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2007-01 Kenya Build Project

More than 15 million children under the age of 18 have lost either one or both parents to AIDS worldwide. One third of Nairobi's population has the HIV virus.

 

Of approximately 1 million Kenyan AIDS-orphans, many of them end up single-handedly fending for their siblings. Others simply wander the streets. A large number resort to prostitution, for a couple of coins, or perhaps a morsel of food. This hellish combination of parental loss, economic hardship, lack of love, attention and affection, inevitable psychological distress, malnutrition, illness and isolation is simply too much for any of us to fully take on board in our supposedly civilised world. During my time as columnist with "The Weekender", I have written several articles on an ex-classmate of mine - Basil Love - who repeatedly returns to Kenya to address the problem of these homeless and seemingly `hopeless' children. In my recent Christmas story, even Santa visited Nairobi.

 

In 1983, an ex-Miss Nairobi - `Mama Mary' - established St.Paul's Children's Care Centre in the Nairobi suburb of Karen. Half of the centre's 170 children are orphans. In a Makuru school, Basil witnessed basic wooden classrooms with galvanised sheet roofing. The attentive children sat on the floor, which when it rained, became muddy. There were dormitories for the orphans, but with sub-human facilities, and minimal food.

 

Sadly, the home's founder Mama Mary passed away just before Christmas 2006.

Thanks to funds raised by Sligo General Hospital, another Makuru school - Kwa Nyenga School - is now a sturdy concrete construction.

 

Last year Basil and four others returned to St.Pauls in Karen for 10 days in order to begin groundwork for the construction of classroom and accomodation blocks at Mama Mary's centre. As an Instructor in carpentry and joinery at Fe¡s in Ballytivnan, Basil is more than qualified to lead these teams.

 

In June 2007, I will have the privilege of joining a team of volunteers travelling to Nairobi to help further the good work done by Basil Love and others. This time, the team will concentrate on "Cheryl's Children's Home" at Dagoretti in Nairobi. The home's vulnerable orphans deserve a second chance in life, to be healed from their horrific traumas. A secure and loving home environment is certainly a good starting point. Already the positive results are plain to see, with a successful High School programme in operation, and several of the children moving on to successful careers which they could not otherwise have dreamed of achieving. A new Medical Centre serves the orphanage and the neighbouring community. A small pre-primary and primary school was recently set up.

 

But in order to guarantee food and education for these kids with their second chance in life, the facilities at "Cheryl's Childrens Home" need to be seriously updated. The infrastructure is still in a sorry state, and basic water services, transport facilities, hygiene utilities and general repairs also need urgent attention. Basil, and I, and the team will be building classrooms and dormitories for these special children. Additionally, each morning I will give the orphans a music/singing lesson before I join the other builders! I am hoping my extensive experience in the construction industry will really stand me in good stead. Sorry, there I go again mixing up construction and show business.

 

For anyone interested in sponsoring my trip (No pressure whatsoever!) I have set up a bank account (Kenya Build c/o James Nelson - Account Number 56967923 - Sort Code 906507 - at Bank of Ireland, Baltinglass, County Wicklow) in order to cover the cost of flights, basic accomodation and of course the all-important building materials. I am also planning a series of fund-raising events, including a recital, in order to fund the trip, in order to make some surplus money for this worthwhile cause.

 

Thanks for taking time to read this.