WILMINGTON, North Carolina — In an interview with The Borgen Project, chairman for the board of directors of Hope For Kajiado (HFK), Gaye List, explains how the U.S.-based Hope For Kajiado organization transforms the lives of children in East Africa. The nonprofit organization supports the Kajiado Children’s Home in Kenya in order to help meet the children’s “physical, educational and spiritual needs.” Soon, HFK plans to build a primary school to further support these children. Hope For Kajiado helps children in East Africa by empowering them with the tools and resources to end the poverty cycle.
Child Poverty in East Africa
Child poverty goes beyond monetary inadequacies — it also includes a lack of access to clean water, inadequate health care and deficient education. Data from UNICEF indicates that about “two out every three persons under the age of 18” in Eastern and Southern Africa endure multidimensional poverty. The consequences of this poverty extend beyond an individual’s childhood years — the impacts are visible throughout the entirety of their lives. Therefore, it is imperative to break the cycle of poverty for children so that they can flourish in the future. Organizations such as Hope For Kajiado seek to make this a reality for children in East Africa.
How Hope For Kajiado Helps
In Kenya, there are approximately “2.6 million orphans and vulnerable children,” many of whom became orphans due to the AIDS epidemic. With such a significant number of orphans, organizations such as HFK stand as a necessity in this region.
According to List, at this time, the Kajiado Children’s Home in Kenya supports 95 orphans. At the Kajiado Children’s Home, staff care for the children on a physical, educational and emotional level. List says that it is inspiring to witness the joy these children experience within a safe environment that provides for the basic needs essential to human development.
Meeting Medical and Nutritional Needs
At the Kajiado Children’s Home, a nurse is always on-site to care for the children’s needs. The nurse tends to any minor injuries and sicknesses, such as colds. If the condition warrants further care, there are two hospitals near the home. “It’s being proactive,” List says, “and having the medical care at the children’s home really is helping us to avoid any serious medical issues.”
Along with the medical staff, the children’s home also features two on-site greenhouses that act as crucial and sustainable food sources for the children. “We grow all of the vegetables that the children eat,” says List. The home also houses cows on the campus to provide milk for the children’s breakfast. While this is a vital food source, it also helps connect the children with their culture. The area surrounding the children’s home is primarily Massai, which is a predominantly cattle-based culture. “Caring for cattle and tending to cattle is a very important part of their culture, so the children learn how to take care of cattle,” List explains.
Education in the Children’s Home
Hope For Kajiado places tremendous importance on education within the children’s home. The home has both a nursery and a kindergarten for the younger children. “The teachers teach them Swahili and English, their numbers, their colors, [and]organization skills,” among other competencies. “[The children] sing, they dance, they take naps [and]they have snacks,” List describes.
Often, the children first come to the home with a lack of prior education, however, HFK ensures that this setback does not prevent the child from receiving a proper education. List explains that if a 9-year-old child who has never attended school comes into the home, the child would begin their education in the kindergarten so that they can “learn those basic skills” and gain a proper foundation for their education progression.
The children of high school age at the home receive schooling at a boarding school, returning to the home over their breaks. HFK recognizes the importance of educating all of these children, providing as much support as possible, even through their college years.
In addition to providing for the Kajiado Children’s Home, HFK also supports the Light Foundation, a school in Nairobi, Kenya. At this school, HFK sponsors refugee children from the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is yet another way in which HFK strives to educate the children of East Africa and empower them with the skills and resources to rise out of poverty. “These children are extremely appreciative of the opportunity and they recognize the opportunity to go to school. They know that education is the key to change their life,” List says.
Making a Difference
Currently, Hope For Kajiado is taking steps toward building a primary school as its next project. While there are a couple of primary schools in the area, overcrowding in these schools impacts learning — approximately 60 students learn in each classroom. The schools also lack sufficient resources. In particular, one of the schools sends the children to their family homes for lunch because there are no food resources to provide lunches at school.
“We want to build a primary school for a couple of reasons,” says List. “We want to give [the children]a better education” while reducing class sizes, “but the other reason is these are children that have lost families.” The children have “lost their connection and they’re building a new connection at the home.” These grieving children “have special emotional needs” and HFK seeks to provide them with additional tools and coping mechanisms to not just survive but thrive.
Because HFK is a nonprofit organization, donations form an integral part of its existence, allowing the organization to build a new primary school and continue to support these children. Along with the option to donate, HFK also gives people a chance to support a child themselves. This initiative allows people to communicate with a child through photos and letters and to financially support the child throughout their endeavors.
Organizations such as HFK play an integral role in the lives of East African children, especially considering the staggering numbers of orphans in this region. HFK provides these children with physical and emotional support while recognizing the role of education in breaking cycles of poverty. Through the support of Hope For Kajiado, the children at the Kajiado Children’s Home can look to a brighter future.
– River Simpson