Chinese embassy helps alleviate suffering for Kenyan children hurt by COVID-19 pandemic
Small houses made of iron sheets and timber characterizes Kihunguro, a low-income settlement in Ruiru, a populous suburb on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
Living in the informal settlement are people who do odd jobs for survival. Some wash clothes for income, others work as hawkers, bar workers, house cleaners and motorbike riders.
The residents were among the worst affected when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the east African nation.
For many of them, their sources of income ended abruptly as the government and citizens instituted several measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The cleaners, for instance, were no longer welcomed in peoples’ homes to do the tasks for fear of spreading the disease and for those working in bars, the facilities have been closed since April to date.
As parents lost their sources of livelihoods, the children were no longer assured of their next meals.
“I visited the area and saw the level of suffering and decided to do something,” said Caroline Ndung’u, who runs Jewell Souls Hope Foundation, a charity organization established to assist vulnerable members in the Kenyan community.
One of the programs she runs is called hot lunch feeding, through which she feeds street families in Nairobi city center and another where she feeds needy children from Kiandutu slums in Thika.
“I did not have a plan for any new program but I was touched by the plight of the children, some who were starving because their parents could not provide for them,” said Ndung’u, adding she wrote letters to various donors for help.
But she did not wait for the donations to start coming before she could do something. Ndung’u recounted that she mobilized the community members, some who offered cooking pots and others plates and with the little food she had, she started cooking for the children.
“We started with about 20 in August and the numbers have been increasing since then. We now offer lunch to 100-120 children aged between three and 16 every day,” she told Xinhua in an interview on Tuesday.
Among donors who have come to her aid recently is the Chinese Embassy in Kenya.
“The children were extremely happy to the embassy that we will ever be grateful. The parents are equally appreciative. We are now guaranteed at least two-half-months of lunch. We have also been able to buy our own equipment that includes cooking pots, which means we will not borrow again,” said an ecstatic Ndung’u, noting the embassy has been one of their biggest donors so far.
From Monday to Friday, she normally offers the children lunch that includes a mixture of beans and maize with cabbage added, rice and traditional vegetables or with green grams.
“On Friday after lunch, we offer them a 2 kg packet of maize meal so that they can take home. This assures them and their parents of a meal during the weekend,” she said.
As in many of her other lunch programs, at the Ruiri initiative, her target are children with disabilities, including autism or deafness, and those whose parents are single mothers or widowers.
“The program has employed three volunteers from the community who are given a token for cooking for the children, taking care of them when they arrive at the feeding station at about 11 a.m. and until they leave,” she said.
But the children do not visit her to eat only, she also mentors them, teaching them how they can avoid nefarious activities like crime and teenage pregnancies that have been rampant in Kenya during the pandemic period.
Kenya’s schools are set for reopening next month, but this will not stop her program, says Ndung’u.
“I will move to the nearby school where the children attend and run a lunch program. I have already talked to the officials to ensure the learners stay in school,” said Ndung’u, who gets happiness from helping others.
While the children are currently comfortable, they still have more needs, according to Ndung’u, noting they lack fruits, which they should eat at least twice a week and the girls also do not have sanitary towels.