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Kenyan children's home captivates young valley woman
Call it Destiny. Whatever the reason, Sadie Baker's affiliation with the Destiny Children's Home in a small community outside of Nairobi, Kenya was meant to be.
A graduate of Frances Kelsey Secondary School in December 2011, the young woman now resides in Chemainus and works full-time as a tutor under the banner of New Horizons Tutoring. Baker visited the home last summer and it was a life-changing experience.
"She came back a new person with drive and determination to make a change in this world,'' noted Pat Kehler of her daughter.
Baker concurred she suddenly saw the world in a whole different light. "I was super greedy before,'' she said. "I wanted money, money to buy stuff.''
Not anymore. Baker lives a frugal existence to save money so she can make another trip to Kenya in July and August this summer.
And even when Baker does come into some extra cash unexpectedly, she no longer thinks of herself. A case in point came during the Cowichan Valley Youth Athlete of the Year awards banquet that she attended in support of her sister Tia.
Sadie won $215 in the 50-50 draw at the event and was absolutely ecstatic. Without hesitation, she immediately announced the money would be donated to her Destiny's Initiative charity toward buying a laptop, one of the short-term goals for the home.
Baker's desire to go to Kenya in the first place stemmed from her mom.
"My mom went there when she was my age and hearing her stories fed my desire to go,'' she says in a video on her website, http://www.thedestinyinitiative.com/.
"I didn't really know what to expect, but what I found there was love beyond anything I could have imagined.''
Her first impressions were lasting ones.
"I didn't get any culture shock,'' she said. "I got there and I thought, 'this was interesting. I absorbed it was a different culture. It's so wonderful. It's such a different level.''
Baker said Florence Muange, who founded the home in 2010, is a remarkable woman.
"The difference here is just the utter contentedness of these children,'' said Baker. "The moment you walk through the gate, their happiness is just overwhelming. It just takes over. You realize this is a safe haven for them. This is their home. I didn't know that an orphanage could have this feeling and knowing a place like this exists gives me hope.''
Some of the children come from rather frightening backgrounds of abuse or abandonment and don't have much by our standards. But Baker was amazed how their happiness shines through.
She's working hard to bridge the language barrier so she can communicate better with the children. The principal language is Swahili but the different Tribes the children come from have variations in pronunciations.
"They accept me now that I'm learning the language,'' said Baker, who ironically has a niece named Destiny in keeping with the connection to the home.
"I've been listening to the Swahili news every day. I'll be able to talk to the kids because none of them speak English.''
Fundraising is a key component of Baker's efforts on behalf of the home. She estimates she's raised about $1,500 since October.
The purchase of a refrigerator, one of the short-term goals, has been met and Baker's 50-50 winnings have put the laptop purchase close. Purchasing new school uniforms is another of her short-term goals.
Baker's long-term vision is to purchase a parcel of land with a house already built or space for one to be designed and built. That would allow the home to accommodate up to 30 children. Sixteen kids are currently there.
Costs associated with an initial land purchase are estimated at about $80,000 Canadian, with about half that amount required for a down payment.
Baker is determined to make that happen. "My goal is to have raised the down payment by the time I return to Kenya in August 2014, as well as set up a sustainable flow of funds to support the repayment of the rest,'' she indicated.
The good thing is money goes a long way in Kenya. "You can buy a bag of spinach for like five cents,'' Baker said. "The fresh produce is just so cheap.''
About $80 will buy a month's worth of food, Baker indicated, and $100 will pay a month's rent, $5 will buy one child a year's worth of multivitamins and $2 will allow a child to go on a school field trip.
"I want to ensure the prosperity of Destiny so that these kids can continue to grow up in this loving environment and go on to flourish in whatever lives they choose,'' said Baker at the end of her website video. "They deserve to know the same love and hope they give without hesitation.
"I will do everything in my power to give it to them.''