The Edmond Sun

January 7, 2013

Ministry raises $60,000 for African children

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Thanks to generous donors a bunch of Kenyan children are receiving advantages many Africans desire but cannot obtain.  

Eunice Menja, director of Upendo Kids International, said $60,000 has been raised to buy, renovate and equip the Upendo Children’s Home in Kenya. Ninety percent of the donations came from Edmond. Menja thanked everyone who has been part of the orphanage project through either prayer or donations.

“God used your giving to perform a miracle,” she said. “We thought we would wait until June 2013 to start anything.”

Beds, mattresses and sheets have been purchased, Menja said. Workers replaced the doors and windows on the home and built more structures that include a store and worker’s room, she said.

Menja said the property and building are located in Juja in Kenya’s Central Province. It will host 50 children age 5-16. Children younger than age 5 may live there if their siblings are admitted.

In June and July, at least 30 volunteers from Edmond, mostly high school and college students, will go love on the children at the home, Menja said. A few local teachers will go as well, she said. Quilters are making bed covers.

Years of drought had a serious impact on the well-being of Kenya’s children, increasing malnutrition rates, morbidity and mortality, according to UNICEF. A rise in inter-tribal and inter-clan violence resulted in child deaths, injuries and displacement. Many children are orphaned when their parents die of HIV/AIDS.

“The situations get very difficult and they are left with no help,” Menja said. “They therefore move to the streets and tend to feed from the trash cans or beg for food.”

Children may become pickpockets if they are unlucky in getting some food, Menja said. Others are being raised by their grandparents; if the elders become ill the children have no supervision, she said.

There are not many homes like this in Kenya, Menja said. Many homes, such us what Upendo Kids is starting, are owned by churches, mostly foreign churches, she said.

Children living at the new home will have a balanced diet and get to drink clean water, Menja said. They will attend the neighboring schools and school costs are paid by the ministry, she said. The children will receive medical care when needed.

Robert Menja, Eunice’s husband and ministry partner, said the average income for Kenyans is still below $2 a day and most people still rely on subsistence farming for food. Kenya’s government child welfare agency is not able to provide social services for orphans and other neglected children, he said.

“Thanks to our donors and sponsors, 50 orphans and vulnerable children will have a place to call home, be able to take a warm shower, receive a square meal, education and a sense of belonging,” he said. “This is only due to the generosity of Oklahomans in Edmond.”

Eunice Menja said the Kenyan government will be responsible for any major issues that arise. All Upendo Children’s Home employees must pass government background checks, she said.

Menja said Upendo Kids, which helps children in other parts of the world as well, has a reliable partnership committee in Kenya that coordinates its projects. All money sent is designated from this end, she said. The ministry receives all the receipts from Kenya as well and verifies with the people on the ground.

Current needs for the children’s home include money to purchase a bus and sponsors for the children, Menja said. They grow and move to higher grades which raises the needs, she said. It costs $30 a month to sponsor a child. Sponsor dollars pay for food and school fees. Employees will need to be paid as well.

Menja said the financial support can only come from abroad because there is no budget in the Kenyan government that would provide for such a project. Police will call the coordinator to ask if there is room to take more children if they find them on the streets, she said.

Eventually, plans call for the Upendo Children’s Home to expand and care for about 300 children on the same property, Menja said.

“My hope is that these children will get a full education and graduate to where they can support themselves and possibly others,” she said. “We get the children off the streets which will increase security in the country. When Upendo Kids sends the money to Kenya to help the children, it helps with the economy. We also create jobs for the locals as well.”

Donations may be sent to Upendo Kids International, P.O. Box 31504, Edmond, OK, 73003. They can be made online at upendokidsinternational.org. Either one-time or monthly gifts would be appreciated, the group stated. For more information, call 408-8868 or 600-8498.