In 2008, during a visit to Kisumu, on Lake Victoria, a group of 20 “Desperately Needy Widows” was set up. These widows were identified to New Dawn Association by the local Kogony community because they are either too old, or too sick to be able work or care for themselves properly.
2008-The beginnings of the initial Desperate Widows group
In 2017, New Dawn is still supporting this group of needy people, though since 2008, several of these ladies have died and others have been elected by the local community, to replace them. (At present, we are supporting 16 ladies.) During our stays in Kenya, we have repeatedly visited these widows in their homes in the bush. Many of them are elderly and often sick grandmothers, whose children have died of AIDS, leaving them to care for as many as up to 14 grandchildren. Most of them live in mud huts, with just the bare necessities. Many of them share their single mattress with two or three grand-children. They struggle to provide enough food for every one living under their roof, and many are burdened with the education costs of their grand-children, which are frequently far beyond their means.
These women’s stories are often tragic. Initially, monthly packs of food and basic items were provided for these needy women. (Sugar, maize flour, salt, dried fish, cooking oil, matches, soaps.) From time to time, over the years, special initiatives have been organised to assist these impoverished ladies and their wider community. An HIV/ AIDS counselling unit visited the community, free Medical Camps have been repetitively held within the community, enabling this group and others, to have their current medical needs addressed. The consultations and medication offered at these medical camps has been free. A weekly porridge program was held for a period of time to assist the impoverished children within the community. Other special requests have also often been able to be met such as solar lamps, blankets, mattresses, body oil, and mosquito nets.
From 2015 onwards it was agreed that the widows would be given a monthly cash envelope instead of packs, so that they could decide their own priorities. These payments are now allocated to each widow on a quarterly basis. Throughout the year, New Dawn receives detailed progress reports on each widow from our project coordinator, working on the ground, and when possible, we try to meet certain specific needs. In 2017, we were able to help a needy mother set up a small grain selling business. This small project has not only enhanced this lady’s finances but has also given her renewed hope.
Please click on ‘Janet’s Story’ to follow the miraculous transformation of one of these widows, Janet Ogwala, who we discovered lying on the floor of her home when we visited her in 2009. We have been supporting two of her children since 2008, and continue to do so today, (in 2018.)
The Kenyan government provides state education (Primary School), which is “free” (although there are considerable extra costs for items such as uniforms, shoes, school bag, stationery, extra tuition, exams, support staff, electricity, water). The classes are very large and the facilities often extremely dilapidated. Many children cannot attend school because they lack the basic necessities such as uniforms and school fees. If children arrive without the proper uniform they are systematically sent home. It has never ceased to amaze us how the children still manage to do their classroom studies under such difficult conditions. The children who manage to work through classes 1-8 can then sit for the “Kenya Certificate of Primary Education” (KCPE). If they pass the KCPE the children can qualify to go on to the High School and work their way through Forms 1-4. However, this next stage of their education is not free, and these fees are considerable, particularly if the children attend a Boarding School. In Form 4 they sit for the “Kenya Certificate in Secondary Education” (KCSE).
Between 2007 until 2015 New Dawn has met the Primary School fees for, at times, up to 25 needy orphanage children. It has also been involved in supporting five students at various levels of High school. In addition, it supported a Community Nursery School which prepared children for entrance onto the first rung of the Primary School system. Investing in children’s education is one of the most worthwhile and valuable things that New Dawn is currently involved in. Enabling an impoverished child to attend school, is a life changing event for the young person, and for the whole family involved.
From 2008-2012, New Dawn supported Sharon, through 4 successful years at Boarding High School. New Dawn has supported two boys, Bryan and James, from 2012-2016, through 4 years at different Boarding High Schools. At the end of 2016, these boys successfully achieved their KCS examinations. Both these boys came from impoverished families and have been extremely grateful for the support they have received. Not all children are suitably gifted to go on to an academic education when they have passed out from the Primary School stage, and if funding is available, there are a wide range of opportunities for these children to receive vocational training in a chosen trade.
New Dawn is currently supporting 3 more children at Boarding High School, Phanice , Susan and Edwin. Phanice comes from an impoverished, one parent family. Her mother is a victim of HIV/AIDS and is often unable to work. Phanice has been part of New Dawn’s education program since 2010. In 2014 she began her 4 year Boarding High school cycle. At the end of 2017, she will have completed her KCS examinations. She has received special encouragement and follow-ups during the last year, in particular, as she has been preparing for her final examinations.
Since 2006, when New Dawn first became involved with this community work in Kisumu, we have been supporting Susan, and a few years later, also her brother Edwin, throughout their Primary School years. (These children are two of widow Janet’s family. (see Janet’s story above.) Today, Janet’s health has been stabilized, but New Dawn continues to assist these two children to ease her burden. In 2017, Edwin is in his first year of Boarding High School. Susan will have completed her second year of Boarding High School, at the end of 2017. They have promised to continue to work diligently in order to successfully achieve their final exams. New Dawn makes every effort to follow up the progress of each child in its program, and schools are visited and reports are collected on a regular basis.
New Dawn is also assisted by a social worker and a Children’s Right’s Officer, on the ground, concerning the ongoing work in Kisumu with the widows and the children.
@ New Dawn Association 2017