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Issue 340 – Our man visits Kenyan orphanage, run by Frome woman

FROME Times’ reporter, Jason Lock, has recently returned from visiting an orphanage in the eastern province of Kenya, which is run and funded by Frome woman, Sarah Hillman.

Sarah invited Jason to visit the Mama Upendo Children’s Trust which she founded with her sister Elizabeth Ngala in the town of Kitui in Kenya seven years ago.
The trust began with just four children and founder Elizabeth describes how it all began, “I was travelling to work in Kitui and I kept seeing the same four children at the same place.
“One day I asked them what they were doing and where they lived. They explained to me that their mother was very sick and that they were hungry. I took them to a local café and fed them.
“From here I called Sarah and said look, we have children here with nowhere to go, we must do something or find somewhere for them to stay. Shortly after the children’s mother died, their father died as well.
“It was out of necessity to house them, we rented an abandoned hotel which we turned into simple rooms for the children, and this is how the trust started.
“Once the word got out that we were taking in children, more came from all around.
“It was our parents’ dream to set up a children’s home and that is where the name Mama Upendo comes from. The first two letters of both my father and mother were M.A and Upendo is Swahili for love.”
Now, the trust currently homes 30 children, the majority of which are orphaned due to AIDS.
Jason from the Frome Times said, “It was truly the most humbling experience of my life. The orphanage is situated around three hours’ drive from Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi.
“I travelled to the trust with four others, including Martin Bax from Frome, and upon entering Kitui we thought it would be a good idea to purchase food for the children’s home such as maize, milk, jam, bread and flour, along with soap and Savlon.
“When we arrived at the children’s home and stepped out of the mutatu (minibus) they were quick to greet us, and more than anything, were genuinely happy we were there. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
“From there we were shown the conditions in which they live. There is no electricity and from what Elizabeth told me, it is far too expensive to have installed. Still, the children are comfortable and carry out their homework by candlelight.
“The children performed a song and dance for us, of which we were all invited to join in. It was an incredible experience.
“I think the most incredible thing about the children was how warm and welcoming they all were; always wanting to chat and very inquisitive about England.”

“Visitors’ money helps the community”

Despite their difficult start in life, the children settle into the home and have ambitions for their future. Thirteen-year-old ‘Charlie’ wants to become a criminal justice solicitor and 18-year-old ‘Paul’ dreams of becoming a scientist.
Paul explained how visitors coming to the orphanage was a good thing for the local community as well as the children themselves. He said, “Yes we have visitors, but we enjoy it, they do a lot for us. It’s not just us (the orphans) they look after. It’s spending money in the community, which in turn helps the community to grow. Such as, if visitors spend money in the town, then this money can go towards building new roads, or building new schools. We have a teachers’ college now! Visitors help Kitui to grow.”
Jason also picked up dancing tips from 14-year-old ‘Beatrice’ who explained, “Just don’t ignore yourself, everyone can dance, you’ve just got to go with it.”
Jason continued, “After I chatted to the children, we presented the food we had bought from the local supermarket, which cost us around KSH10,000 (£67) We were told that this food would feed 30 children for a month. That’s just 0.08p a day per child.
“From here we took them for a hot meal at an agricultural college in Kitui, which cost around £15 in total. To thank us, the children and staff at Mama Upendo blessed each of us.
“I think what’s important to remember about the children’s home is without it, where would those children be and what would their lives be like? In Nairobi alone, over 25,000 people do not have a roof over their head.
“My impression of Kenya as a whole is a resourceful, intelligent, welcoming and loving community culture; an ethos that is seemingly spread throughout the country. The work that is carried out by the 20 trustees at Mama Upendo is a sterling example of unfaltering altruism.”

Funds needed for new
children’s home

Sarah and Elizabeth are looking to construct a new purpose-built children’s home. “The rent on the orphanage in Kitui is very expensive,” explained Elizabeth. “We want to build a brand new facility. The total cost will be approximately KSH5m (£33,000) but it will be a home for the children and improved conditions.”
Following the trip to the trust, the children were invited to Sarah’s 50th birthday, which took place near her family home in the Athi River outside Nairobi. A charity appeal during the night managed to raise around KSH45,000 (£300).
If you would like to make a donation to the orphanage, then contact Mama Upendo Childrens Trust by emailing sarah@mamatrust.org

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