Every soul has a story and a destiny. Here is one of thousands of tearful stories of children, our own children in Meru County, who might die if we do nothing. The reason we are in the position we hold, is to consider them as people who can find our help useful.
This highly shortened story does not tell of the emotional trauma, desperation and tears that flowed from these little eyes, but we hope it will appeal to your capacity and goodwill to partner with us in giving hope to more children who knock at our door. With your help, we will have room for every hopeless child who has nowhere else to turn.
“My name is Josphine. I am 16 years old. I was born with HIV. My mother died before my fifth birthday leaving me in the care of my grandmother who had no means of livelihood. Earlier she was stronger and would do casual jobs for our sustenance. It is not so today. I left school at the age of 14 from pregnancy as a result of being raped while on the way from school.
The pregnancy greatly affected my health and I nearly died. I had no one to tell me what to do. My grandmother is now aged and often left me all alone at home; sometimes for a month with no food. I understand; she needed to look for food for herself. This understanding did not ease my pain, as I had to brave many sick nights and several nights without knowing where my child was.
She too often left me – too sick to move – and wandered to the neighbors to find something to eat. They were kind and gave her too much than she could handle. Often, on her way back home she fell in the bushes with a tummy to heavy to carry. One day, I left home determined to find help. Though hungry, weak and sick; I walked with by baby for about 10km to Meru town where I was guided to the Children’s Office. They were very kind to find me a caring family at Amani Children’s Home. I am regaining my health and hope to go back to school. I know I have a future and destiny for my life, no matter my past.”
In the traditional African society, women and children were classified as weak and vulnerable hence deserved care and protection. Though plagued by disease, this community hardly knew poverty or barriers because of the sense of direction and responsibility the cultural norms endowed on the elders who knew well that the future of their ancestry lay in the hands of their children. To the contrary, the demarcations necessitated by an evolving culture, mutating diseases and marginalizing development opportunities, make the vulnerability of children in need of unprecedented levels. We continue to witness unjust exclusion of children in empowerment processes particularly education, protection, health and nutrition. The number of such children is on the rise and there is an urgent need to intensify and scale up the interventions bridging these gaps for enduring peace and sustainable development.
The current child crisis is largely a result of broken families, discriminating development policies, inaccessible career growth opportunities and degrading social practices. The youth lack empowerment and are not in a position to take control of their lives as they are heavily dependent on their equally needy families. There is a chronic sense of helplessness especially with many youths becoming mothers and fathers before the age of 18.
The trend in Meru County is such that many children do not get to enroll in high school or post high school level of education. By the age of 20, many of them have a child or two; they engage in self destructive behaviors and several die leaving behind children in the care of helpless caregivers. Even worse, when such youth contract HIV and addition related health conditions, the hefty medical expenses deplete the strained resources of their families and have no way of reversing their fortunes without significant help. Even as we think of economic empowerment through the Uwezo Fund initiative, for example, we need to attend to the current situation of orphaned and vulnerable children below 16 years.
Rationale for Fundraising Event
Many orphan’s intervention projects and programs in Kenya rely exclusively on outside donor funding. One of IPI’s goals is to be self-sustaining (meaning raise funds locally) to meet our annual budget needs. We are making deliberate effort to break the dependency vicious cycle so as to become a model of locally sustainable organization that takes care of marginalized and vulnerable women and children. In this regard, IPI has committed to being 90% self-sustaining by 2015 (five years after we opened the home in August 2009). In 2012 we were at 54% self-sustainability level. In 2013 we rose to 60%. With the infrastructure and networks that are now in place, we hope in 2014 we will meet our goal of 90% sustainability. It is with this goal in mind that we wish to utilize the local capacity we have in our Meru County leadership, friends, colleagues, partners both local and international, to launch the fundraising activities.
Resilient and self-reliant people are able to utilize the resources available locally for self-sustenance. Therefore we want to inspire and invite local community members to recognize their role in supporting marginalized groups within our communities through harnessing what they have to build resilient communities.
IPI also hopes that these events will bring people of Meru County closer so that we can harness the resources God has blessed us with in order to build an empowered and resilient County. We pray you will join us to meet this noble goal!!
Facts and Figures
The orphan crisis is a national phenomenon that needs to be address by both the Central and County governments. With the onset of devolution, it is important to integrate and prioritize the interventions for care and support of orphans in the Meru County agenda.
- The HIV/AIDS epidemic has deepened poverty among the already impoverished families. The percentage of support for rural children is significantly lower. Unfortunately, the condition of some of these children is so bad that they are not in a position to access free primary education. For instance, in the case of child headed households, the priority is not education but fending for the siblings to have just one more day pass by.
- Kenya has a total of 2.4 million orphans. Half of these are HIV/AIDS orphans. There is a marked bias favoring the urban in delivery of services despite the fact that when parents die in towns, the orphans are sent back home to the rural village to the ancestral home. We should ask ourselves, who is caring for the orphans and where are they getting the resources?
- Kenya, a low-income country has approximately 80% of its 43.1 million people live in rural areas, subsisting on agricultural production. The government concern with regards to wage-bill is valid. The big question is, if 80% of the people being paid have no direct relationship in terms of output to the 80% of the population in rural areas, how do we expect to break free from paying 80% of GDP to operational costs? Unless the rural communities are empowered to generate resources at grassroots level the government has many more hardships coming up.
- The Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) is a deepening crisis as global funding fail to keep pace with the 2.4 million orphans who need care and support. However, it is not practical to expect other governments to generate funds in excess of their needs to share with us. We must seek sustainable solutions within the means that we have.
With the new county boundaries, we do not yet have documentation on the number of orphaned children that need help but we can be sure that the people in the now larger community are looking up to us to help out.
International Peace Initiatives (IPI) is an International Non Governmental Organization (INGO) that works to support and advocate for the needs and rights of children who are orphaned or affected by HIV/AIDS and women living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya. IPI has been operational in Meru County since the year 2003. We believe that peace is not merely the absence of war but access to basic needs (health, food, education, economic freedom, life, shelter, etc). IPI works for peace in the form of social, spiritual, economic, health stability; and transformation of people and communities through education, enterprise and empowerment. Education secures acquisition of knowledge; enterprise applies the knowledge acquired to generate wealth and empowerment engages the generated wealth to create social, spiritual, economic and health stability hence transformation.
IPI’s primary target group is women living with HIV/AIDS, their families and communities. The plan is to strengthen their support system to care for women and children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. It has a number of core programs that support these marginalized groups:
- Kithoka Amani Children’s Home (KACH) is a safe haven where total orphans are committed and raised. It is registered in Kenya with the Children’s Department and is a program of International Peace Initiatives (IPI). This is also a model home that will be duplicated to form a network of Amani Children’s Homes.
- The Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s Education Fund (OVCEF) supports orphans and vulnerable children stay in school.
- The Community Support Initiatives (CSI) – builds community capacity to effectively respond to challenges of HIV/AIDS, poverty and violence.
- Institute for Nonviolence and Peace (INPEACE) – communicates the gains and challenges faced in HIV/AIDS interventions with a view of creating awareness and reducing stigma and discrimination.
- Network of Enterprise Initiative – creates a planned, sustainable network of agricultural products and cottage industries to support IPI’s projects. Tiriji Eco Centre is the latest of these projects.
Kithoka Amani Children Home (KACH)
Kithoka Amani Children’s Home (KACH) was born out of the need to create a safe haven for children who find themselves without parents mostly as a result of the HIV pandemic. The approach is participatory and transformative with a goal of having 90% of all the resources raised locally. This is sustainable and creates an avenue for us to create awareness on the needs of such children with a view of generating permanent solutions.
It is preferable to support of orphaned and vulnerable children in the community, as this maintains the social framework of families and is much cheaper that having the children in our Community Home. However, it is sometimes not possible to find a foster parent for orphaned children especially those whose parents die from HIV. We are pleased that with our facility whose capacity is 60 children, we can be of hope to such children. That notwithstanding, we need to raise funds to ensure that we have resources to adequately meet all the needs of these children as long as they are with us. This is a huge responsibility considering that the youngest child is now 2 years, with have 16 years to go. We now have 33 orphans at KACH.
IPI’s strategy for OVCs care is based on what we call the 3 Es: Education, Enterprise and Empowerment. We believe that these three elements provide a holistic approach to providing the life skills that each individual child needs for development. Education provides the information that enables the child to get knowledge for understanding their condition. This understanding enables the child to harness skills needed to build an enterprise or enterprises that enable the child to free themselves from poverty. The enterprise provides empowerment that enables the child to create a sustainable response to the challenges of attaining self-reliance.
Amani Children’s Homes (ACHs) are a practical strategy for care of AIDS Orphans and other vulnerable children (OVCs). They are a model of response to the orphans crisis in Kenya that offers orphans a safe and secure home in which they can expect to have their living, academic, social, health, and emotional needs met through a holistic, participatory, empowerment and community-based approach. At IPI, we commit to providing love, care and support to all the children in our program, in the context of being present to and upholding the rights of every child. This home is not an orphanage (institution), and the children are not taken away from their communities. Because this home is located within the community that the orphans currently live in, it allows them to continue to attend their local school and enables them to maintain close relationships with friends and extended families.
Our first Home is known as the Kithoka Amani Children’s Home (KACH). The strategy is participatory and empowering in that the recipient is called upon to participate in her/his liberation from the challenges she/he is facing. This approach was born from the concern that most care programs for OVCs are based on a welfare approach. A welfare approach basically gives full support to a child without asking for any responsibility on the part of the beneficiary. It is a free handout that causes the recipient to depend on the donor /caregiver/benefactor.
The approach IPI proposes moves the children from a dependency syndrome mode to empowered status where they take responsibility to free themselves from the challenges they face. This is a participatory process for the liberation of their minds to see the opportunities around them and help to make profitable such opportunities.
Orphans and Vulnerable Children Support Program was started in 2003 and has to date supported over 1500 children. We have over 20 who have completed or are pursuing higher education around the world, 40 in middle level colleges and high school and many more in primary school.
IPI is also creating an avenue for the empowerment of women and youth to acquire skills, employment, access development opportunities and build resilience as a means of securing dignity for their lives and that of their families. We are convinced that if homes can be a safe and conducive place for every child; the menace that is of our children growing up in our streets like scavengers will be permanently addressed. The task of ‘rehabilitating’ our homes and caring for orphans at KACH is enormous and can only be achieved through combined efforts of all stakeholders.
The purpose of this proposal is to appeal to you as a stakeholder in the lives of the children in Meru County, to support us with funds, sponsorships, scholarships or donations to enable us continue giving quality services to the needy children. We are committed to giving them the best education for enterprise and empowerment.
Our goal is to raise 4 million Kshs. specifically for the orphans and vulnerable children’s education fund and upkeep of the children at KACH. Previously we have had support largely from international donors, however, in the spirit of becoming self-reliant, we are more and more looking for support locally. In addition to this target, we have in place mechanisms to raise 10 million Kshs. from our diverse projects such as a jewelry-making; carbro manufacturing; making stabilized soil blocks; farm produce; animal husbandry; weaving; trainings in ICT, tailoring, catering & events management; and hosting volunteers, interns & guests.