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BRYDGES CENTRE CHILDREN’S HOME: A MODEL 21ST CENTURY CHILDREN’S HOME

2 Year old baby Moses had a thing for Eve. He wanted her to sit close to him and even asked his young brother to move aside so that Eve could sit between them. After lengthy consultations with committee members during the 1st Community Service Committee meeting a few weeks ago, members agreed to settle for Brydges Centre Children’s home as the club’s main community service home for the coming year and the pre-visit to the home saw both the current president and president elect agree to extent this partnership to 2 years and possibly convince future presidents to have the home as a long term project for the club.

Well, Brydges is different. Its a model home that perhaps other establishments should emulate. 15 years ago in a slum in Nairobi i.e. Dandora, crime was rife and young street kids were being killed for petty crimes such as purse snatching. Mama Rosemary believed that these kids despite their shortcomings, deserved more than what they were getting and it seemed unfair that the punishment they were getting for their petty crimes was too huge. Mama Rosemary started off by meeting with these street kids at bus stops on a regular basis to share with them materials. After several meetings and sharing, Mama Rosemary started accommodating the children in a 1 roomed house and then moved to a two roomed house. Initially, she had 25 children under her care. As time went by, she was able to save up enough and they moved to Ngong town where they had 3 different rented houses and also bought one acre of land. At the advice of a friends, Mama Rosemary sold the 1 acre of land in Ngong and bought 5 acres of land in Isinya at the same price. The 5 acres of land can now accommodate all the children and the home is also able to set up sustainable agri-practices that include a fish pond and a green house plus a home vegetable garden. Mama Rosemary now has 124 kids under her care aged between 2 and 22 years.

Why is Brydges different? Well, we must first appreciate the fact that the management is made up of visionaries led by Mama Rosemary who were keen on progress and from Dandora, they have been able to move these children to a much better and safer place. Just because these children came from slums, it doesn’t mean they have to live their the rest of their lives. In the real sense although many have grown up in slums and made it, a different environment from the slum is good for the children. Mama Rosemary and her team tell a different story. Out of my own presumptions, I believe beyond any reasonable doubt that the management of Brydges has put into good use the donations they have received along the way for the past 15 years and thats why they have been able to progress this far. And I noted with interest that although most of their donors had closed shop in October 2010 and only two remain and are supporting time-bound projects, Mama Rosemary was not at all worried and she is keen on setting up projects that will make the home be able to sustain itself. When we asked where they needed the help most, she thought helping put up sustainable projects identified by the children was the best approach and a long-term solution to their current situation. And it was not all talk and no actions at all. For a start, with donations from HEART, Kenya, the children recommended that they set up a fish pond and that is already set up! The home has also built a green house where they grow tomatoes for their use and when in excess, they sell to get some income to cater for other expenses. Their vegetables also come from a vegetable garden in the compound where they have planted some sukuma wiki and other vegetables. Martin, who is in charge of the fish pond and green house is looking forward to setting up more fish ponds and green houses so that they can have enough for their use and also sell some.

The children at Brydges are also different. You see, sometimes when you go to a children’s home, you expect that you will be the one going there to encourage them, to uplift their spirit and perhaps give them hope. Most of the time you will find desperate faces struggling to make it through life. Well, not so for Brydges children. We were welcomed with song and dance and all throughout our tour of the home, they held our hands, not out of desperation but out of love and warmth. One could feel the warmth in their hands. They are happy children and perhaps the only difference between them and a normal Kenyan family is that there is 124 of them and 1 mother! Otherwise, they are living a normal life just like any other kid if not better. We were able to have normal conversations. And it seems they have acquired most of their mannerisms from Mama Rosemary. She received each of the seven of us with a warm and hearty hug and was really pleased to see us. She reiterated the fact that she was not happy because we were coming to bring goodies to the home but because we had come to visit her and her children and when they went back to school on Monday, they would like the rest be able to say they had visitors home over the weekend just like the rest of the kids.

While our initial intention was to pop in, assess the situation and get back to our businesses in Nairobi, we ended up spending the better part of the day with the kids and they in fact had to sing us off as we were somewhat reluctant to leave. We received a traditional African guest treatment. They offered us fruit juice and some biting and for lunch, we could not help but savour the sumptuous meal offered to us. Yes, they were proud to serve us some maize meal (Ugali) with Sukuma Wiki from their home garden and they promised to offer us some fish from their fish pond next time we visited. A meal offered with love and eaten in good company is enjoyable and that we did. While we thought we would be the ones serving them with our junk of juice and shortcake, they in return served us with a healthy bounty. While we thought we were the ones that would bring them some hope and sunshine into their lives, they filled us with great hope and so much sunshine that some in our entourage had to put on sunglasses. These children and their mother filled us with love. A whole hour during the visit was dedicated to outdoor games and for another hour, we were entertained to bone cracking songs, dance and short hilarious theatrics. A keen observer of what content is in an entertainment package from children, I noticed with interest that unlike the many songs, poems and dance that I have heard from different groups of children, the children at Brydges had light entertainment. They sang songs of joy and happiness. Not songs of pity and those that make you sympathize with children in homes. They sang happy songs. Yeah, and they also made us entertain them and for those of us with stiff bones, we had to crack them!

 

WHAT THE HOME ALREADY HAS

As a matter of promoting transparency and accountability to individuals who are granted good will by the general public, we must first analyze what Brydges has been able to do with the funds they have received in the past and see if they are fit to receive your goodwill.

Well, for starters, there are things the good mother Rosemary has been able to teach her children and there are values she has instilled in them. Isn’t it amazing that when they moved to Isinya which is a generally hot area, the boys got together and slashed the overgrown grass in the compound and used it to put up a grass shelter where they can cool off in the heat of the days? Isn’t it amazing the children actively participate in the agriculture projects the home has? Martin is in charge of the fish pond and green house. Isn’t it amazing that Dennis can make beautiful ornaments which they can sell off for some income? Isn’t it amazing that Rosemary has been able to take some of her children to National Schools? And although Dennis and one of his brothers is home for lack of school fees and she is often asked why she can’t take them to local schools which are cheaper? She responds by emphasizing that if a child is bright and has been directly admitted to a national school, he/she should not be deprived of that chance. Dennis is child at the home and a student at Sunshine Secondary School and has been top of his class since he joined the school. He is now in Form 3 and we expect to see his name among the top candidates in the country come February 2013. Pilot is a brilliant student and wants to become a pilot and Rosemary took him to Pioneer School which is a private school and even though his home for lack of fees, she says she must find him fees to go back to the same school. The two boys are among the oldest in the home and one can see how far Mama Rosemary has brought them. And they entertained us to some old school “twist” jig! And when the children’s shoes get torn and tattered, Dennis takes off a whole day and mends all of them and they look as good as new!

Rosemary’s children have a donor who is now building dormitories for the students at the Skills Centre who currently live outside the home, about 40 of them. Rosemary is planning to put up cottages for the younger kids but as for now, they have mabati dormitories which at times get too hot or too cold for the younger kids at times. The home, apart from the green house and fish pond, has a pre-school up to class 3. The Ministry of Education approached the home to accommodate local children from the area because schools are far. The home has a staff of 20 and the teachers are trained. They have a kitchen, hall and a few offices for the school. The school is equipped with chairs and tables in the classrooms as well as a library.

 

WHAT BRYDGES WOULD LIKE HELP WITH

  • Brydges has a functional library and assured us that any book donations especially text books will be stored well and will be a great boost to their library and for the children.
  • Brydges needs irrigation equipments mainly sprinklers (the area is in a dry zone and vegetables need irrigation) and fencing materials for their gardens.
  • Bed kits: The home has beds but the bedkits i.e. blankets, mattresses and bedsheets are a bit old and therefore they require a donation of the same.
  • Brydges has only one bathroom and toilet. They need more to be able to cater for the capacity of the home efficiently
  • School fees particularly for the high school kids and especially the bright ones in National Schools is a major challenge and sponsors are needed for this.
  • Sanitary towels: About 35 girls in the home require sanitary towels every month which is a bit expensive and financially straining for the home
  • Brydges would like to start an Exit Program for their children who are due for reintegration into society, a process which has been challenging in the past. The Exit Program proposes to help the children who are being exited from the home to have a package which they can use as start up capital to help them start up life. The package can also include buying equipments for those exiting e.g. sowing machines. The Brydges Skills Centre equips the students with such skills in catering, entrepreneurship, embroidery and other handy skills.
  • Brydges would like to start up a few income generating activities such as chicken and rabbit rearing. The two projects were identified as the most viable after market research was done and recommended them.
  • The home is planning a tree planting day and requires donations of seedlings
  • The home is also organizing a major fundraiser to help raise funds for school fees and other needs for the home. A marathon is being organized and your input and contribution is requested.
WHAT THE ROTARACT CLUB OF NAIROBI CENTRAL WILL HELP OUT WITH
As stated earlier, RCNC is impressed by the management of Brydges and is willing to partner and support the home in whichever way it can. For starters, Brydges will be a major beneficiary of the Book Drive and Sanitary Towels distribution Projects which are our major projects for the Rotary Year 2011/2012
The Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central being a forum for professional development in itself as one of the goals and avenues of service of Rotaract will design a mentorship program for the kids at Brigdges. Already, plans are underway to bring Martin to Nairobi for one of the meetings to make a presentation on Fish Farming and setting up of Green houses. He made an excellent short presentation during our visit that kept us thinking of where we could get a piece of land and set up a pond already. The mentorship program will also include getting members and other volunteers to participate in an open mentorship day (Career Day) at the school as well as providing job shadow opportunities for the older children. The club will also try to identify other opportunities where the children from Brydges can showcase their talent.
RCNC through its social networks will endeavor to make known to the world about the good things we witness at Brydges Centre Children’s Home. We shall publicize the home and help raise awareness of its activities and hope to get more donors to help the home make even greater strides.
Members, fellow rotaractors, and people of goodwill are welcomed to make with us regular visits to the home to play and talk with the children. The next visit is scheduled for 6th August 2011 where our club 1st quarter celebrations will be jointly marked with the home’s annual birthday celebrations. Plans are also underway to have a fundraiser weekend camp at the home pending confirmation. We shall keep you posted.
WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR BRYDGES
As an individual, you can help Brydges either through RCNC projects or directly. Either or a combination of the following from people of goodwill will be appreciated:
  • Donate today to Brydges towards any area of need as outlined above.
  • A visit to the home is always appreciated. Mentorship and making known of mentorship opportunities for the kids goes a long way.
  • Sponsor a bright kid at Brydges to go to a school of their choice.
  • Technical input as well as expert advice on how to go about designing various projects and programs to address the needs identified above will be of great help.
  • Help raise awareness through your social networks fb, emails, websites and get more donors and sponsors to support Brydges. You can copy paste this link to your facebook profile and other social networks.
  • Attend and participate in their events such as the annual birthday celebrations, fundraiser marathon and tree planting day.
  • Any other way you are able to help out and may have been left out.
To visit Brydges Centre Children’s Home or for further enquiries and direct support, you can get in touch with:
Rosemary Wafula
Brydges Centre Children’s Home
P. O. BOX 1027 00200 Nairobi, Kenya
Mobile: +254 720 547 254 or +254 721 556 009
I believe Brydges deserves all the support it can get as it has proved it is a model 21st Century Children’s Home which is guided by great vision of progression rather than stagnation.
We look forward to your support.
Yours In Service,
Irinah Katherina Wandera
D9200 District Rotaract Public Relations Chair 2011/2012
President Elect 2012/2013
Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central
Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Nairobi
Email: president.rcnc@gmail.com or ikwandera@gmail.com

 

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