Jez Dale as chairman of Meal A Day made a trip recently to Kenya and has provided a very informative and helpful insight into the situation in that country and how Meal A Day is providing major support which can only be achieved by your generous donations.
We trust that you will find this report of considerable interest and will demonstrate what a privilege it is to be able to share what we have been given by God for the benefit of those that have much less.
My Trip to Kenya March ‘22 By Jez Dale
In March of this year, I visited Kenya and saw three of the projects that Meal-a-Day have been supporting. It was depressing, inspiring and humbling all at the same time. Let me explain…..
There is such great need and so many people are deprived of the daily basics we take for granted
Kibera slum in a district of Nairobi Kenya houses 250,000 people in an area that is just one square mile. The average dwelling is a single room measuring 12ft x 12ft.
Open sewers run through the slum with children playing just a few feet away and the water supply is riddled with disease.
The average income is £1 per day. How a family feeds itself on this is beyond me?
The work that Meal-a-Day is funding is having a huge impact and changing lives.
Since I last visited the Kibera slum there has been a lot of change. On this trip I visited Shofco (a charity we support) and the fresh water project that we have provided funds for continues to transform the lives of the people there. No longer are they reliant upon the water pipes that run alongside the open sewers; often becoming contaminated and cause widespread sickness.
There have been a few main roads built within the slum which has enabled fire engines and ambulances to access the slum when there is an emergency.
Shofco are the largest charity in Kibera and I saw their schools, library’s, computer workshops, training schemes, medical centres and I was also delighted to meet Kennedy Odede who is their founder. Kennedy is an impressive entrepreneur and social reformer, he lived in Kibera until he was 23 years old. Kennedy and Shofco are both a force for good.
I also visited one of our long-term projects in Kibera which is a junior school and feeding centre. It was inspiring to see the children who have been born into such a challenging environment receiving food for their immediate need and education as a route out of the slum.
I left the area heartened that real progress is being made. KIBERA IS RISING!
The devoted service that the in-country project leaders give is truly amazing.
A day later and I travelled to Timboni which is both one of our Children’s Home and also a High School. I had last visited in 2016 when the High School was in the early phase of being constructed. It had a few classrooms completed, but there was much to be done before it would open in 2018.
I arrived at the school and joined a briefing of the students who were being told all about their forthcoming exams, the rules and the processes. It was amazing to see that the children in this village were about to embark on their High School exams. The nearest High School prior to Timboni opening was c.60km away, so most children in this area finished their education when they were 14. However, here were the village children (many of them residents at the Timboni children’s home) preparing to take exams that could propel them into the careers they aspire to, as teachers, doctors, lawyers and other such professions. It was amazing to feel that so much previously unlocked potential was now being realised.
The quality of the school has been recognised by the surrounding villages with some pupils walking 12 km each way every day just to attend this school – that is a 1 hour and 45-minute walk to school. The school has also been recognised by the Kenyan government who have invested in it by adding six teachers to the school. It is now recognised as one of the best schools in the area.
I then travelled less than a mile to Timboni Children’s Home, one of my favourite places on the planet. I was greeted by Zabibu who manages the school, Esther her able deputy, the rest of the staff and about 175 children. We said our hello’s and the children laughed at my English accent – as they had done 6 years previously. We bonded again over that universal language of football and after a competitive kick about I was considered a friend.
On first impression not much had changed at Timboni, but I soon came to realise so much had changed.
Before the High School had been built Timboni cared for children from 6 years to 14 years old, but once they had finished their primary school education they left the home, either to go to secondary school 60kkm’s away, go to live with a distant relative or they would have to try to find work and support themselves.
It felt wrong that we looked after these children until they were 14 years old, but then had to say goodbye while they were still children. That was the motivation for building the High School – we wanted to give our children (and the other children in the village) the chance of a full education while living in the family unit they knew as home. Apart from building the High School we also had to build extra dormitories to house the children for an extra four years of High School.
The kitchen had also been renovated to accommodate the additional meals that were needed each day. The sand damn that we had funded had been built and this kept water in the river all year round, which was transformative.
I took a moment and realised that while our community in the UK had raised all the funds required, all of the elements of this amazing transformation had been project managed by Zabibu and her amazing team. What a fabulous accomplishment.
However, the real transformation was not in the physical buildings or equipment that now existed it, but rather it was the opportunity that these brought to children like Faith, Hope and Salome. I asked them what was the best thing about Timboni and they all immediately agreed that it was the chance of a full education. It was their way to create a better life for themselves; but a life that gave back to the community too. Faith wanted to be a doctor, Salome a nurse and Hope a civil rights lawyer. Timboni had changed from a home that saved young children who were living on the streets during their childhood to a home that propelled these children into adulthood and enabled them to serve their community.
The long waiting list for Timboni
While I was there, I asked Zabibu what the waiting list was for children to come to Timboni. She replier by saying
“I couldn’t tell you.”
I pusher her further, I don’t need an exact number, but is it 20’ish, 30’ish?” She again replied,
“I couldn’t tell you.”
Again, I probed,
“Is it over 50, over 100?”
Eventually Zabibu provided a little more detail.
“Jez, I really don’t know. We get about ten new requests every day. We are full, so we have to say no. We cannot keep a waiting list.”
I was staggard. Ten new requests every day! That could mean over 3,000 children each year that we have to say no to. It is heart breaking.
I came away from my trip to Kenya with four overriding feelings….
How fortunate and well blessed I am compared to some of the people I had seen. When I think of life’s lottery and the fact that where we are born determines so much about the life we get to live, I realise how blessed I am and how I have a duty to do more for those who didn’t win the lottery of being born in the UK or another similarly developed country.
How people can make great progress when they are given the basic essentials and some education. That progress is both in regard to helping themselves forge a life, but also in the happiness that our centres bring by providing some certainty in having a place to live, a warm bed to sleep in and regular food.
How amazing is the impact of the people on the ground, who are transforming the lives of the children and households in their projects. I have heard some of the Alumni of Timboni referring to Zabibu as being like a mother to them. I have seen the appreciation of the students to their teachers. I have seen how the older children in our projects look after the younger children as if they are siblings.
Our projects are helping to build families when children don’t have one and helping communities to transform themselves.
How great the need is. I still cannot process that we have to say no to thousands of children each year. There must be a way to provide some kind of support, surely?
Thank you to everyone in the UK for anything you do that helps us to be able to fund the amazing work going on in Kenya and other such countries.
Chair Christadelphian Meal-a-Day UK