MHI received the following appeal from Kenya for donations to help poverty-stricken children and their families.
Fortunately, we have had plenty of rain for the past year. Therefore, most of the families who were starving during the drought now have something to eat. Now we are concentrating on enabling children to stay in school. We are raising funds through the Future African Leaders Project (FALP) of the Center for Health, Ethics and Social Policy in Washington, D.C. The Center is not taking any overhead; every donated dollar comes to the kids. Please help spread the word. The Center has tax-exempt status and will issue receipts.
In addition to raising funds to pay high school fees, the project tries to give comprehensive support to the children’s families. Some of the families are women and children living with HIV, or who have experienced violence. We support promising Kenyan youth who face serious challenges in getting an education and maintaining their health. The project provides school fees, books and other supplies, and where needed, housing and a food allowance.
Most of the children that FALP supports are from Nakuru and the surrounding agricultural areas such as Bahati, Kabasi, Lanet, Njoro and Teachers. A few of the children come from Ongata Rongai, Eldoret and Kisumu.
In addition to schooling, participants receive leadership development training and assistance which enables them to participate in youth-lead activities in Kenya. Several participants are living with HIV, and we also provide access to ARVS, good nutrition and safe housing. Without financial support, such children usually drop out of school, become homeless and exploited, and many are sexually trafficked.
Instead, our participants are flourishing and on the road to productive lives. The role of young people in civil society and in setting social policy is critical, and the Future African Leaders Project has made a long-term commitment to 16 young people, nine of them girls. After six years of their receiving aid as an independent project, five of the young people are in university, five in high school, and six in grammar school, while one HIV-positive girl is presently applying to university.
That these young people do so well while challenged by abject poverty and without parental support is amazing. Here is the story of one family of five children, headed by the oldest brother, who assumed responsibility for the others at the age of 14.
For most folks, becoming a parent is a choice that brings a lot of joy and challenges. Few people, however, are thrust into parenthood by outside circumstances. Peter was barely 14 years old when he lost his mother to an AIDS-related illness and became the head of a homeless household of five. It was in 2008, at the height of the post-election violence in Kenya, and Peter’s mother had evacuated her family to Kisumu stadium. While in the stadium, she succumbed to her disease after missing her ARVS for weeks. Peter and his siblings—two sisters and two brothers all under the age of 10 (who are living with HIV)—were left alone, as their father, too, had died care of his siblings, and he has kept that promise. I have no doubt that he will raise them to adulthood.
Peter decided to move his family back to Nakuru after spending hours laboring to bury his mother without adult help. Nakuru is a town where the family used to live before the post-election violence. However, it was when they arrived in Nakuru that I received a frantic call from one of my sisters asking me if we could add five more youngsters to the list of children receiving support. They were homeless, but wanted to stay together. With that in mind, it was clear that placement into an orphanage was not an option and we accepted them into the program. Six years later, Peter and his siblings are a thriving family of five, all very studious and pleasant kids.
When you first meet Peter, it is his bright smile that draws you in. He had to grow up so fast and learn to be a parent at a tender age. His parenting skills are phenomenal, and his love for his siblings is unmatched. He is raising his brothers and sisters with the support of well-wishers and now the Future African Leaders Project of CHESP. In September 2013, Peter joined the university. I am so proud of him for staying in school in spite of the heavy responsibility that has been placed on his shoulders. His two sisters are in secondary boarding school, and his little brothers attend a local primary school. Research shows that keeping these children in school will help them break the cycle of poverty and can help them protect themselves from future HIV infection.
The cost of the project is minimal, especially given its impact on children’s lives. On average, each young person requires about $2,000 in school fees, health care and housing, for a total budget of $32,000 per year. There are no salaries, consulting or administrative fees associated with the project, as all work is voluntary.
To contribute to the Future African Leaders Project, send a check to Center for Health Ethics and Social Policy at 2701 Connecticut Ave NW, suite 508, Washington DC 20008, indicating it is for FALP, or go to www.chesp.org and donate on line. Please specific in the instructions section that it is for FALP. The Center is a fully tax deductible 501(c)3 organization. The Center website is currently under re-construction but basic information can be found at www.chesp.org.