Buckner Kenya: Creating independence, providing home
By Dickson Masindano
Country director, Buckner Kenya
Our mission at Buckner Kenya seeks to provide safe and loving homes for children, promote independence and build strong families. Recently, our work with one of our kinship care families proved we can do all three in one family setting: The family of kinship care provider Nereah Adhiambo Yamo.
In Kenya, the burden of caring for orphans and vulnerable children is either shouldered by older siblings or grandparents – often those who are least able to stand the challenges of additional expenses for feeding, clothing, educating or meeting medical care costs for the family. The traditional support systems for widows, orphans and vulnerable children have weakened as a result of the HIV/AIDS scourge, resulting into an overburdened family and kinship network in Busia, a large border city to Uganda.
In 2009, Nereah took over care of Caleb from his maternal grandmother when he was 12. Since then, his aunt has been saving from the monthly support she receives to purchase electrical equipment for sale and to maintain her tailoring shop.
Nereah has been building capacity at her shop to build her independence. She provides training to younger people ready to gain tailoring skills and has a great vision of changing many lives once her business picks up. She wants to get a bigger room for operation and to buy more tailoring machines. This will create additional job opportunities and provide her with further self-reliance.
In addition, the family farms to support themselves. They grow oranges and tomatoes which they use at home. They raise poultry, which they sell, and keep the eggs to hatch more chickens, another important income generator. Her farming provides for six people daily, and the children learn farming skills, too.
We are seeing great success in Kenya by helping families economically as well as strengthening them with life skills and encouraging them spiritually. We often find that it is the combination of all three of these areas that means true success for a family and their children.
Ministering in Kenya provides unique challenges because of poverty. A 2005 United Nations report ranked Kenya 154th on a list of 177 countries in the categories of life expectancy, literacy levels and overall gross domestic product.
The dry poverty statistics in Kenya sum it up. Somewhere between one quarter and one half of the population earns less than $1 (U.S.) each day (the annual GDP per capita is around $360). In the 1990s, it was estimated that half – 9 million – of rural Kenyans were living below the poverty line.
Busia District, where Nereah lives, has its own challenges. In addition to poverty, Busia suffers from the complex effects of HIV/AIDS and carries a high Tuberculosis burden. The district poverty index is 68 percent and the HIV/AIDS prevalence is 7.4 percent.
The issue of orphans and vulnerable children presents a special problem and is one of the biggest challenges facing the district. The orphan crisis has been precipitated by the death of young parents partly through civil war in Mt. Elgon and communities fleeing from northern Uganda as a result of internal wars by Konny rebels to the government; tribal clashes in Kenya, especially after the disputed general elections 2007; and families moving from rural to urban settlements in search of employment.
But the main cause is HIV/AIDS deaths. According to the Children's Department, the estimated orphan population in Busia is about 90,000 children. We approximate about 75 percent of the orphans have lost both parents.
The high number of orphans creates further impact in Busia. There are many children and teen who are not enrolled in school. The primary school Net Enrollment Rate (NER) shows attendance at 67.6 percent, meaning 32.4 percent of school-age children in Busia are not in school. These children might be candidates of the worst forms of child labor, including trafficking and child prostitution.
But the good news is that Buckner Kenya has offered great help to the surrounding community through the various activities it conducts in terms of scholarships, monthly support, mentorship, capacity building, training and facilitation for families. All these activities are geared to our mission to provide safe and loving homes for children, promote independence and build strong families.