Sunday 27 September 2015

Why we should build an education centre in Kenya, and how you can help

(This blog post reflects my personal views and opinions).
Nicholas J. Bridgewater
27 September 2015

Children receiving donated gifts from the UK via Msingi wa Tumaini

“Everyone has the right to education.”

Everyone deserves a chance to be educated and receive the best start in life. Unfortunately, we live in a very unequal world—a world in which millions of people are born into conditions of poverty and deprivation. In a large part of the world, basic services such as education, medicine, clean water and opportunities for economic improvement are not available. A case in point is Kenya, where primary education is provided but schools are underfunded, teachers often don’t get paid, and too few children are able to attend—particularly girls. In many cases, community groups have to pay for the school to hire extra teachers for their children and many children do not have access to notebooks, pens, or their own textbooks. I have seen children sharing school textbooks between two, three or four pupils, with no availability for them to take these books home. They share long wooden desks and classrooms are packed with upwards of 40 – 60 children or more. Many children cannot afford to eat at school and cannot bring their own meals so, if they live too far away from the school, they may not be able to get lunch. This prevents a lot of poor and deprived children, including orphans, from attending. Many girls do not have access to sanitary towels, which also makes school attendance difficult. In some areas, school buildings do not even exist, such that children have to learn under a tree or large rock.

Unclean water in Uyoma, Kenya

"Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and therefore a basic human right."
― Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary General

Clean water is available in the form of rainwater, if one can afford to have a tank to collect rain water. Wells can also be dug to provide underground water, but at a significant cost. Clean water is very often not available to rural communities who have to rely on ditches and ponds, full of bacteria and dangerous microbes. The number of orphans in Kenya is particularly high. Furthermore, many of these children end up as ‘street children’ (there being at least 250,000 children living on the street). Many children are orphaned due to deaths in the family caused by HIV, which is a major health concern in Kenya. The spread of HIV is exacerbated by the sex trade, which preys on vulnerable children and women, as well as an increased loosening of the bonds of family structure in society. As in most countries around the world, traditional values and morality are undergoing significant change. As a result, materialism—an ideology which exalts self-interest and material gain over moral values, serving humanity, and recognising one’s own innate potential and the nobility inherent in each human beingis increasing its influence on society. Such problems, though endemic, are not immutable. While structural issues, such as the provision of social services and economic development, require efforts both at the national level and international level in order to be solved completely, there is much that can be done at the grassroots to help build up communities whose ways will give hope to the world.

School children in Uyoma, Kenya

“Do real and permanent good in this world.”
― Andrew Carnegie

Every effort of a humanitarian nature, done in a spirit of service to humankind, can have a positive effect on society and help to mitigate the suffering of others. Even if we help one person to improve their condition, that effort at improvement makes the world a better place in the aggregate. Every human being is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value, capable of transforming his or her own community, of inspiring others, and of bringing about social change. Empowerment of the vulnerable members of society is imperative, particularly women (who have suffered centuries of disenfranchisement) and children. Orphans, in particular, need the concern of all members of society, as they have been deprived of the vital example and economic advantage of those who have a mother and father. A positive approach, then, is to build up communities, one step at a time, who will provide an example to the rest of the world. The key to this is education. Educating one child at a time, we can build up communities which are aware of their own innate potential, have access to the knowledge and understanding which will empower them to shape their communities, and a vision of service to humanity which will guide them in their efforts. Child protection training is an important part of this, as children should be allowed to pursue their own development and education free from sexual, emotional or physical abuse.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Msingi wa Tumaini (Swahili for ‘Foundation of Hope’) was created in order to bring about such change in parts of Kenya, such as Uyoma and Nakuru, one child and one community at a time, by providing a feeding programme which enables children to attend school, by providing child protection training and other training programmes, and by helping people to realise their own innate potential. What Msingi wa Tumaini can do, however, is limited by our resources both in terms of manpower and finances. When we have had significant donations of clothing, toys and books, as well as the money to provide for shipping, we have been able to bring these to Gagra Primary School in Uyoma and distribute them to children. We have also set up a feeding programme, wherein children are provided with a maize meal dish called ugali, and a chicken project, wherein chicks were raised to produce eggs which could be sold to fund the feeding programme. We have also distributed a large number of sanitary towels, funded by certain donors in the UK. Finally, in co-operation with several lecturers from Oxford Brookes University, Msingi wa Tumaini was able to provide a child protection training programme for stakeholders in Gagra Primary School and the local community. However, we cannot yet provide such programmes regularly, nor can we regularly provide sanitary towels or donations of clothing, toys, etc. due to a lack of continuous funding. Sporadic and limited funding means that Msingi wa Tumaini cannot fulfill all of its objectives right now. When we do start to receive a continuous flow of funding, then we will be able to do everything we have set out to achieve.

Clothing generously donated by Dragon School, Oxford

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
― John Bunyan

Building a centre for Msingi wa Tumaini is essential. We need to establish an administrative and educational headquarters in Kenya which our Kenya-based staff can use to provide training and co-ordination for educational projects. Our goal is to make our headquarters a place where children can feel safe, where they can have access to library facilities, where mothers and children, teachers and stakeholders can receive training in child protection, hygiene, community development and social empowerment. This centre can also be used to accommodate foreign volunteers, provide offices for permanent staff, house teaching supplies, food and donations (including donated clothing, toys and books from the UK and other countries), and serve as a community centre for wholesome cultural and social activities. Our current goal is to raise £60,000 for this project, and we have set up a GoFundMe page so that we can receive donations. I would kindly ask anyone who supports Msingi wa Tumaini’s goal and mission to donate as much as they feel able to. Even if you can only afford £6, please donate, and encourage your friends to donate, so that we can achieve our potential. As a small charity, we do not have the massive administrative bureaucracy of larger organisations, so your donations count much, much more and have a direct impact on the lives of those whom we help.

Donate as much as you can...

So, please donate now, at the following link, and also make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook. For more information, please feel free to refer to the Msingi waTumaini website.

This blog post is a personal message to my readers and not an official posting of Msingi wa Tumaini. As such, any opinions and ideas expressed in the posting are my own.  

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