Kilkenny volunteers bring hope to Kenya children

WORK may be thin on the ground in Ireland for those in the building trade but Kilkenny people discovered there’s no shortage of it in Kenya.

WORK may be thin on the ground in Ireland for those in the building trade but Kilkenny people discovered there’s no shortage of it in Kenya.

Volunteers with the Building of Hope, an Irish charity which builds community facilities in Africa, are changing the lives of 180 blind and disabeld children who have lived in squalor until now.

And while almost every county in the country was represented on the building blitz, can-do Kilkenny people formed the second largest county group with sixteen volunteers all signing up.

The Likoni school for the blind and visually impaired in Mombasa is the only home which many of these children know, having been abandoned by their families.

Their accommodation until now consisted of dorms with children sleeping up to three to a bed, very poor sanitary facilities, no running water and no kitchen facilities other than a broken electric cooker and a firepit. Often, they don’t have enough to eat.

But that’s about to change as the last of four groups totaling 200 Irish volunteers put the finishing touches to a 15,000 square foot new building, built and funded by Irish effort.

Tailors, office workers and even a Bishop – Willie Walsh - turned builders for the duration and took their cue from block layers, electricians and carpenters to complete the project in just 39 days.

“The actual building work is just part of it. Every one of the volunteers has been running cake sales, race nights, card drives, you name it, to raise the money to build,” said project co-coordinator, Olive Halpin.

“Everyone has been so generous, from the people who supported our volunteers to the volunteers themselves. But if people could only see what an enormous difference this is going to make to the children’s lives they would know their money was well spent,” said Olive.

Each volunteer had to raise €3,000 to cover the cost of flights, accommodation, food, insurance and the purchase of all materials for the build. The accommodation was provided at a low cost from supportive local hoteliers who understand the plight of the children.

The aim of the project was to provide decent living and studying conditions to ensure that the children can learn skills, build confidence and eventually return to their communities.

The new building will provide residential accommodation for 189 children, incorporating a special care unit for children with multiple disabilities such as autism or epilepsy.