AIDS orphans in Kenya - Can You Help?
I hope you'll forgive me for writing a post which isn't about art for a change. This will probably be the first and last time. I want to draw your attention to the plight of AIDS orphans in one of the poorest parts of Kenya, and to the work of a charity I support which is trying to make a difference to their lives - and succeeding.
First, about the children:
As painters we might all be having what we think is a rough time at the moment, having trouble selling work, trying to survive through a recession. With the western economies struggling as they are, opportunities for painters to earn a decent living are becoming few and far between. But spare a thought for some children whose access to opportunities we still take for granted is so severely limited as to be nonexistent.
These children live in the poorest part of Kenya, and as if that wasn't enough, they have lost their families, their parents, to the AIDS epidemic. They are AIDS orphans. Often they live in slum conditions, the majority of them coming from Kibera, the second largest slum in Kenya.
Life in Kibera is hard. There are no government services, no roads, running water, no sanitation and there are no hospitals and no schools. Orphaned children who live there have little chance of escaping to a better life.
The Hotcourses Foundation was set up in 2004 by Hotcourses, the company I work for. It's a registered charity, and exists to give these children opportunities which they wouldn't otherwise have, by giving them an education. The Foundation has built a primary school in Kiutu which currently has around 200 children enroled, all of whom can do so only because of help from people who support the charity and either sponsor the education of individual children, or donate to the school for materials and books.
The administration costs of the charity are covered by Hotcourses, so 95% of any money donated goes directly to the charity, directly benefiting the children. The main partner of the Foundation which enables much of the work is a local organisation called Nyumbani. Working through an organisation like this is necessary in order to avoid corruption, and guarantees that donations go to their intended recipients.
I haven't been out to Kenya to see the school myself, but many of the people I work with have. I was talking to Anna, one of my work-mates who was out there a couple of weeks ago. She asked a representative of Nyumbani who was showing her around Kibera what the Foundation could do to benefit the children more, whether it's activities could be better organised, more effective. The answer was simple: Sponsor more children.
So that's why I'm writing this post. The Foundation is now building a secondary school in the area, because there's nowhere for the kids to go when they finish primary school except back to the slum.
I'm not going to try and guilt you into helping one of these kids, or donating to the school. It seems everywhere you turn these days there's charity worker after your money for something or other. But I do believe that this charity makes a real difference to these kids, and their families. It gives them a chance to break the cycle of poverty by giving them an education. And the money goes where it's intended to go, not into some local administrator or official's pocket in kickbacks.
If you want to help, there's three ways you can do it. If you can spare a bit of cash, you can sponsor a child (the price of a decent tube of oil paint will pay for a kid's education for a month) or you can donate to the school.
Thirdly, if you run a web site you can also help by linking to the Foundation to help raise awareness for what they're doing. There's a links page here where you can copy and paste some HTML straight into your web page, but even just a text link to the Foundation site - http:/www.hotcoursesfoundation.org - would be great.
Please help these kids.