Advocate reporter Laura Tester has accompanied A Better World on its 20th anniversary trip to Kenya. The Lacombe-based charitable organization is spending 14 days in the African country working on a variety of projects.
A Better World volunteers have heard many sad tales of Kenyan children being abandoned without shelter, food or any love.
There’s Jasmine, who at two days old was being strangled in a graveyard by several women when a guard rescued her.
There’s Rose, who lost both parents when she was six years old, and nearly died due to severe malnourishment and other health problems.
Babies are discovered in unfathomable conditions, like pit latrines where their parents, maybe out of desperation, felt there was nothing else they could do but leave them behind.
Many who do survive have no name because their HIV-positive mothers give false names out of shame at the hospital, then die during childbirth.
But for those who travel with the Central Alberta-based international development organization, they don’t want to dwell on what may have happened to these orphans.
They want to offer them a brighter future, or at the very least, a special day.
During A Better World’s 20th anniversary trip this month, the more than 40 volunteers visited 20 abandoned children at St. Ann Baby and Children’s Home at Nakuru, Kenya’s third largest city.
Irene Wainaina, who along with her husband started the orphanage in April 2007, gives huge praise to A Better World.
“The only people who have come to help is A Better World,” said Wainaina.
Through A Better World, individuals are sponsoring 13 children, between $423 and $539 Cdn for three month periods, so they can go to nursery school.
A teacher was also hired for $385 Cdn per month to teach those staying at home through the day. A Better World also furnished the guest house and built the playground.
Yearly visitors provide food and gifts for the children, from nine months old to four.
For several days on this trip, some volunteers stayed behind at St. Anne, including Bob and Sandra Northey and their two teenaged children Shayna and Heather, who took all 19 children shopping for shoes in Nakuru.
A medical team also checked the children for any sickness, and cared for some area residents, including a man who walked an hour on a sore leg to seek Western medical treatment.
Nakuru lies within the Great Rift Valley, a fertile plateau stretching more than 7,000 km from Israel to Mozambique. This vast fault was once a large inland body of water and is now a string of lakes surrounded by rich vegetation.
This region is where A Better World built an irrigation system at East African Mission Orphanage, where gardens are grown to feed the entire orphanage of 195 children.
During a short afternoon visit, A Better World volunteers ate lunch with the children, who were then supplied with clothes and other gifts.
Ralph Spinks and his wife May started the orphanage 11 years ago, initially with just two children, and over the years A Better World’s contributions have grown.
Within the past four years, it has paid for teacher salaries, sponsored a kitchen and dining room, along with agricultural projects like wheat production.
It also sponsored the construction and furnishing of a girl’s dormitory, which can accommodate up to 200 girls. Lacombe’s Gwen Bader contributed to the project and wanted to visit, but died of cancer before she could.
While the Spinks struggle to meet the daily needs of the children, they rely on A Better World and other organizations to finance these larger capital projects. They are seeking donations to break even on their monthly budgets.
“That’s a tremendous benefit because we can’t have children without buildings,” said Spinks.
And some of those children wouldn’t have made it without this safe sanctuary and the help of A Better World.
Jasmine is now a thriving bubbly four-year-old. Rose, sponsored by Cindy and Richard Wright of Red Deer, is now thriving at age 14 and one day, would like to go to university and become a doctor. Besides an older sister who lives far away, this is her family. And with a wide smile, she says she’s happy for that.