by Evangeline Munyi writing for
The Lodwar Diocesan Newsletter
Little Nancy Asenyana cries as she tries to suck from her mother’s breast. Unfortunately nothing much comes to her mouth because her mother is
so malnourished. She looks her mother in the eye as she continues to scream. Asenyana’s case is one among many who have been suffering until the Vulnerable Children’s Programme (VCP) came to the rescue.
The programme that caters for children who are at a high risk of malnutrition, disease and illiteracy was started in April 2006 by Sr Yvonne Channells (Religious Sisters of Mercy) of the Catholic Diocese of Lodwar after witnessing a large number of children going through the rubbish bins and others coming directly to her complaining of hunger.
After consultation and approval from Bishop Harrington and further discussion with Fr Francis Teo, a meeting was held between Sr Yvonne and with the Development Coordinator, Tim Flynn and Medical Coordinator Sr Margaret Twomey. The purpose was to determine the way to address the obvious need. It was agreed the best approach was to introduce a “home based” programme which would support families in their own environment. The resulting proposal drawn up was approved by the Bishop and the Diocesan Projects Committee.
The VCP currently has a team of six : Sr Yvonne – VCP Coordinator, Veronica Natesiro – VCP Supervisor, three social workers; Monica Kinyanjui, Emmy Loyanae Apoo and Sylvia Langali and Paul Egule provides activity coordination and general support. The VCP caters for 59 children, some orphans. This number will shortly increase to almost double following the completion of a survey of the Soweto area.
Funding for the project has come mainly from friends of Sr Yvonne from Australia, some through Mercy Works and Mercy Endeavour, from a Peace Corp teacher who worked in Lodwar High School many years ago and his wife, and a former volunteer from Ireland.
The initial survey in Napetet was carried out by Monica Kinyanjui which identified the first candidates for the programme. A large number of the children live with a grandparent or single parent and include orphaned children living with HIV. Many of the carers have no means of support and the programme while giving assistance ensures that the carers provide their service and input of time and activity to the programme. The staff carry out regular home visits to give the families the opportunity to share their concerns and for the staff to offer support and advice. There are also regular meetings of the care takers at food distribution time.
The issue of Alcoholism is addressed at these gatherings and a challenge given to try to overcome the problem. The care takers are encouraged to assist one another in stopping this abuse.
A weekly programme with the children goes something like this:
Mondays and Thursdays children meet at St Michael’s Nursery School for singing, story telling, basic numeracy and literacy and other related activities. At the conclusion milk is distributed on Mondays and fruit on Thursday. A period of play follows where the programme children are joined by many other children.
Wednesday is the day for the picnic at Kalokol where the children attend by rota.
On Saturday’s there is an opportunity for children to have their head shaved.
Every second Friday there is a food distribution for care takers. Care takers also assist each other in repairing or constructing their dwellings. They make trays or mats to supplement their needs and try and assist one another generally.
Assistance is also given from time to time for assistance with nursery fees, medical fees and the provision of clothing and shoes.
The staff is dedicated to their work to ensure that the beneficiaries and the community as a whole benefit from the programme. Sr. Yvonne is optimistic that they will get more
funding to enable the programme to grow and hence benefit more children. This gives hope to children who are vulnerable and lacking access to education, proper diet, medical and social care. Mothers and guardians have also benefited and those who had been held captive by alcoholism are happy that they have been helped to quit the habit.
The Vulnerable Children’s Programme has so far been able to assist a certain number of people and hopes to continue to assist more in the future. For those involved they can look forward to a brighter future.