Makindu Children’s Program (the Program) provides resources to feed, educate, and care for orphaned and vulnerable children in eastern Kenya so they can grow and thrive.
Headquartered in Eugene, Oregon, Makindu Children’s Program is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports a day resource facility called Makindu Children’s Centre (the Center) in a rural region of eastern Kenya. Hundreds of children come to the Center regularly for food, recreation, bathing and laundry facilities, emotional support, crisis intervention, and playtime with other kids.
The asphalt lanes of the Mombasa highway wind over 300 parched miles from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, to the port of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean. About a third of the way from Nairobi is a truck stop called Makindu, whose residents eke out a living tilling the red soil and serving the trucks that roar by endlessly. It is a poor place, with few reliable resources. The poverty is further complicated by a lack of food and jobs, with many unable to access education or medical care.
In 1996, Oregon paramedic Winnie Barron volunteered as a medic in Makindu and met the hungry, sick, and dying orphans the community could not find ways to support. Winnie and local teacher Dianah Nzomo planned the Center, and with the help of Oregon friends, they founded Makindu Children’s Program in 1998.
Initially, many Makindu residents questioned Winnie’s intentions, wondering if hers would be another ill-conceived project that would raise expectations and then disappear. The problems facing the orphans were greater than a lack of food or education. "What are you going to do with the children after you have educated them?" they asked. Without prospects for work, "they will become educated thieves."
Barron and her supporters reconsidered their approach and decided the Program would succeed by going one step at a time, following the suggestions of the community. Instead of maintaining an orphanage, the children are placed with foster parents, typically grandparents, who are the poorest in the area and receive no other aid. During the day, the children come to the Center, a simple concrete building, to receive food, bathe, and wash their clothes. They receive periodic medical checkups, have their fees paid at local public schools, and receive job training. The children are taught nutrition, HIV/AIDS awareness, and agriculture at the Center’s shamba, or garden, where they grow high-protein crops for food and to help defray expenses. By operating in this way and teaching the children to support themselves, the Center serves and educates the larger community as well. As such, community support for the Center has soared.
Today, over 500 children, from infants to 18-year-olds, are served at the Centre at an annual cost of about $660 per child. A dollar goes a very long way in Kenya, and your support is greatly needed and appreciated.