As you and your loved ones get together for Thanksgiving Day, be thankful you have a home. And you look forward to going there.
Aug. 6 was closing day for Caring Hearts High School in Kenya. The principal said “Now Caring Hearts School is closing for August vacation….” The silence and involuntary bowed heads after that announcement caught my attention.
It was at the conclusion of a festive event with student presentations (songs, traditional music and poetry), speeches and an award-giving ceremony. But not a single student seemed happy to be going home.
Soon, some of the students were lining up to be given bus fare to go home. Others were pleading with classmates, especially those who come from near our school but who are also very poor, to take them to their home. It is sad when the thought of going home means a bitter experience for a child.
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That is the life of the vulnerable girls at Caring Hearts High School. The school closes in April, August and December for vacation. For many, this means the end of predictable three meals a day and availability of personal hygienic supplies.
It also means the interruption of private studies, since girls are expected to cook, fetch water and firewood, as well as minding the well-being of their siblings.
There is another dreaded experience of being at home. Some of the girls become the primary caregivers of their parents, especially mothers, who are mainly suffering from AIDS/HIV.
This is a troubling but prevalent reality. Of the 99 sponsored students in CHHS, 13 of them had lost a parent or guardian in the first 9 months of this year (2016). That is more than 10 percent of our high school children losing parents, grandparents and other relatives who serve as guardians.
The most heartbreaking aspect of being home is the risk of a child, as the caregiver, getting infected with the viruses that are claiming the lives of their parents/guardians. At CHHS, we have HIV+ students who were infected as they were taking care of their dying mothers.
These children have no training, no ability to access hygienic supplies, and no protective garments or items. They are innocent victims.
I and several sponsors have visited tens of homes where our students were living. To say the dwellings are unfit for human habitation is an understatement. Some sleep on dirt floors with worn and torn blankets. No toilets. No clean water. Words cannot describe what are considered cooking vessels and utensils.
The situation seems grim but there is hope. One of Caring Heart’s objectives for operating our own high school is to provide practical training. Our girls need a life-skills program to prepare them for independent living. The program will teach: personal hygiene; environmental ecology; first aid; certified nurses aid (CNA) training, safety in the home; basic health care; repair of clothes and other items; culinary skills, sewing and budgeting.
This will be a life-saving program that freshmen students will be introduced to soon after they join CHHS. While there are topics that will be incorporated into the school syllabus, the practical training will be conducted during vacation, giving students something to look forward to and, in the process, they will learn how to administer care while still protecting themselves from deadly infections.
The estimate for construction of a classroom, 40 sewing machines, educational materials and other needed learning tools is $80,000. The plan is to start construction immediately and complete and equip the center so as to start saving lives.
The students will learn skills that can give insight into health care careers as well as how to care for themselves. This will be beneficial for their current lives with parents, siblings and others, and impact, even more profoundly, their future lives as employees, wives and mothers. They will also be able to teach many others in the future.
Vincent Muli Kituku is an author and speaker for business organizations, schools and Christian groups. He is the founder of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope and Caring Hearts High School, a vulnerable girls’ boarding school in Kenya. Contact him at (208) 376-8724 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.
To help ...
Mail your contribution to Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope, P.O Box 7152, Boise, ID 83707 or donate online at www.caringheartsandhandsofhope.org. CHHH is a 501(C)3 organization and your contribution is tax deductible.