Earlier this year Air-IT were delighted to have sponsored James Cassidy, a second year medical student from the University of Nottingham, who travelled to Kenya in June as part of the Kenyan Orphan Project (KOP).
To read our initial sponsorship story please click here.
KOP is a UK registered charity committed to supporting the health, education, nutrition and social welfare of orphaned children in Africa through a range projects. The charity is supported by an active UK student programme that act as volunteers and help with the various projects through regular organised group visits to Kenya.
James has so kindly provided us with a follow-up report outlining his experiences whilst working on two projects in the Kisimu area of Western Kenya – which certainly makes good reading.
My Kenya Orphan Project Visit
The Kenyan Orphan Project (KOP) is a UK based charity which was set up by the University of Nottingham in 2001. It aims to support total and partial orphans from different parts of Kenya, mainly based around the city of Kisumu it Western Kenya.
I travelled to Kenya for 2 weeks in June 2012 after raising £800 for the charity and got a chance, along with 30 other medical students from Nottingham, to see where the money had gone in making a difference to these children’s lives.
Our group was involved in 2 projects that were set up a few years ago and I spent a week at each.
Kochogo Feeding Centre – Week 1
The first week saw me and 12 other students helping out at the rural feeding centre in Kochogo.
Kochogo is a very small village about a 45 minute drive from Kisumu and is the centre point between several local Primary Schools. Although I say local, some children were walking a few kilometers at lunchtime just to have food.
The feeding centre itself provides food for orphaned children of ages up to around 16 years old who are either orphaned or just have one parent. The children visit during lunch and evening time to receive very basic food which is just enough to keep them going.
We were extremely excited to meet all of these young children and to help out with the day to day jobs. Straight away the centre had us tending the crops they needed for food, preparing food and washing up. This took up most of the morning and we had to work fast before the children arrived.
At lunchtime it was down to 13 of us to control 180 hungry children making sure that they all got fed! It was amazing to see these young children who had literally nothing except one set of clothes and yet were so happy at the sight of the most basic and simple of foods. It really made us put things into perspective of what is important.
For the afternoon, the older children had to go back to School classes, but the younger ones stayed for games and activities. I’d forgotten how much fun kid’s games were until I was sitting on the floor waiting for my head to be tapped in a game of duck duck goose! It was so nice to see the smiles on the children’s faces when they were running around, doing arts and crafts or just talking with us.
This is what makes Kochogo Feeding Centre so special – it is a place where a child can just be a child. They can forget about any troubles they have back at home or on the street and just play as children their age should do.
We stayed in Kochogo for four days in total and everyday just got better and better as we got to know the children more and more.
On our final day, the Manager of the centre took us on a visit around the local village. You’ve probably heard the stereotype of a poor village with mud huts and nothing else, but this is true and all there is. Houses are so simple and often only have one room where a whole family or two will sleep, cook and live.
It was an eye opening experience because although these children seemed so happy at the centre during the day, they had hardly anything to go home to. The feeding centre was only a brief part of their everyday life and it was so easy to forget that the rest of the time, these young children were living in conditions that we could never imagine.
HOVIC Day Centre – Week 2
My second week took me to a small project named HOVIC in the centre of the city of Kisumu.
HOVIC is a centre that takes young children in off the streets where they are living rough, and provides somewhere for them to eat, sleep and be educated. The centre is only very small and has a dormitory, 2 classrooms, one feeding hall and a small outdoor area.
The main street children taken in are boys aged 10-16 but there were also a few girls who were a little bit older. The aim of the centre is to provide these children with a safe living environment by providing food, shelter and education so that they can get back to living a normal life.
This project was very different to the first one at Kochogo since we were dealing with children on an individual one to one basis. The HOVIC centre currently supports only around 15-20 boys which meant we got to know each one very well.
Each day started with us serving up a breakfast of porridge to the boys and holding short assemblies with songs and prayers. Later on in the morning, it was our chance to teach the children some formal lessons in Maths, English, Geography or Science. I was surprised at how willing they were to learn and show off their knowledge!
After an hour of lunch, the afternoon gave us a chance to teach some life skills to the boys which involved anything we felt was important for their day to day lives. We covered different topics such as HIV/AIDS, water sanitation and drug avoidance. It was during this time that the boys really opened up about their lives on the street which was hard for us to comprehend.
These young teenagers had seen things and lived lives nobody ever should. They told us about drugs, crime and the danger that they saw every day and night on the city streets which was extremely hard to take in. When one of the young boys from the project decided to return to the streets we tried so hard to persuade him to stay. Unfortunately, we did not succeed and sometimes it just doesn’t work since some of the boys feel that they just don’t fit in.
Overall the experience made me more determined to continue aiding projects like the HOVIC Centre through ongoing funding with the hope that eventually, the support that they provide to these young boys will be enough to persuade all street kids to choose the better life for themselves.
My visit to Kenya would not have been possible without the help of the Air IT and I cannot thank them enough for the money which they donated. A big thank you especially to Paul Judge – who was fantastic at communicating and organising the connection between Air-IT and the KOP.
I truly would recommend any young person with the motivation to make a difference, to get involved in the KOP or any similar projects.
by James Cassidy
2nd Year Medical Student, University of Nottingham
Air-IT were delighted to have contributed towards James’s sponsorship total so that he could make the trip to Kenya. We were very pleased to see that he was able to make a difference to the lives of these less fortunate children and continue the excellent work carried out by the KOP.
If you would like any further information about the fantastic work that is carried out by the Kenyan Orphan Project (KOP) or to sponsor a future student visit please visit www.kopafrica.org