Cheryl's Children's Home, Nairobi
In June/July 2009, I made my 4th trip to Nairobi, Kenya.
Enjoy the links:
2010 Concert Dates
01 Jul 10 -
James, Colm & Friends-Lord Erroll, Runda, Nairobi.
02 Jul 10 - James,
Colm & Friends-Oshwal Auditorium, Westlands.
03 Jul 10 - James,
Colm & Friends at Karen Country Lodge.
04 Jul 10 - Rusty Nail, Karen, Nairobi, Kenya.
06 Jul 10 - James,
Colm & Friends at Muthaiga Club, Nairobi.
07 Jul 10 - James,
Colm & Friends at Muthaiga Club, Nairobi.
The following week, another Kenya Build team ( www.kenyabuild.com ) , led by the inspirational Basil Love (my childhood friend from Sligo), continued to build and upgrade the accommodation and educational facilities at several Nairobi orphanages, perhaps most notably St Pauls Childrens Care Centre, Riruta Shade, and Cheryls Childrens Home. The building work is ongoing throughout the year and a building schedule for July 2010 is already in place.
The work accomplished at Cheryl's Children's Home was an undoubted success. All of the children are now sleeping comfortably in their new dormitories, using their first ever showers, wash-hand basins and flush toilets. No longer do these children have to sleep under corrugated iron sheeting, with rats running in and out under their beds, and snakes hunting the rats! The children are also continuing their excellent education, only now in the new surroundings of their brand-new classroom block. After all, in the words of Samuel Sambuli (Director of Cheryls Childrens home), Education is the key to the childrens future.
In 2009, thanks primarily to the extreme generosity of Dundalk Grammar School Transition Year (under the guidance of Gillian Johnston and others), a new Activity Room/Dining Room/Church was completed at Cheryls. A new 'indoor kitchen' and a toilet block for the day pupils was also completed in 2009. As well as all of the above, Cheryls also now boasts their first ever 14-seater minibus, again made possible by several extremely generous donations. Sincere thanks to ALL involved.
A devoted team of volunteers, led by the saintly Samuel Sambuli, are the vital role-models many of the children never had. The orphanage of course remains in debt (it is a constant struggle to pay food-bills). But there is, without a doubt, increasing hope, and light at the end of what was a very dark tunnel for these Kenyan orphans. All of the children at Cheryl's now have a real chance at life, where before they had no hope at all. In the last year or so, many generous-hearted people have come forward and offered themselves as sponsor-parents for some of Cheryls Children. Needless to say, sponsor parents are still needed. It costs just €35 a month to sponsor a child at Cheryls. Other sponsorship details are available on Cheryls Official Website. See www.cherylshome.org. Because many of the staff at Cheryls work on an entirely volunteer basis, Cheryls are hoping to have some of the staff sponsored also. If you can help in any way, please email Samuel at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact www.kenyabuild.com or email@example.com .
It is impossible to describe in mere words the impact my trips to Kenya have had on me. I knew it would be tough. I knew I would cry. I knew the children's faces would break my heart and completely win me over. Many Kenyans remain justly angry at the injustices in their society, as they watch the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer now where have we heard that before?
Walking through Kibera Slum with an armed guard was without
a doubt the most disturbing part of my time in Kenya. This gut-wrenching
attack on all of the senses has simply got to be experienced up close
in order for the gravity of the situation to really hit home. The sight
of almost two million unfortunates crammed into home-made huts of mud
and galvanised sheeting, the rancid vomit-inducing stench of open sewers
and slippery brown paths composed of waste, the taste in the air of disease
and rotting butchers meat in open butchers windows, the touch
of orphans hands as they try to shake your hands, and their ad
nauseam repetition of How are you? echoing in your mind
like a recurring nightmare days after you have been forced to ignore these
thousands of repetitious cries for help. I had simply never seen people
living in such horrific conditions, except on TV... almost 2 million people
live in Kibera. I was so angry when I heard that the government of Kenya
charge rent for these hellhole houses.
In the same way we related to the story of Anne Frank rather than trying to fathom the hellish fate of 6 million Jews, it is at times easier to focus ones attention on individual stories, rather than attempting to get your head around the shocking lives of almost 2 million people in a Kenyan slum. In Kibera, we visited the house of one HIV-infected mother and her 4 children (only the youngest had the HIV virus) who had been forced to resort to prostitution. One night she was gang-raped in the street, ran to the police station to report the atrocity where she was gang-raped by the police. This is just one of millions of similar stores.
When I interviewed some of Cheryls children one-on-one and heard some of their horrific histories, it was at times impossible to hold it together. When I saw these enthusiastic kids singing their hearts out at the Lord Erroll and the Muthaiga Club, it was so difficult not to visualise each of their individual horrific pasts the little girl who was the sole survivor of a machete attack on her family, the girl who watched her Dad kill her Mum out of desperation, the little glue-sniffing boy, the girl who watched her family burn to death in El Doret Church, the little boy found abandoned at a Kibera bus-stop at an estimated age of 2, the many AIDS orphans and so the stories go on.
And yet, they are happy. They have positivity in their eyes, and a real hope for their future.
More than 15 million children under the age of 18 have lost either one or both parents to AIDS. One third of Nairobis population has the HIV virus. Of approximately 1 million Kenyan AIDS-orphans, many of them end up single-handedly fending for their siblings. Others wander the streets. A large number resort to glue-sniffing, others prostitute themselves for coins or food. This hellish combination of parental loss, economic hardship, lack of love, attention and affection, inevitable psychological distress, malnutrition, illness and isolation is simply too much for any of us to fully take on board in our supposedly civilised world. The sights, smells and sounds from our slum-walks still haunt me. I suppose I cant just get my head around the fact that, in the 21st Century, millions of people live in such horrendous circumstances, and most of the world don't even know. Or care.
And yet, Cheryls children are prospering, and are
always in great spirits. They have health, happiness, hope and love. Many
of Cheryls Children are doing incredibly well at secondary school
level. Many have already progressed to third-level studies, nursing and
other worthy vocations. These children are uninfected, well-behaved, well-disciplined,
smiling and appreciative of the tiniest things. The littlest of Cheryls
children just want to be picked up and hugged. I never heard one cry or
complain. They have lost their parents, their role models, and simply
crave love, affection and security, and a fair second chance at life.
I will never forget the childrens faces when we walked through the Naivasha Nature Reserve in Kenyas magnificent Rift Valley, as we mingled with giraffes and zebras, and as we watched local fishermen netting their daily catches. Or when we marvelled at Africas largest flamingo population, as well as seeing white rhinos, buffaloes, giraffes and many other safari stars only feet away from the bus windows. Before this, many of Cheryls Children had only ever seen rats and snakes. Even the constantly-breaking-down bus was a new and exciting adventure for these inspiring children.
It is important to reiterate that Cheryls is only
ONE of the projects being supported on an ongoing basis by Kenya Build.
And here is the bit which I always find hard to do as these are ongoing projects and of course I am returning and the orphanages are in constant debt, if anyone feels like helping out with these worthy projects, I would be most grateful. Just know that every cent is used wisely. No pressure whatsoever
At this point, may I reiterate my heartfelt and sincere
thanks (also on behalf of many grateful children) to EVERYONE young
and old - who gave so generously to make my trips to Africa life-changing
and grounding experiences, and humbling in the extreme. I plan to return
every year, for as long as I am healthy and well enough to do so!
The bank details, for those interested, are below.
First they came , by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892 1984)
The following poem was especially written by the inspirational poet Gary Jermyn, for a Kenya Build concert in St. Patricks Church of Ireland, Dalkey, County Dublin on January 6th 2008. The concert was in order to raise funds for Maeve Coghlans first humanitarian trip to Nairobi in June 2008.