A few weeks ago, I visited First Love Children’s Home (orphanage) located in Karen, Kenya. First Love International has locations all over the world: Malawi (Africa); Central Asia (Nepal & India); Southeast Asia (Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan); Europe (Ukraine) and South America (Columbia & Peru) (First Love International, 2017). The home in Kenya is run by a Kenyan man named Chris and his wife.
When we arrived Chris gave us a tour of the compound. He showed us the main building with the main office, counselling room, and the social workers office. Then we were taken to the main dining hall which includes the kitchen, eating area for the children, and small play room for the younger children. Next, we were shown the Girls Building and then the Boys Building with shared bedrooms and bathrooms. There are even separate buildings for guest apartments, and sewing and woodworking shops. The staff and the older children sew and build artifacts that you would find being sold at the markets. Some of the children were playing soccer on a huge sports field which is next to the garden, chicken coop and behind all of that is the garbage pit.
The children come from all over Kenya. Chris told us that originally the plan was to house only girls but then he saw the need for a home for siblings- which included boys. There are 116 children and 10 of them attend a boarding school year round, so they were not all around at the time. These children have been orphaned because of AIDS, disease, violence or simply been abandoned by parents (First Love International, 2017).
The number of orphans and vulnerable children is estimated to be around 2.8 million, in Kenya. This calculates to be around 47% of children and mostly from HIV/AIDS which has been declared to be a national disaster. The government and other stakeholders have come up with interventions to the effort to address this specific situation but the challenge is that many remain unreached and the situation “demands for targeted and more sustainable and concerted synergy focused on addressing the plight” (Waweru, 2016).
We asked Chris where the funding comes from for a place like this and he said from private individuals from the United States. What I appreciated so much about this organization is that normally when a child reaches 18, according to the Kenyan’s Children Department, they need to leave the property. Yet, First Love built a place called the Daraja House where children can live once they reach 18. We were told that due to the circumstances that these children come from that they are not ready to return back to the slums, so this place is more of a transition house for them.
For a place that appears to be ‘well off ‘-in terms of physical needs being met- in comparison to other orphanages I have visited, I thought about how hard it would be to attend to the emotional needs of all 116 of those children. So for one day it was nice to play with the children, watch them play soccer, and hear stories from some beautiful children.
First Love International. (2017). First Love International in Kenya. Retrieved from http://www.firstloveinternational.com/ministry/kenya/
Waweru, M. (2016). State of Kenya Orphans, vulnerable children ‘worrying’. Capital News. Retrieved from https://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2016/05/state-of-kenya-orphans-vulnerable-children-worrying/