spent under the covering of a bridge and for once they are left alone from any unwanted intrusion. The noise of the city slowly dies down and except for the occasional moaning uttered during a bad dream, all you hear is dogs barking in a distance. The three ten – eleven year old boys lay close together keeping each other warm and comforted throughout the night.

Before long, dawn breaks and their day begin. Their clothes are damp and dirty, smothered with mud, ash and feces; the stench from each of them is enough to make your stomach churn!

Bath-day today! One of them suggests as if he read my mind and they start on a 3 km hike to find a secluded outlet of the Nairobi River where they can bathe. The River is their only source of water yet after bathing in it; they often come away smelling even worse than before! Occasionally the water is so contaminated by toxic waste, acid and sewage it causes outbreaks of hives or even third- degree burns on their entire bodies.

Once the have bathed and washed their clothes they let the morning sun dry them off and lay in the tall grass waiting for the wind to dry their clothes. The bath made them giddy and they laugh and tell jokes, like any other boy their age would do – A bath can make you feel “brand new” and for a moment they forget their horrific existence, with conditions that more resemble ones of animals, than of human beings….

Finally hunger sets in and get’s the best of them; they hurry to a nearby junction where the traffic-jams consistently bring the cars to a slow stop. The boys spread out and wander from car to car begging for money. Hardly anyone gives them any; most people despise them and call them names or hurriedly close their windows and lock their doors at the mere sight of them. “It was so much easier to earn money this way a few years ago” Abdi tells me, ”Now we are often forced to steal or starve or find scraps of food in the garbage dumps…”

Noon approaches and the boys have only managed to get thirty measly Shillings between them. As they head back towards Eastlands they decide to hide the money in the soles of  Joel’s shoes (neither of the other two boys own a pair of shoes to use as a hiding spot anyway! ) out of fear of being robbed by older “street-boys” who, every day demand money in exchange for protection. “A few Shillings is enough to loose your life over, if you put up a fight” the young boys tell me!

In Eastlans they find the woman who provides them with glue. She has made a career on selling home- made glue to the street-children; a potent, thick toxic substance that helps numb their heartache and disguises their hunger. And it is cheaper than buying food, David informs me! Their cruel unlikely existence often forces these children to disguise their hunger by sniffing glue or petrol; “cause it makes you forget …”!

The signs of starvation are inherent; the boys’ bodies are frail, sickly and malnourished. Their eyes blank and distant and after a few drags on the glue-bottle their minds utterly intoxicated. They throw themselves down on the grass and fall asleep in the shade of a tree. My heart feels the burden of their sorrow as I watch them drown the memories of their traumatic pasts… Most of them have stories so dark they delivered them to the hands of the streets. Stories they never want to revisit but which they forever are unable to forget…

The early evening is spent rummaging the large garbage piles on the nearby dump; relentlessly searching for something to fill their aching bellies with, before they surrender to yet another drunken stupor caused by glue.

As the darkness of night approaches and the Nairobi traffic slowly dies down, the boys light a fire to stay warm by. Sitting there they voice their unheard dreams; dreams of a good life, of going to school, getting a job and a home – and in their hearts, the silent untold dream of being loved….

But for now their biggest worry is to find a safe place to sleep through yet another dangerous night!

This was sent to us by Life4kids one of the homes in which we support.  To visit their profile click HERE.

SING WITH ALL YOUR HEART

African children love to sing. They don’t just vocalize the words, they put their heart and soul into it. Today I unexpectantly visited one of our homes in Nairobi. As the children saw me coming they ran out of the building and started singing. The younger ones took me by the hand and brought me into their shack where they continued to sing with all their hearts. Then a sweet little 12 year old broke out into a beautiful solo with the rest of the children joining in at the chorus. It was heaven.

A few months ago I was visiting the Kambui School for the Deaf. The children wanted to perform for us and we all gathered together as they SANG and danced. Remember they are deaf. It didn’t seem to matter to them as the smiles on their faces showed the feelings of their hearts. They pulled me in to join in the dance and we all had a great laugh as I tried to stay in step.

We support the school which is also a children’s home. Unfortunately there is not a great amount of support for the disabled in Africa so we have become a lifeline to these wonderful children.

YOU GO TO JAIL

Yesterday after a long day of visiting children’s homes, I was heading back to my accommodation for the night. As we approached town, our car was abruptly stopped by a police officer who came out of the darkness. Seeing me in the car he accused me of making a traffic violation and demanded that I get out of the car. I was the passenger in the car, not the driver.

I was accused of being a criminal and would have to suffer the consequences. I would be taken to the jail and held for three days after which time I would go before a judge. I apologized for any infraction I may have committed. I was then told that I was not above the law and must pay for my act. He further explained that we could settle the matter right then and there with a rather large payment of about $500. I responded that I would make any such payment and if I had broken the law I will address it with the judge. With that statement I held out my hands to be handcuffed.

At that point a second officer came out from the darkness rifle in hand. He started screaming that I was an outlaw and will be prosecuted. He then started ranting in Swahili so I have no idea what he was saying. Returning to english he demanded payment right then and there. I refused and at that point I was forced back into the car and they both got in as well and we headed for the jail. They barked some demands to the driver in Swahili and we were off. After driving a short while we were going into a very dark and isolated area. The one officer told the driver to stop the car and I was told to get out. The driver was instructed to stay in the car. They walked me into the darkness and started threatening me with their guns demanding payment. I refused. The one then asked me for my passport. I refused to provide it. I was told that everyone must produce their passport when required by the police. I explained that my passport was to protect me and I would not produce it in this situation. The other officer pulled out his papers to show that even they had their papers with them. I pointed out that they had rifles to protect their papers and I had no gun to protect mine. They then proceeded to scream in Swahili so I have no idea what they were saying but it was very intense.

Once they calmed down I explained what I was doing and asked if they had any children. They both confessed that they did. “I am here to help your children” I then explained and I am not pleased with being accosted in this manner when I am only trying to help. I noted that any money I had, was only going to be given to children in need. I could see that I was wearing them down. I went on to express appreciation for their efforts in keeping the peace and hoped that some day I might be able to assist one of their children.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out 100 shillings worth about 85 cents. I offered that as a token of my appreciation for their work. Unfortunately, that enraged them. They asked me if I thought they were crazy waving their guns in my face. I confirmed that I did not think they were but neither was I and this is all I would give. They brought me back to the car forced me in and barked again to the driver. He drove a short distance and stopped again. They told me again to get out, I did and they drove off leaving me in the dark. I then walked back to town and retired for the night. The next day was better.

Paul Christensen

Interview with AfriCulture

Article can be found here

Lift The Children is an humanitarian organization focused on helping abandoned African children by providing; a safe, nurturing and loving environment. The orphans are given shelter, food, education and proper healthcare. Lift The Children is committed to ensuring the children receive proper education, stating “Lift the Children makes a solemn commitment to the children in our care. A great emphasis is placed on education. Not to do so would only provide a band-aid solution – education is the key to self-sufficiency.” Believing children are the future, the organization is focused on building them up, so that they can be future leaders of their generation.

Can you tell our viewers a little bit more about the aim of your organization?

We are a humanitarian organization called Lift The Children that help orphans in Africa and other places. Our main focus is to provide food, shelter, health and education to Orphans and the most vulnerable. We currently support over 90 orphanages and close to 14,000 children. The majority of our current work is in East Africa and we plan to expand throughout Africa and beyond. The majority of us are volunteers. Our uniqueness is that every penny of every dollar donated goes directly to the children. All wages, administration, airfare, transportation and other expenses are paid for by a generous grant from the John Volken foundation that supports us. Our main goal is to start gaining sponsorship and donation support so we can grow to the other vulnerable orphans in need. We are very passionate about this work.

What African countries are you currently focused on and why?

It’s hard to decide which area of the world to work in as there are so many areas in need. East Africa was an easy fit with 8 million orphans in Kenya alone and 52 million orphans in Africa…what more needs to be said!? The simple fact that Kenya is an English-speaking country made it the easiest starting point for our efforts. We have since expanded to Uganda and are looking into Mozambique and Liberia and possible next countries of support.

Your organization seems to place a huge emphasis on educating the children. Can you further explain why this is so important?

We are a grassroots organization that focuses on sustainability rather than dependency. Our main goal is to give funds that support and sustain children in orphanages but to also encourage, train and support self-reliability through income generating projects and education. Education really is the key to all long-term poverty challenges and our goal of making all children into responsible, social conscious citizens contributing to their societies is paramount.

What do you believe sets Lift The Children apart from other organizations with the same goal?

Here are some of the main differences with our organization and others:

1. 100% of all funds donated to Lift The Children go directly to the children. Every other expense is paid with a generous grant from the John Volken foundation. In addition the majority of us our volunteers that care deeply about this cause.

2. Our focus is sustainability and in so doing do not give all the money needed for everything in an orphanage. We take care of the basics and then through support enable them to reach out and find other means of support through income generation and education.

3. We handle the children in each orphanage as a whole so all can benefit rather than singling out individual children giving them collective benefits with their friends/brothers/sisters/ in which they live with. This was all children have a fair chance rather than just a couple

Tell us a bit about the orphans. What series of events that led most of them to your organization?

Let’s take Kenya for example. With 8 million orphans there are many areas where families care for children in the community. We go out in the slums and poor areas and actively search for these homes or facilities that could be considered orphanages. In some cases we even help them get official status with the government that puts them on a list and for potential greater support. Our target is the most destitute orphanages and in doing so have found the level of nourishment is generally the greatest concern. Our children are like every other boy and girl, that wants to play, go to school and have a loving home. It is a process to take care of the basic needs but many lives have been improved. Partnering with these orphanages has proved to be a crucial step towards self-sustainability.

What do you wish to accomplish through your organization?

Our goal is the lift the children under our watch to become healthy, social conscious people who contribute positively to the societies in which they live.

How can people get involved with your organization?

The main way to be involved if you are a business, club, school, religious institution, family, or individual is to sponsor an orphanage and start developing a direct relationship with those children. We have small orphanages of 10 children or very large ones of over 100. Throw a dinner party to raise funds and awareness for the orphans in Africa, run a social media campaign or just volunteer with us. There are so many ways to give back. Just caring is the first step! For more information or to get involved please email us at  info@liftthechildren.org.

NOW WE EAT WELL

Today we visited St. Dorcus Children’s home. We started supporting them two months ago and the effect has been rather dramatic. The whole disposition of the children is much brighter. They have been able to go from two meals a day to three and the meals have become more nutritious. They were also able to purchase beds for many of the children who were sleeping on the floor. The children sang songs of gratitude and one sweet young girl gave a prayer thanking God for our coming and asked God to bless and protect us for all we were doing for them. I helped her understand that the things we provide don’t really come from us but rather they are blessings from God and we are only the delivery men. It was a wonderful visit.

We Eat Together or We Hunger Together

Today I was in the slums of Nairobi having heard of another orphanage in need. As I entered the small enclosure it was abundantly clear that these children were struggling. I first met with the man who, along with wife, cares for the 48 children in the centre. Their home is a small room within the cluster. He was occupied, at the moment, giving medication to an infant of two years old who is struggling with aids.

After a brief discussion I asked to be shown the various rooms. The boys’ room held 28 boys in bunk beds with 4 boys per bed. Although things were neat there wasn’t much room to walk around the beds. The girls’ room showed the same plight. I then asked to see the storeroom where the food was kept. As he unlocked a third door I could see that the room was completely empty. Where is the food I asked? “We have none” came the simple reply. What will you do for dinner, I innocently asked? By the grace of God we shall eat today. I stated that I appreciated his faith but what if the food does not arrive before dinner time? He meekly replied “Then we go hungry until food comes”.

Such faith and dependence upon God is common amoung these beautiful people. We ensured that there would be food that night and put things in motion to help lift them out of this daily struggle.
From one of Paul’s past trips to Kenya.

By: Gabrielle

BREAD CRUMBS FOR LUNCH

It was midday and we were visiting the Heritage of Hope Children’s Home. The 100 children had gathered for their main meal of the day. I could see that they were anxious to be fed. As I watched each child line up for their portion my heart sunk as they approached the table and were each given a handful of bread morsels. That was it.  That was the meal. Yet there was no complaining as each child took his food and sat down to eat.

We have been helping them for two years now and things have improved.

On one occasion we brought new clothing and shoes for all the children.  As each child was fitted with new pants they excitedly scurried downstairs to try them on. One little boy returned back upstairs in pants that were obviously too big for him. He was beaming as he held up his new trousers with one hand. At that point we had started handing out candy and he realized he had a great dilemma. If he held up his pants his hands would not be free to pick up the candy. He had a choice to make. It was quick and simple, down went his pants and he delightedly reached for his candy.

Massai in Peril


As we were attending to the needs of the children in Nairobi, we became aware of a tribe of Maasai, the aboriginal people of Africa, who were in distress. A two year drought was killing the cattle, who are the mainstay of their survival. We contacted the chief and asked how we could help. He replied asking us if we could bring some hay for the cattle. I agreed but found it difficult convincing a truck driver to take the shipment to the village as the Maasai are located 6 hours west of Nairobi in the open range with no way to service a vehicle in the event of a break-down. There are no roads by which to navigate and no service stations enroute.

Two days prior to our journey I received a message from the chief that the rains were coming and that the cattle will be fine as the grass will sprout up very quickly. He did request however that we bring flour if we could as the drought had dried up their food supply. We agreed and made an arrangement with a wholesaler to 500 bags of flour. I asked the chief how many people were in the village and he responded that there were about 50. I thought that amount of flour would hold them over for quite a while.

We headed out on the appointed day with a Maasai as our guide. Once the roads disappeared I was most grateful for his directions, as there was no way to find our way otherwise. We travelled through areas where elephants had migrated and saw the massive destruction of their path. As we approached the village we started to see a few of the natives gathering. We were overwhelmed when we pulled into the clearing to find over 1,000 Maasai gathered having heard that “white men” were coming with food. As excited as we were to see them I was somewhat concerned as to how I would satisfy 1,000 people with only 500 sacks of flour. Most of the men were carrying spears and clubs and sticks.

After a brief greeting and celebratory jumping displays, I came up with a plan. I figured that there were probably 500 women and 500 men. I could give each woman a bag of flour if I could only get the men out of the way. In the Maasai culture the man is dominant and therefore and presents would go to the men. As we had also brought blankets I stood on the truck and announced that we had brought presents for all the men. I instructed all the men to come to a clearing where they would receive their gifts. The men were so pleased with the gesture they all left the truck heading for the clearing. With the departure of the men I quickly instructed the women through an interpreter to get into a single file line and we quickly handed a bag of flour to each woman. The next day we gave toys and clothing to the children.

Paul

Thank you from Dagoretti Corner Rehabilitation Centre

Another kind letter of appreciation, this one is from Dagoretti Corner Rehabilitation Centre. They care for 476 residential children.

Dear Lift the Children,
We wish to thank God for you for your continuous support to the center. Be loved, we wish to express to you our heartfelt message of appreciation for the love God has put in your heart. In order to make this world a better place God has sent people like you to do good things for others, and make their lives better. Whenever I remember God, I softly pray that He blesses everyone I love and immediately think of you. I pray that God will hold you close today and that your faith in Him will give you a renewed hope, peace and joy. May you be refreshed by His presence, knowing He care. May His spirit fill your day with sincere love for life. I always wish you all the wonders of Gods beautiful world. We earnestly pray that God continues strengthening this cordial relationship by blessing you in all your endeavors as your purpose to continue supporting our programmes.

Thank you,
Pastor Enos Baxic Oumo
Founder/Director