I went to see my friend Liz last week in the orphanage that she and her friend Stu have recently up. Their enthusiasm and utter refusal to be told ‘no’ has got them simply miles after less than one year, though they do admit that they have many frustrating days of being unable to achieve a single thing – such is the bureaucracy of Africa.
All this said; they now have a rented house, are a legal/registered charity in Kenya and are looking after two little girls (the same age as ours) with the help of a Kenyan house mother Sally. There is a veggie patch underway and chickens to arrive soon. They hope to have 20 children in the end, all girls from the age of five up.
Theirs is really a ‘grass roots’ charity where everything goes to the children. The house is located on the side of a hill in a suburb outside Ngong town far from expats and wealthy Kenyan politicians. It took ages to weave off the main road along un-surfaced tracks to get to it, but it was a pretty drive with houses, shacks, green fields, cows and goats dotted all the way along.
Liz and Stu are really ‘living it’ with no car and on a budget that must include enough money for the girls to go to a nearby private school. They walk to Ngong Town to organise the making of school uniforms through a local tailor. When they first moved into the house there was no water, to me it looks bare with stone floors and free from clutter but for them it is functional. In fact, everything about my life in comparison to theirs is utterly extravagant.
So many times I felt like (and probably did say); ‘are you really sure you want to do this?’ ‘it will be so hard for you,’ ‘are you going to be able to see it through?’ Liz still only has the backpack of clothes that she arrived with last May when she came over on a sabbatical from her job in New York to do some volunteer teaching. She says; ‘I dream about new pants.’
Such is their desire to offer help only to children who really need it, Liz and Stu (Australian) are doing background checks on each new child before taking them in, which involves travelling for hours if not days in public minibuses to visit villages in the middle of dusty nowhere. If word got out that they were offering a comfortable home, food and school fees paid for, then there would be a queue of struggling Nairobi parents passing their children off as orphans from here to next week. ‘We want to help children who really need it, give them a safe home and then watch them flourish, that’s what we are all about.’
There’s nothing simple or straight forward about it. I am in awe of their efforts. The childrens’ home have received cash donations and continue to do so. They have some books, clothes and toys that have been donated locally but are always looking for more. They need to revise their website since when they set it up they had not even found a place to rent but Liz said that this will be done in the next couple of months so that it will be possible to make donations via direct debits etc. http://www.acaciahouse.org/