COVID-19 has impacted the lives of many people in diverse ways. I keep wondering how children are experiencing these corona days. I know in Kenya, there has been an increase in cases of domestic violence as well as sexual molestation in homes. Right now we have sheltered a girl who has been sexually molested by her grandfather since she was in grade 9. During COVID-19 days, with schools closed and nowhere to go, the abuse increased and she ran away from home. She sought help from the local chief and she said if they cannot help her, she will kill herself. In times like these, we all need to think and act outside the box!
We have sheltered 63 children at the Kithoka Amani Children’s Home (KACH) during these COVID-19 days. We did not totally lock ourselves in the house in spite of the scary disease. In thinking of ways to keep the children meaningful engaged, I realized that we will have to think outside the norm box. The norm was to focus on education, especially the academic form of learning. For the first four months after schools were closed in March, we continued to do studies at home because we thought schools would reopen by June. We wanted our children to be caught up in their studies. Come, June, COVID-19 cases were increasing and the President announced that schools would be reopened in 2021. The kids totally lost interest in studying at home. I also felt that there was no need for running classes if the kids would go back to the grade they had begun in 2020.
With 63 children at home, totally demotivated to study, half of them teenagers, I had to think fast. I decided to introduce alternative sources of learning that could keep the children out of trouble and meaningfully engaged. Kenya has a new school curriculum known as the “competence based curriculum” (CBC). Competence based education focuses on learning on real-world skills and competency development. Programs are therefore designed around competencies that are needed for a particular career ensuring that the material is relevant. The outcome is that students are workplace ready and have expertise in their chosen fields.
I decided that our work as a family would be centred on building skills that will enhance the future lives of my children at KACH. I normally engage the kids in discussing the initiatives that we choose to work on. When we agreed to go to our second site to fence the land, the older boys in high school loved the place so much. They asked me whether they could stay there full time. This is like a camp-site. No buildings, open-air cooking and sleeping in tents. The boys said that they loved the ruggedness of this place and that is where they want to spend their days. I asked them what they would do with their time. They suggested that we build their dormitory there instead of at the site where we live right now.
That is what we have been doing. This has taught the kids a variety of skills. Construction, fetching water, fetching firewood, cooking with firewood, fencing, cooking for themselves, digging toilets (a hole in the ground) as deep as 21 feet, carrying rocks to fill in gullies to make a road into the farm, clearing the land, planting, harvesting, washing clothes by hand, teaching, and hiking – being in nature. The kids have learned to work in teams, to rely on each other, to bond as a family and to support each other in many ways. The younger kids have an older sister/brother who takes care of them and advices them. The children play together and we all live as a family. COVID-19 has not only brought us together as a family, it has also tightly bonded us.
We have an African proverb that states: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk with others.” We are inviting people who wish to walk with us on this journey to provide housing for our KACH children. We are therefore, humbly requesting support in the form of funding to complete the boys dormitory. We have completed the ground floor foundation and walls. We now have a slab and the first floor to complete and then roof the building. The dormitory will house 40 boys on the first floor. We will have a dining hall, kitchen and guest rooms on the ground floor. Attached are the Architectural Drawings, Budget of the KACH Boy’s Dormitory, and some photographs of the construction so far. THANK YOU!