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Surrey charity fundraising to expand Kenyan orphanage
He’s always considered himself lucky.
Born in Kenya and one of 20 children in his family, Peter Njenga’s parents were able to ensure he received an education, which was more than a lot of kids could ask for.
But it was when he travelled back to Kenya – after living and working as an accountant in North America – that he realized just how fortunate he was.
Visiting the village he grew up in, Njenga discovered many of his old classmates and friends had disappeared. When he asked his parents, they told him they had died, most of them from AIDS.
“They were gone and their kids had nothing and they were just roaming in the streets,” Njenga recalls.
“It was very frustrating. A lot of shock.”
Upon returning to Canada, he contacted various charities to see if they could help. But it proved difficult because Njenga wanted the aid focussed in the area of Kenya he knew needed it most.
“I thought to myself ‘why don’t you just use your little bit of money and start. Just start it and see how it goes’.”
He founded the Dr. Njenga Foundation of Sustainable HIV/AIDS Projects, with an aim of relieving poverty by providing basic amenities and medical aid to those affected by HIV or AIDS.
Garnering support for his philanthropic concept was neither easy or instant, however.
“It was very difficult initially. But I’m very good at making friends,” he laughs.
One of those friends was Jennifer Kube, who had done prior charity work. They formed a business relationship which evolved into a personal relationship and marriage. She is now vice-president of the foundation, while Njenga serves as president.
As a property owner in Kenya (he was a successful accountant there prior to leaving), Njenga contributed a quarter-acre to the foundation to establish an orphanage. It opened in late 2012.
While it was going to house just 16 children, there were 20 in desperate and immediate need and he couldn’t turn them away. The majority, Njenga says, have lost their parents to AIDS. There are now 22 – 12 boys and 10 girls – residing there.
“We cannot squeeze anymore,” says Njenga.
Children attend a school nearby and once in high school, are trained in a specific trade, such as carpentry, masonry, sewing or baking, so they can find work after graduation and support themselves.
Now, however, 30 more children in the area – mostly girls aged five to 14 – have been identified as vulnerable and living in unbearable conditions. Professionals in the community refer kids to Njenga and an advisory committee determines the veracity of need.
Some of the children identified in Nairobi, the largest city of Kenya, are sleeping in the streets, Njenga says.
“These ones don’t have anybody to take care of them.”
To help more children, and separate the girls from the boys, the foundation is hoping to expand the orphanage.
Pegged at $50,000, the planned new 40-bed dormitory would be strictly for girls and the existing building would be reserved for the boys.
While some money has been donated, a large fundraising supper is planned for June 14. It will be a dinner at Njenga’s Surrey home (thus eliminating any venue rental costs) and will include a meal and a variety of entertainment. He hopes to attract 150 people to the event, accommodating guests in the house and backyard.
It’s a big endeavour, but well worth it for Njenga, who phones children at the orphanage every week to see how they’re doing and if they are happy.
He and his wife also travel to Kenya (on their own dime) to visit the orphanage each year.
“We must ensure what we are told is actually happening. By seeing the actual faces of the kids, talking with them, playing with them … we can see what’s really happening,” he says. “When you just stay here and send money, you don’t know what’s happening.”
The fundraising supper – which will have a “tacky tourist” theme – takes place June 14 at 5841 138 St. Tickets are $50 ($10 for the meal, plus a $40 donation for which a tax receipt will be provided), available by calling 604-341-0017 or 604-593-5447. For more information or to make a donation, visit drnjengafoundation.org/