Sorry we’ve not been in contact for a little while. Another busy summer has flown by and we’d love to catch you up on the goings on at The St Jerome’s Centre!
Two of our trustees Beth and Hazel flew out to Kenya this summer to run our second ever volunteer trip- they were joined by five eager volunteers ready for a busy two weeks at the centre. After settling in and getting to meet all of our lovely children and staff it was down to work- led by Mark a volunteer from the previous year, and a very talented carpenter, we aimed to put new ceilings in all of the downstairs bedrooms and build a new floor in our communal living area. It was tough going but all the volunteers picked up the techniques very quickly and made good headway with finishing these tasks; they even got time to add a lick of paint to the children’s bedrooms and created some shelves to help with clothes storage! The children were also very excited to receive a new pair of goal posts which led to many games of football against our volunteers and trustees! We did of course give our volunteers a bit of a break when they journeyed to the Masai Mara game reserve for a three day safari and this gave them the idea to take the children and staff on a small trip too. We spent one Sunday travelling to Lake Naivasha and taking all the St Jerome’s family out on a boat safari- the children and staff absolutely loved seeing the hippos, giraffes and zebras and of course enjoyed the chips they got for lunch too! It was an extremely busy two weeks and we are very grateful to the volunteers for their hard work at the home, as a result of this the children and staff now have more communal living space and cleaner , warmer, tidier bedrooms!
You may have also heard that over the summer Auntie Grace, our longest employed social worker and carer, fell ill. She was diagnosed with type two diabetes, which was complicated by various infections throughout her hospital stay, including malaria. Luckily our trustees Hazel and Beth and Beth’s boyfriend Lewis are all final year medical students- they were able to provide much needed guidance and advice which resulted in Grace receiving the best level of care possible. We are happy to say that she is now fully recovered and learning to manage her diabetes. This has given our staff (and through them our children) the incentive to live healthier lifestyles resulting in changes to the food we buy and cook and regular exercise regimes.
As Hazel left Beth was joined by friends and family who continued to pick up work where the volunteers left off. Towards the end of the summer David, another trustee, travelled out to Kenya joined by his father, Richard, and 4 friends: Nick, Xavier, Andy and James. Michael one of the volunteers also stayed on to continue working at the home. The 7 of them had been raising money for a new chicken shed at the home (hence the masks) by running the Mara Marathon. Amazingly, despite the heat and altitude, everyone managed to cross the finish line! Be it in varies states of exhaustion and almost all carrying some sort of injury.
Once they had recovered from the run they set about building the new chicken shed in one of our larger outbuildings, which was previously being used as a store. The team worked tirelessly designing, plastering and making all of the laying pods and perches by hand. Of course they also had a strong work force of children that were eager to lend a hand at any opportunity. After a week of solid work the chicken shed was finally complete and large enough to hold 200 chickens!! The children decided to re name chicken shed ‘Kuku Palace’, kuku meaning chicken in Swahili. I think this goes to show quite how lucky our kukus are! We currently have 45 which we hope will gradually increase up to our limit within the year.
The plan for the ‘kuku palace’ is not only to provide a regular source of protein in our children’s diets, but also to help give them an opportunity to learn how to look after the chickens. Our aim is to eventually develop a small business where we can sell extra eggs to local shops and hotels. This will provide a small income to the home whilst also teaching vital life skills and allowing the children to take on varying levels of responsibility.
This month we held our fourth AGM, we were all able to meet in Cardiff (with Ben available on skype from Australia) to discuss the running’s of the charity and plans for the future. These exciting plans include the continuation of helping care for the most vulnerable children from age 3 through to independent living. Secondly, is our new initiative- ‘Hope and Health’ which will involve outreach work to target some of the root causes of vulnerability such as disease, physical and mental health, homelessness, street culture and addiction. We also discussed how far we have come, from 8 children and 6 staff in 2012 when we first opened to 33 children, 9 staff and a new home in 2016. This rapid expansion, whilst incredible in terms of the help and support we provide in Kenya, meant a lot of changes for our committee in terms of workload and we would like to apologise to you if this means we do not always stay in regular contact. We now aim to write a general newsletter quarterly and give individual updates on the children you sponsor as and when we can. However, if you ever have any queries about the goings on at the home, or how your child is getting along (over and above that we have provided to you in updates) please don’t hesitate to email email@example.com and we will try and reply to you promptly!
Finally, as always, we would like to say a huge thank you to those who have continued to fundraise for us over the last few months- from running half marathons in Kenya to Cardiff, sailing races and more we really appreciate the help! Hopefully this money will pay the fees to allow our children the chance at a secondary education. Thank you also to those who continue to sponsor our children on a monthly basis- providing them with food, clothing, transport, primary education and paying the staff a wage to care for them is invaluable.
Many thanks and best wishes,
The St Jerome’s Team