First, I would like to thank Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk for again supporting Springs of Hope Kenya (SOHK) in giving hope to children who have no one—children that have been abandoned and abused or orphaned.
This event has become crucial for SOHK and our children. Those that participate and donate help us provide the necessities that every child deserves: food, shelter, and an education. But, most importantly, the Photo Walk gives us the means to move forward in our endeavors to grow and care for the children of Kenya. The Photo Walk also provides children with security, self-esteem, and a place to call home—a place to love and be loved; a place where they don’t have to worry about where they will sleep at night, or if they will eat, or if they will survive this life at all. Through you, they now have a place where dreams don’t have to die, but where they are nurtured; a place where these children won’t be a statistic, but where they will know a future and most of all, hope.
I moved to Kenya in 2008 to start this adventure. Our dream of starting a children’s home in Kenya had finally come to fruition. But, I soon learned that this dream would bring with it many heartaches and difficulties, and it was not going to be easy. These demands took a toll on me, and forced me to rethink my vision of doing this with my husband and family. I eventually realized I was going to be doing this on my own.
I wasn’t aware of the depths of the issues I would be dealing with — I guess I naively thought we would have all these sweet children who no one wanted, and that we could make it all the better for them. Little did I know that I would be dealing with not only orphans, but also children who had been abandoned and brutalized — physically, emotionally, and sexually. Some issues I had only read about in the newspapers; problems that happen to “other people,” not to people I know and not to children. I didn’t know that these issues would become commonplace for me. I did not think about all the death I would see and experience, or that I would see children that I’d grown to care for and love die before my eyes—something you can never get accustomed to.
I realized these children come with emotional and psychological scars that need to be addressed, and they would need healing. I have found out that cute little street boys grow up and can turn into angry young men, and they need counseling and healing. I know now that these children have been hurt deeply — some have been tossed away like rubbish their entire lives. They have had no love or guidance by a parental figure, man or woman. These children have been failed in every way imaginable. These are young people who have been fending for themselves and looking for someone or something to hold on to all of their lives. I did not know that that person would be me.
I am happy to say that we have worked hard, and through experience SOHK has become a place that with love, care, professional counseling, and encouragement we are turning the tides for these children. We diligently work hard to reunite children with extended family members within healthy home situations, so that these children can have real family experiences to thrive and grow. Some of our children have found forever families through adoption, but in many situations, this is not an option.
Many cannot be reunited or adopted, and that is when we step in and be the family they so desperately need. We have so many success stories, like Dennis and Anthony, who had no future but the streets or death. Maliaka Faith came to us malnourished and we later found out needed two major heart surgeries. Grace and Alex, whose mother died tragically, had nowhere to go. Sometimes I fear to think of where these children would be, or if they would even be alive, if it were not for SOHK and people like you supporting us through the Photo Walk.
Springs of Hope Kenya is not only a home to all of these beautiful children, it is a beacon of hope and opportunity in our community. We employ more than 50 people, which helps the people in our community support themselves and their families, and enables them to educate their children. Our sewing center, Bagamoyo, trains women and men living with HIV, and once they are trained we provide jobs for them. They can then support themselves, go to their clinics, and support their children (see Lillian and Terry’s story).
Our goal is to help keep them healthy and prevent their children from being the future orphans of Kenya. We are working with Professor Tiffany Chenneville Ph.D., from the University of South Florida, to create a program called SEERS (Stigma Reduction Through Education, Empowerment, and Research) in our community, along with youth in schools and colleges. The goal is to educate them on HIV/AIDS to reduce the stigma among the youth in our community.
We also help many people living in poverty in our community. We provide education for locals who cannot afford to go to school. We work with the Lions Club to facilitate eye clinics for children in our local schools. We provide local education and training for caregivers and teachers dealing with children who come from traumatic backgrounds. These are just a few of the ways you are helping SOHK to make an impact in the world.
Our goals are big and, again, we are so grateful to Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk for helping us attain them. We are determined to be self-sustaining, and we know that we need a viable plan for the future of SOHK and our children. We are currently working on these three projects:
- Bagamoyo: Again, this program creates jobs and training through making beautiful bags from African materials. We are working on selling them in the U.S. online and locally in Kenya. While we’re also helping the people making the bags, the goal is to use the funds made from selling them to support our children.
- Farming: We have started to grow our own crops—agriculture is the number one business in Kenya. Our goal is to cut food costs and sell food to our community, which will help with the cost of our children’s home. We have a vision of milking cows and raising chickens, along with maintaining two greenhouses. We also plan to use this program as an educational opportunity for our children.
- Kambi Amani (Camp Peace) Eco-Camp: This project has been in the works for a few years. It is a beautiful camp built to sustain, train, and provide hope for our children. While we have been able to open the camp, we have had to work in stages to complete it. This program creates jobs for our former street children and orphans through training and through tourism and hospitality. It also serves the local community through employment opportunities, and revenue from this project goes to the future education of our children. By building basic camping and luxury camping experiences for tourists and missionaries, this will, in turn, bring awareness to SOHK, and the orphans of Kenya, along with the beautiful natural environment of Kenya. SOHK plans to make the camp available during downtime for locals to rent for weddings, company retreats, and other events. This will enable us to raise funds year-round and not just in high season. Kambi Amani (Peace Camp) is a labor of love for our children.
Looking to the future, we want to make sure we can continue serving children who have no one in this world. We want to be able to support them and their education without asking for donations in the future. But, we have found the old saying to be true, “It takes money to make money.” To Complete Kambi Amani Eco-Camp we have to raise $100,000 USD. This is a lot!!! I know. But, we really wanted everyone who has diligently donated through the Photo Walk to understand and be fully aware of what we are all about, and to also let you know that you are making a difference!
So, despite all the suffering, the heartache, and the questions of “why?” because of you, we get to see children who have no one being loved daily! Babies that come to us malnourished and near death become healthy and full-of-life and hope. Boys who once had no hope of education are now looking forward to attending college and having a future. Women and men who lived with the stigma of HIV/AIDS and no self-worth are building their self-esteem and getting a new lease on life.
We get to witness God’s miracles everyday. You are making a difference! Large or small it all matters in the end!
Love and Peace,
Springs of Hope Kenya
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