My name is Sarah O’Brien, and I started an orphanage in Kenya 15 years ago after witnessing young children roaming from house to house begging for food.
Along the shores of Lake Victoria, in a fishing village ravaged by poverty and HIV/AIDS, I volunteered at a day school for AIDS orphans where I had a class of 52 students. As I walked home for lunch one day, I was astonished when I recognized some of my students scavenging for something to eat. I invited them over to my house and I gave them some food and listened as they told me their daily struggle for the most basic human needs since their parents had died.
Later that year as I walked to the school, I found a young child lying on the side of the road in the hot sun, she was clearly sick. She was about the age of 5 or 6 and wore an old tattered green school uniform. She had sores on her body and as I approached her, she looked up at me, her eyes unveiled the harsh truth about the plight and pain of an AIDS orphan. I picked her up and carried her to the headmaster of the school and he told me her name was Esther.
As I sat and listened to him, I stared out his tiny office window at the sea of many faces of children just like Esther. In that moment, I prayed, making a promise to God to look after these children if He promised to provide me with the resources to take care of them. This was the beginning of an orphanage that would eventually become a family.
In December 2017, my dear friend Bill Chagnon and I traveled to Kenya to visit with the children, we had organized a family reunion at the Masai Mara. While there, Bill and I learned that the children’s situation had changed since a new board took over. This family based home inspired by Love has become an organization that centers it’s support on the children’s education and does not ensure housing, food, medical or clothing and most importantly the Love and support from family.
Bill and I were horrified to find out that the sweet child I had found many years ago lying on the side of the road sick was now homeless with a 10 month old baby girl. My mother’s heart was broken.
Bill was dismayed. As a father of four daughters and a long time sponsor of one of the children, named Elijah, whom we found hungry and using a shoestring as a belt, was living unsupervised with a 90 year old grandfather. We knew we couldn’t leave these children this way! We returned home, and immediately notified the organization of our concerns regarding the welfare of the children.
The Kenyan boarding school system is a yearlong program where children are sent home to live with their families approximately 5 months throughout the year for holidays and breaks. The organization does not provide housing, food, medical care or clothing while the children are not in school. These were the circumstances that we found the children living in and why what we propose would be a permanent and safe alternative to what little the organization has been providing. We have continued to support their most basic human needs every month since December, 2017.
Now as husband and wife, Bill and I would like to dedicate the first year of our marriage to solving this problem.
We plan to establish 3 group homes for the children while we are there. And transfer the day to day operations into the hands of trusted older children in the family, who have graduated from college and currently oversee the younger children’s basic human needs with the money that we send over every month.
Bill and I Love these children and consider them our family. We strongly believe that this is the next phase in the life of our family- to empower the older children to continue to look after the younger children, creating a cycle of “paying it forward” and ensuring that they will always be a family.
I once read, “Having someone to Love is family. Having somewhere to go is Home. Having both is a Blessing.” Together, we can be a Blessing to these children who have lost everything and are only seeking to belong to a family and have a place to call home. Over the next few months Bill and I are raising $50,000. This financial support from our family, friends and kindhearted well-wishers will serve as a long term investment in the lives of a generation of people who have the power to make this world a better place.
We see this group home model as an alternative to putting HIV/AIDS orphans in an institution. Our model restores each child’s dignity where they feel like a valued member of a family that can go out into the world with a heart full of compassion and a dream to change the lives of others like them! This smaller home based system will provide the nurturing and foster mentorships between the older children and the younger children, and promote an attitude of gratitude and paying it forward!
While Bill and I are in Kenya, we plan to stay in regular contact and provide updates. We welcome anyone who wants to visit, volunteer and be a part of this family experience .
Thank you for your support,
Love the Chagnon Family
- Amy Young
- Laurie Sherman
- Sara Barry
- Connie Pierce
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