Visit to Kenya a blessing for Victoria woman
Stacey Baldwin helping non-profit that supports orphaned children in Nairobi slum
On one side of Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya in east Africa, all one can see is skyscrapers. It’s a different situation entirely on the other side.
It’s here in the slums of the densely-populated city of 6.5 million where Stacey Baldwin has stayed for the last few weeks. The Victoria resident has sponsored children living in a home looked after by the Makina Community Development Project (MACODEP) since 2006, and is now in the middle of her first visit to the area. She’s staying in Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world. According to Baldwin, an estimated 100,000 orphans live there.
“Roads are very dangerous, congested with people and traffic,” she told The Compass in a detailed message. “While driving throughout the narrow pothole roads with few sidewalks, the people are fearless. At any time, a pedestrian, including children, could be hit by a car, matatu (small passenger vans), tuktuk (three-wheeler) or motorbike trying to pass on the outside or sidewalk. Everyone is in a hurry to get 10 feet ahead.”
Baldwin first learned about MACODEP through its founder, Andrew Otieno, who was raised in Kibera. The organization runs a busy medical clinic and testing laboratory, the children’s home, a home-based HIV/AIDS care program and a youth football club.
So far, Baldwin has felt some mixed emotions about touring Kibera. She said the people there are very friendly and will wave to her calling out “Mzungu,” a phrase meaning ‘white person.’ Her heart melted visiting the local primary school, which has approximately 550 students, with almost half of them participating in a lunchtime feeding program. She was told for many of those kids, it’s their only meal of the day.
The area is filled with garbage piles and rundown homes. She’s been told living standards in the area have improved over the last decade, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
A few years ago, Baldwin started a fundraising campaign called Makina Bracelets of Kibera. She sells bracelets made by the children for a minimum donation of $5, with the proceeds supporting MACODEP. She said most of those have been sold in the Conception Bay North area, with some purchases also coming from Alberta and the United States.
The children’s home currently supports 47 orphans.
“At first, when I met the kids they were shy around me, but now they have warmed up and I’m getting to know their personalities,” Baldwin said.
They all attend school and are healthy, but there is currently a lack of space in the children’s living quarters, and funding to support them at the high school level can be hard to come by, as it costs between $400-$800 a year Canadian to attend.
Baldwin is currently looking to help relocate the children to a safer, more rural environment in Got Osimbo, located near the Ugandan border.
“The location was chosen because many of the children at the current home originally come from western Kenya, especially Siaya County,” Baldwin explained.
A project she hopes to be self-sustaining, it would provide housing, food, water, education and healthcare for approximately 200 orphaned and vulnerable children.
Phase one of the project is already underway, with vegetable gardens, livestock and fish ponds being set up.
“The agricultural projects will help feed the kids now plus the remaining produce will be sold and the money will go toward phase two — building,” said Baldwin, who went on an eight-hour journey to visit the site.
“I have visited the project when I first arrived and fell in love with the countryside,” she said. “So peaceful and beautiful — I saw wild monkeys and a zebra.”
Baldwin planted three trees there to honour her son, niece and nephew. She’s starting a new fundraising campaign to encourage people to plant a fruit tree to honour a love one.
She is also involved with a new project called Jambo Pal to improve the children’s literacy whereby people in Canada can write the children letters and the kids will respond (‘jambo’ is Swahili for ‘hi’).
Baldwin is hopeful more can be done for these children.
“I can’t wait for these kids to experience more in life. Seeing a kid walk up the street at three or four years old by himself without shoes and rags for clothes was a reality check. My child is in Canada with five pairs of shoes and designer clothes. I knew this before I came but seeing this face-to-face is a wake-up call. Being a safety advisor and financial educator by profession, I want to be an advocate, to be a voice. We don’t realize what we have until it’s like a mountain in the corner of toys and clothes and then we don’t know what to do with it.”
Baldwin set up a GoFundMe page to support MACODEP’s relocation project.
Those interested in Jambo Pal, ordering a fruit tree, buying a bracelet or donating clothing and small toys for the children can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stacey Baldwin helps serve rice and beans at a local primary school in Kibera. She was told that for some children, this is their lone meal of the day.
Stacey Baldwin of Victoria has been supporting the Makina Community Development Project’s children’s home in Kibera, Kenya since 2006. She is currently making her first visit to the area.
Stacey Baldwin has been fundraising back home in Newfoundland to support the work of the Makina Community Development Project.