In the spring of 2010, the seeds of the Mugumo Project were planted by the communal frustration of three volunteers at Nairobi Children’s Home. As participants of a pay-your-way volunteering service, Katie Mattie, Charlotte Greenfield, and Jessie Hagen were each assigned to work at Nairobi Children’s Home (NCH), a government-operated orphanage for children aged newborn to six. The children of NCH came from diverse backgrounds. Some were orphaned. Others were abandoned. Many were abused. A few were physically disabled. The children amazed us with their resilience and their ability to be loving, goofy, zany kids despite the weary circumstances.
As a government institution, NCH is consistently understaffed and under-resourced. The home is designed as a transitional place—a holding pen until a relative resurfaces to claim a child or a space opens up in a privately operated home. This process can take years, if it even happens at all. As a result, many of the children come to call the government orphanage system home. Those left in the system have no personal property, few personal rights, and receive a mediocre education at best.
Working at NCH as outsiders, unable to speak Swahili and communicate effectively with the children and staff, was an exhausting and overwhelming experience. All of us had traveled around the world with a strong desire to help and all of us were unable to institute any lasting or meaningful change in the lives of the children we had come to love. Our small attempts at improvement felt insignificant in the face of the broader social injustices at play.
With the help of the volunteer house mama, Charity Nyathirah, a previous NCH volunteer had been quietly sponsoring two boys to go boarding school. We approached Charity and asked to expand on that group with our own sponsored children. Two months before our scheduled departures, we were able to give a small group of children the only gift we knew would stand the test of time: an education. Armed with a quality education, these children would have a foundation for success. The four of us organized a system and the rest is history.
Thanks to Charity’s tireless advocating to following NCH volunteers, the Mugumo Project has since expanded from the original six children to a whopping twenty-one sponsored kids! In four short years, we have more than tripled the amount of sponsored children. We are energized and excited to see the growth of our mission as we enter a new phase for our organization.
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