At the Dagoretti Child in Need Center, Amos Ndung’u carefully puts the finishing touches on a Christmas cake he has baked specially for the Center’s 180 children. As he waits for the icing to set, Amos tells us about the children who take refuge in the Center and how it has empowered him.
“Many of the children are orphans who live on their own or with foster parents,” he tells us, “others come from very poor…[or] abusive homes.” Faced with extreme poverty, neglect, and often abuse, children are forced “to fend for themselves; they drop out of school to go and look for work or leave home altogether to make a living on the street.”
Amos first visited the Child in Need Center, a children’s shelter and community center operated by AMREF, in 2005. At the time, his mother was working “odd jobs” to feed the family of eight; Amos was employed as a farmhand to supplement her meager income. “There was never enough to eat,” he recalls, “life was hard.” During this first visit, a staff member pulled him aside and “advised [me] to come every day and take part in the activities. After a year, if I showed a willingness to improve my life, I would be supported to learn a trade of my choice.”
As suggested, Amos took full advantage of the Center’s programming. It provided schooling and gave him a sense of possibility and self-worth. He spent mornings in discussion sessions where he was “taught life skills and encouraged to have…self-love and respect. There were sessions on drug abuse, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, and STDs.” In the afternoons, he participated in team- and self-esteem- building activities like football, tae kwon do, and filmmaking.
“After a year at the Center, I was sponsored by AMREF to learn cooking and baking at the Maria Restaurant and Training Center in Kawangware.” When Amos returned home from his training one day, he discovered his family had abandoned him. He immediately notified AMREF who offered him a place in the Child in Need Center’s shelter, where he still lives. As an older shelter resident, he has assumed the role of mentor to the younger children.
“At night, I speak to the children and tell them to keep away from drugs as they will only spoil their chances of making it in life. I talk to them about HIV/AIDS and how to avoid it. Often, when…the children there see how things are looking up for me, they are impressed. They ask me many questions about the work I do and what it takes to get there. I do my best to encourage them.”
Thanks to AMREF’s outreach, he says, “I have become a better person. I have hope that I will make it in life. I have a vision of where I want to go and who I want to be. The training has helped me to have confidence in myself. I want to pass this hope and vision to other children in the same situation as I was in.”
AMREF’s Dagoretti Child in Need Project is a model for community-based childcare and support that focuses on the “4-Rs”: rescue, rehabilitation, re-socialization, and reintegration.