Visit to Kenya a bless­ing for Vic­to­ria woman

Stacey Bald­win help­ing non-profit that sup­ports or­phaned chil­dren in Nairobi slum

The Compass - - Front Page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

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.

Emo­tional trip

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.”

Fundrais­ing

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 forthekids709@gmail.com.

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

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.

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