Changing children’s lives in Kenya - Spring 2015 News from New Life Nyambene
This edition, we introduce Benard Njeru, the newly appointed Business Manager for our New Life Training Centre. Benard is full of good ideas for the centre, the goal of which is to enable street children, and those living with destitute families at risk of homelessness, to access vocational skills training so they can become work-ready individuals able to earn their own living and be self-sufficient.
But first, let’s hear from the children themselves, whose recent letters to UK sponsors reveal valuable insights into their feelings and experiences and provide an inspiring reminder of the difference your support makes to their lives.
Listening to the children
Reflecting on the gratitude they feel to UK donors, one child wrote of being 'proud of your good conscious heart, my sponsor, for your unfailing support educationally, physically.'
Remembering their lives before being rescued, one child said 'I am very grateful for I am not [afraid] of being sexually harassed any more since in this home I am fully secured, provided for all my needs like shelter, food and education.' Another wrote 'sincerely speaking, I cannot try to imagine comparing my past, when I was living on the street just loitering and sniffing glue with today, when am sitting in class learning.'
One touching aspect of life at the Children’s Home which comes across from the letters is the loving bond between the children: ‘I am also grateful for being together with all the other children in the home who bridge the gap of my brothers and sisters’ one comments, while another states 'we have some young children; we help them by cleaning for them clothes and young ones also respect older ones.'
And lastly, speaking about what their education means to them, one child writes 'I can proudly say that I have achieved much because am now finishing my course as a mechanic at Maua Polytechnic', while another reflects: ‘In my academic life, I am making considerable efforts to ensure that I attain every good grade in my high school ....Education has been an enlightenment up to this juncture and I am still hoping to reap all the best from the education.'
Q and A with Benard, our new Business Manager for the New Life Training Centre
- Tell us about your previous work in business, training and with street children:
I have an MBA in strategic management from Mount Kenya University, and a BSc in textile design and fashion merchandising from Maseno University. My career started as Planning Manager at the Aga Khan Charitable Foundation, where I worked to support impoverished young people, including those orphaned by HIV or famine, to get the training they needed to find work in the textile industry. This required patience, compassion, and the ability to mentor and encourage them.
I have also worked as Project Coordinator for a children’s project in Kitengela, just south of Nairobi, called the Kitengela Community Gym. This project was set up with the objective of saving the street children in Kitengela town and destitute youth who lacked any meaningful source of income. Apart from training the children for gymnastic competitions which gave them a source of income, I was also responsible for training them in entrepreneurship and coming up with income generating ideas. For example, I set up a T-shirt printing business which is now one of the major social enterprise ventures in Kitengala that pays for destitute children’s school fees and upkeep.
As for my personal life, my wife and I have two girls that are in our care after their mother (my sister) died and left them at a tender age. I therefore perfectly understand the needs of less privileged children and how to handle them, and appreciate them while making their life as enjoyable as any other child.
- What inspired you to apply for this job?
The key factor which inspired and motivated me to apply for this job is my desire to help the needy. This job will give me an opportunity to serve them.
- How do you think a social enterprise project like this one, where income generated will be reinvested back into the charity's work with street and destitute children, can help make Kenya a better place?
A social enterprise model is vital to a Children’s home or orphanage because the needs of a child increase every day, and yet donations, while generous, may not increase commensurate to the needs of the child. Therefore, a venture like this can act as a buffer zone, providing income to address any unmet needs of the children. This social enterprise will enable New Life Nyambene to assist the Children’s Home to accommodate more street and destitute children and as well offering job opportunities to them at a mature age. If this kind of project could be emulated by other charities in Kenya it would make life so much easier for every Kenyan child.
- What will be your priorities over the next first few months in this new role?
My key priority will be to ensure that the Training Centre recruits more students who are paying fees so as to increase the income for the charity. I will be doing lots of marketing in the community and thinking strategically about how we can compete with other institutions through the quality of the training, the enrollment costs for our courses and the supportive environment we can offer.
My second priority will be to set up a venture that won’t require much starting capital and for which we can quickly break even and get a return on our investment. One idea I have is to train the young people in how to manufacture soap and shampoo which could be sold locally to increase awareness about our project and make an income for us.