FirmRock : A Fledgling East Kenyan Orphanage
Meeting Noah and the Children in his Care
I will be honest. I received a notification from Noah on LinkedIn and became immediately dubious of internet scams involving people needing help, after further probing and speaking with shared connections I found there was nothing to be dubious about with this young guy at all.
He is a young father that has been given the responsibility to care for many children who are orphaned or will soon be due to unwell caregivers infected by AIDS and HIV, there is also the issue of ageing carers who can’t take on the responsibility of more children, disabled or severely malnourished children that have become too much of a burden to care for plus those that have just been plainly abandoned. The kids have been left to Noah as he is the best option in an arid drought and poverty stricken area.
Being an Orphanage Director and sole provider isn’t something Noah interviewed for, some would consider it a burden. But he approaches the many challenges with the dedication and drive of a young man but also the understanding and resourcefulness of someone way past his years. The good news is the kids are in the right place.
It has been a blessing and a beautiful experience engaging with him on the development of his centre. We have struck up a nice balanced friendship that isn’t taxing in any form but wheeled towards trying to acheive quick results in a forever desperate situation. Our first task was to provide emergency healthcare to children suffering from diseases and illnesses. A boy suffering from ‘Crickets’ a painful disease caused from severe malnutrition. His bones had become deformed and his knees were noticably rocking inwards. He was able to finally receive an xray on his bones, a prognosis and a treatment plan. Taking a run comfortably or moving around normally is something we often take for granted in our youth, as is our parents having the means to provide us with a well balanced diet that keeps preventable diseases away from our doors.
According to WHO and the most recent proverty index Kenyan’s have a population of 20% catergorised as acutely malnourished This makes them more susceptible to other illnesses and diseases and far worse for the families already gripped by HIV.
Noah reminds me “Hope you remember story of this girl. Her mother is deaf and to make matter (s)worse she is victim of HIV and AIDS. This girl was suffering from tuberculosis and she still taking medication till august.. She is among the needy children I have met”
The 2011 East African Drought and Water
East Kenya is still suffering from the 2011 East African drought. The UN’s official declaration of the East African Drought 'as the worst drought 60 years' which triggered food shortages through Kenya and her neighbouring countries Somalia and Ethiopia. Effecting the life of an estimated 10 million people. An incredibe amount of people died, WHO estimate over ten's of thousands.
Noah acknowledges “Water is still our big issue. Water is one of major challenge we face every time. After the short rains which mostly don't last for a month water becomes golden commodity to be seen”.
Alshaababa a jihadist fundamentalist group used the drought as one of their propaganda tools in which they minimised the UN’s official declaration of the East African drought to gain controls. *They are active in the area and according to Noah ‘at their worst in Somalia’. But aid is still blocked, aid workers are attacked or kidnapped and it doesn’t help that the West blocked Aid to the area in an attempt to weaken Alshaababa. They are also involved with other factions and criminal groups controlling areas. Locals fear being in the wrong place at the wrong time as the Jihadists often flee larger cities and take hold of rural and remote villagers, Obviously, where defences are at their weakest.
This was a concern regarding depositing funds, there was a fear the bank could be robbed by them and other associated criminal groups. Local banks are subject to robberies, as are individuals. Locals move with haste and hope they are not unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Using a regular bank was a cause for anxiety due to hold ups by the terror group. Another online provider was the easiest and safiest way to get funds into Noah’s centre.
Maize is the most common staple Noah claims “Maize is the basic staple and is high demand Maize is staple food here, right now (the) Kenyan government have started importing maize from Mexico....but the demand is so high (and) such (a) 2 kg of maize flour is almost $2”. This is so much money for any Kenyan family to pay.
WHO have invested in fortifiedcrops but it is hard to gain ground on the extreme levels of malnutrition (or ‘wasting’) and HIV affected infants and families. Those with HIV are even more exposed to diseases and illnesses linked by malnutrition a few are tuberculosis, oedema, and diarrhoea.
These illnesses are preventable and take time, medication and love and patience to treat.
The Government of Kenya and WFP will scale up the treatment of children with moderate and acute malnutrition from March. According to their data, to cut malnutrition in children it will requirer much wider intervention. Currently, there is a shortfall in delivering aid for a possible 6 months (or over) according to a March 2017 report. The six-month shortfall for prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition is US$ 28.3 million (US$ 5.4 million for treatment and US$ 22.9 million for prevention from March to August).
The second task was a morale lifting one and during my development career I have found they are just as important on occassion as delivering the basics. People forget those living in forced poverty have thoughts, dreams, and self esteem. After asking what would be valued at the centre Noah replied “Even something simple like uniforms would be a big help, at least uniforms’. Most of the kids wear whatever is available, shoes, no shoes, some with holes or too small or big whatever they can find. Many went without coats during the winter and one girl developed severe pnemonia.
So, we set our goal as providing complete seasonal uniforms. We were able to clothe all of the kids and they look and feel great.
The next goal to to fix up the accomodation. at the centre The home is makeshift and definetely not suitable for all seasons, as is the size as the centre tries to cope with the influx of children needing care.
Upon Noah receiving the funds, and after, I was the recipient of many gracious and thankful messages, something I definitely wasn’t accustomed to living in a different environment. It is wonderful to watch the videos and look at the photographs and witness the kids as their lives slowly improve.
Why not give when you can, especially when sharing this article could lead to life changing events for children that need our help! There is surety that funds are being channelled correctly, there aren’t any institutions sucking up wages on administration or falling prey to corruption. Direct giving and seeing the living proof of where your funds have gone are the best option.
The plus is knowing that every child know the names of those helped them.