Good morning and Happy Wednesday!!
We hope you all had a lovely bank holiday and enjoyed a bit of sunshine. As restrictions are slowly lifting across the UK and we start to be able to return to doing some much missed things - seeing family, friends, getting out and about and - for many of us (or our children) going back to school. This week’s nomination is for an incredible charity in Kenya who are still very much in the the throes of Covid but also struggling with other challenges. Despite all this they continue to keep the young girls in their care safe. Thank you Janet for bringing this group to our attention and we hope this donation will help them get through this challenging time. I support a small organisation called Kenyan Kids which I discovered through a friend last summer. I was completely knocked for six when I discovered that the rescue centre for these girls is in Kisumu, which is where I lived as a baby and toddler!! Whilst I really appreciate that during the pandemic the 500 Reasons donations should rightly go to UK individuals and charities, I recently met Julie on a Zoom gathering and my heart bursts with a desire to help these vulnerable young women in what sort of feels like my childhood home. I am sending the odd £10 during Lent and when Julie wrote to thank me recently she said it provided a couple of girls with the stationary they needed to start at a new school. As a teacher, that hit me hard too. Below are some extracts from newsletters and emails from Julie. It puts our pandemic problems into perspective for me and if, as someone said to her, €1 to Kenyan Kids is like giving €10 to another charity, then it would be like giving £5,000 to these girls. Do you think the 500 Reasons team would consider a donation? Familia is the name of the rescue centre that we inaugurated in March 2014. Today we shelter, nourish and educate eleven girls all of whom have come from extremely vulnerable backgrounds. Poverty alone is never the reason we ‘rescue’ these children - physical or sexual abuse, trafficking, early marriage and/or the possibility of female circumcision - when no one else can step in for them, we do. Over the last few years Kenyan Kids has been fighting to provide shelter and education for impoverished and vulnerable children, the prevalence of the COVID 19 virus now gives us another battle to fight. With no access to running (tap) water, each drop has to be bought and so a cupful becomes a precious commodity whether it’s used for cooking, drinking or washing. As you can appreciate, in this environment, hand washing becomes somewhat of a lesser priority. Even schools expect students to bring their own two litre plastic bottle filled with water, on a daily basis, as a contribution to the needs of the school. With cramped and narrow pathways conjoining each slum dwelling, guttering and water harvesting is never an option. There’s neither the space nor available income to purchase a water tank. Slum landlords, the same the world over, rarely maintain these rental houses. During the rainy seasons, toilets and the dwellings themselves regularly collapse. Six months ago, premature deaths from malaria were one of their biggest fears. Now, for so many living in such overcrowded conditions, their enemy has changed. And with it, the prospect of social distancing becomes something only the ‘privileged’ members of society can put into practice. With the first outbreak of Coronavirus recorded only a few weeks ago, Kenyan Kids have been considering what our safest course of action should be. Our last newsletter mentioned the girls returning to school after the Christmas break. It’s the most expensive time of year for us. School fees and shopping for the year are paid up front (almost €7,000 this year), school lunch subscriptions are purchased. Once the girls are back in school, usually, our food budget diminishes. The girls and particularly, those boarding, have their meals provided. Yet for the last three weeks, since we heard about the indefinite closure of schools, once again we had to send transport money and the girls were returned home. With no recompense for monies already paid out, we are now having to supplement our monthly budget so the girls can eat. Our utility bills have gone up, charcoal for cooking has risen. Any change in Kenyan society - whether that’s the insecurity of a general election or, in this case a worldwide pandemic, it always causes food prices to rise exponentially. Some of you reading this newsletter may have heard about the recent police brutality since the outbreak of the virus? The third world deals with lockdown and curfews in a totally different way to Europe. The police know there is little likelihood of enforcing fines on people who already have nothing however, they come at it with a two pronged approach. With the law courts shut down, they either enforce the fines themselves, as they see fit or where the poor are concerned, punishment is meted out with brutality and beatings, For those of us privileged to drive a car or live in better surroundings, the corrupt ones do what they do best, enforce bribes. On Thursday morning of this week, I had a frantic phone call from Sheila to say that there were two policemen at the gate of our compound, wanting to gain entry. Although, we do our best to keep a low profile with our neighbours, word travels fast and no doubt they’d decided to pay us a visit knowing we are a ‘foreign’ invested organisation, Worse still, they appeared to know we are a houseful of females, and therefore could seemingly be vulnerable to their threats. Fortunately, Sheila managed to keep the police at bay until we’d tracked down Small. Thinking on his feet, Small decided to turn up with a more senior rank of policeman by his side who immediately began questioning the others as to exactly what the purpose of their visit was. It was a hugely scary time which could have ended very badly for us..With the virus, it’s obvious that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Strangely enough, the prospect of one of us catching the virus now appears less worrisome than being targeted by the police. The responsibility of keeping our girls safe during these turbulent times lies heavily on our shoulders. Not only my shoulders but. on everyone of us as you, the donors, continue to help us financially to keep these girls safe. That evening, after much discussion with Sheila and Small, we took what I hope is a strategic decision to close down the rented house, at least until the schools in Kenya re open. The younger girls will go back with Sheila to her rural village where they will sit out the virus alongside Sheila’s aged grandmother. Five of the girls will be returned to their biological mothers and/or extended families but obviously, we will be keeping in close contact with them. Even in these harsh times, let’s not forget that our objective is to always keep these girls safe and out of any danger. As Small project manages our farm on the outskirts of Kisumu, growing and protecting as much food as we can, we shall start the process of building the shell of our permanent rescue home, Even if it’s impossible to finish it in the short term. It will give us clean air, access to our own water supply and just as important, provide a safer refuge for us than being in town. While this is going on, the remaining four older girls will live and continue to study in the safe confines of our small apartment whose compound has 24/7 security. Previously, this tiny apartment was being largely funded by Airbnb revenue, bringing a source of income back into the charity funded by visiting volunteers. Of course, that has all stopped now and, sadly, we had to refund almost €900 of confirmed bookings.However, no matter how quickly things might change in Kenya, as well as in Europe, we take seriously our commitment and responsibility that we have to you, our donors to ensure we continue to safeguard the girls - just as we have done and will continue to do over the coming years.