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Our organization and its efforts are not only efforts to substantially improve the lives of children for a day or even a year. Our most earnest vision is nothing short of changing the world for the children whose lives are most imperiled. We understand and accept that this is a massive undertaking, and while
we begin with one child on one day, we do not stop there. A few ideas contribute to our understanding.
We believe strongly in the ability of our organization to make a difference in the lives of children. Therefore, we seek to create an organization that is able to survive financially through varying economic hardships that may affront our primary donors. Further, we seek to be reliant on a wide variety of funders rather than one or just a few. We see the use of our finances as a moral statement about our own integrity and the world we wish to create. We do not waste resources largely because resources allow us to extend our impact in the world.
The Watoto wa Ahadi rescue center began as a dream in the mind of Stanley Gitari, coordinator of the Community Health Department at Maua Methodist Hospital. Mr. Gitari approached Michael Goodman in 2012, inviting him to help study and respond to the problem of children living on the streets of Maua and surrounding towns. Together, Mr. Gitari and Dr. Goodman planned research which was conducted in summer 2013 by medical students from the United States and nursing students from Kenya. This first round of study included input from the children themselves as well as community partners who might assist in addressing the problem.
Through this initial research partners from governmental, non-governmental, civic and faith communities were identified. The range of local interest in responding to the challenge of street children was broad and deep. Tribal elders expressed a commitment to holding families accountable for caring for their children. Governmental leaders committed to supporting the hospital in its efforts. Youth empowerment programs leant their expertise in defining a sensible intervention strategy. The Nyambene synod of the Methodist Church of Kenya provided 73 acres of a beautiful farm to host a transitional center where children could learn to grow food, attend school, detox from glue, receive psychosocial support and an improved sense of self-worth.
Ultimately, none of these partnerships would matter if the children themselves were uninterested in changing their life circumstances. Through the first and subsequent studies, the children have time and again expressed a keen interest in finding their way into a brighter future than what they know living on the streets. The most important partner in transforming their lives and circumstances are the children themselves, who know a better future may be possible with a bit of opportunity.
Our hopes for the children we work with are as high as their own. If they can dream it, we want to help make it happen. The overwhelming majority of children we work with indicate they do not want to live in the streets, but rather want to pursue education and employment, family and community like anyone else. Some children have biological families who can take them in, and others do not. Regardless of the status of a child’s biological family, we are partnering with community members to provide nurturing home environments to help the children live as members of the community. The specific strategy to help a child thrive after spending time at our rescue center farm depends on the child’s circumstances, but having a successful strategy for each child after the farm is as important as their time on the farm itself. Research shows that children do better in homes, rather than in an institutional setting. We are committed to ensuring that each child who comes through our farm can become part and parcel of his or her wider community.
In addition to making a lasting impact in the lives of the children we work with, we also aim to make a lasting impact in the communities we work with. We work through community partnerships, helping add capacity to the community’s ability to care for its own children. Sometimes, this implies helping the community understand the invaluable assets contributed by each and every child. Most of the time, however, this means simply assisting a community in its on-going efforts to care for its most vulnerable. In whatever way possible and necessary, we aim to add permanent value in the places we work.