Milele means ‘forever‘ in Swahili and is a very small charity which Rich and I set up in 2008.
We are a sponsorship programme, so we sponsor the education of children from the townships just north of Mombasa, Kenya.
Although education is at our heart, we have grown and learned a lot along the way and now Milele is really much more than that. We have a food programme and a healthcare programme for our children as part of a really holistic approach. We also provide access to counselling and psychological therapy, as well as social and emotional educational input. All of our children come from very vulnerable backgrounds and many were at very high risk of issues such as child marriage, early pregnancy, HIV or just simple malnutrition before we sponsored them.
Our children are all different, and as such have different needs and require different support. We have built personalised plans of care for every child, tailored around them and their family to help keep them safe, healthy and happy.
I always think of Milele as a way to give children a choice. So many babies in this area are born with their lives mapped out for them – I truly feel this is outrageous and it makes me angry when I think of the injustice of it. Children have their whole lives ahead of them, they have a basic human right to an education, a right to decide for themselves what they want to do and who they want to be.
All 18 of our children are at different stages in their personal journey, from their first baby steps in Kindergarten to heading towards university graduation. Most importantly, all our children are in school and learning, progressing and able to make choices about their future.
This success is thanks to YOU! Milele sponsors, volunteers and supporters. You are changing lives, you are making a difference – so be SUPER PROUD OF YOURSELVES!
We have some exciting news to share with you. Thanks to a very generous donation from the Forest of Arden Golf Club we have been able to start sponsoring another child – Steven.
We first met Steven and his mother back in 2013, when they were one of the 86 families who received christmas food parcels and mosquito nets. Since then, we have been keeping a close eye on Steven, hoping we would be able to take him onto the Milele programme.
Steven’s mother is a single parent, extremely hardworking and loving. Steven is everything to her, and she regularly sacrifices herself to make sure that he has food to eat and is able to attend some school. Without a regular income, however, it was very hard for her to keep him in education regularly.
Thanks to the donation from the golf club, we were finally able to sponsor Steven in March 2016. Steven is a happy, energetic little boy. Every time we have been to visit Steven, he has always been out playing with his friends, whether its running and jumping playing tag, or chasing crickets outside his house. He is very friendly, with an adorable cheeky grin. Since starting in Kindergarten at Mtwapa Elite he has really started to grow in confidence, making firm friends with Saidi (another child sponsored by Milele).
Steven and his mum have gone through some very difficult times in terms of housing and food. But we are happy to say that they are now in a secure, dry and comfortable room in the same block that Saidi and his mother live in. The two mothers have quickly become very close friends and have been supporting each other, sharing food and cooking utensils as well as keeping each other company in the day while the children are at school.
Mama Steven is really keen to run her own business, so as part of the Milele Business Grants scheme we have helped her to do this- keep your eyes peeled for a post with more detail about this soon.
With Steven doing great at his new school, the future for this family has transformed dramatically, thanks to all the hard work and kindness of the Forest of Arden golfers and their families, in helping to raise the much needed money to welcome Steven onto the Milele programme. Thank-you so much.
We are looking for sponsors for Steven! If you are interested, sponsorship costs £90 per year, you can find out more here.
Please do contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this post to get more information. Thank-you
Our first few days in Mtwapa have been going well. We have been busy visiting schools and catching up with our sponsored kids.
Today we ran an activity day at ‘New Life’, one of the schools we work with. Despite an early rainstorm making Mtwapa into one huge river, we managed to make it to mtomondoni, absolutely soaked! Incredibly, the resources we had packaged up to take with us mostly survived! So the day went on as planned!
We had Rupert the Bear Art Sets from the Old Mill School PTA, butterfly toys to decorate, jigsaws, a few bubbles here and there and lots and lots of painting!
To finish the day off, every child came and chose a toy of their own to take home – just 225 small toys and games Tracey Hewitt happened to have hanging around spare in the garage!! They have been put to good use!
Enjoy the photos and keep checking the site for more news as the trip goes on!
Visits to the beach are extremely rare for children from Mtwapa; since, despite being just a few miles away, they are mostly owned by hotels and therefore completely out of bounds for local people and children. However there is one public beach about 15 minutes drive away, so whilst out on our trip to Kenya we arranged for two buses to take the whole Milele group plus all their brothers and sisters out on a trip to the beach, in total 32 people.
The children were extremely excited and had an absolutely amazing time. It was a great fun day out for all of us and of course they were all absolutely perfectly behaved!
We played and splashed in the sea (some of the littler people went skinny dipping and others wore spare t-shirts and shorts because of lack of swim kit) and had a wonderful time! Even our co-ordinator Rieder joined in, splashing all the children and having great fun!
After a couple of hours I was keen to get everyone out and dry, so suggested that they might all like to have a camel ride (a very popular pastime on the beaches in Kenya… perhaps the kenyan version of the english donkey ride…) and never have I seen children move so fast! They raced back to the beach at lightening speed and we all enjoyed a fab picnic with juice and biscuits all round – a real treat. Little Emmanuel (who isn’t actually that little anymore) was allowed to take charge of taking back the leftover biscuits to the children in New Light Children’s Home (where he lives) which he was absolutely THRILLED about. Regular readers of this blog will know Emmanuel as the child who can never be given quite enough biscuits!!
After the beach everyone had a go on the camels and shrieksof nervousness and excited delight rang out all afternoon(the camel holding Tamira, Linet, Peris and Pendo’s younger sister Faith was particularly noisy!!) and I’m sure the children will be talking about it for years to come! When we dropped off some of the children that evening and stayed for a brief chat, Shakeel, who is just four years old just kept exclaiming “mummy, we went on a camel…. we went on a camel mummy… It was really big!!” every few minutes!
The whole thing came in at less than £40… camel rides, picnic, beach, private buses and iced lollies for 32 people! Unbelievable! We finished up a trip back to Mtwapa with some very sleepy and happy children. A huge success all round. Enjoy the photos!
Another crucially important thing we did while out in Kenya this time was distribute mosquito nets to families in the area who had babies or children less than five years old.
Malaria is one of the biggest killers of children and babies under five in Kenya, so it is crucially important for them to all be sleeping under nets at night. It really is a lifesaver and at just £5 each there is absolutely no reason why every single child should not have one. Last time we did a mosquito net distribution and we went around afterwards to visit the families we were told by one mother that she had been really worried about Malaria that year, because of all the heavy monsoon rains and huge prevalence of mosquitos in the village, but since receiving the net none of her children had contracted malaria at all. A huge achievement.
The nets were donated mostly by students and staff at John Cleveland College, Hinckley who did lots of fundraising and raised £500 to buy 100 nets for families in Mtwapa and Mtomondoni. We also had 64 nets to distribute from our christmas packages programme – so if you bought a net at Christmas, this is what happened to it!
We identified the families to receive nets through projects we already had links with and through some outreach work in a remote village. We came across the village while doing home visits as it is home to Musa, Ann and Mary who all attend Royal Academy, one of the schools we are linked with in Mtwapa. We were shocked by the poor standard of living for almost everyone in this village. Every house was a dilapidated, single-roomed mud hut in a bad state of disrepair. Very few had any household objects to speak of and no mattress to sleep on. Whilst we are familiar with these types of houses as they are very common in Kenya, to see so many families living in these conditions all in one remote village was something of a shock. As a result we tried to stretch out the nets to include some of the poorest families in this village too and they were extremely popular and well received. There is clearly a very great need for mosquito nets in this area.
Every family who received a net had at least one small child under the age of five (and many had more than one), none had a net that they were already using and we felt that none of them would have been unable to purchase a net of their own. I wanted to introduce some of the families who received nets to you and show you their photos.
If you bought a christmas mosquito net, or you are a student or a teacher at JCC and you raised the money or donated to help buy these nets, be truely proud of yourself. You really have saved lives.
Welcome to our monthly updates. I would like to appreciate the good work you have been doing so far and making everything run well. A big thank you to all as you have been doing a really good work towards Milele programme. We managed to complete the classes at Royal Academy and also made 12 chairs and 2 big tables for the kindergarten pupils at the school – donated by the TEAMS group.
The director of the school really appreciated your effort of supporting the school as most of the pupils are not capable of paying school fees regularly. He also wished to thank everyone through Milele program and the good work Milele directors are doing.
We have been also giving out mosquito nets to a certain village around Royal Academy most of the families had no mosquito nets. Through your donations these needy families were able to receive a mosquito net each. Around 61 families got the nets.
We all know how the mosquito nets are important mostly to the infants and the younger kids below the age of 5yrs. As for the coming month we are expecting long rains thus you did save some lives and saved the next leader in the society. We really appreciate your effort towards this program.
We have been also monitoring our chicken project at Shanzu and charcoal business at Mtomondoni (new businesses for two of the families on the sponsorship program) and they are all doing well and they are looking forward to starting to make a living using the projects. We also say thanks a lot for making it happen.
We have our elder girl Josephine she managed to complete her primary education and secured a place at secondary school very soon she will be at school. All our sponsored kids are doing well and for now they have started their end of month exam. Thanks a lot for your support towards us may almighty bless you all.
At the end of February one of our (extremely brave) sponsors and a good friend of mine, Fae Vincent, will be doing a shark dive to raise money for Milele!
She is braving cold water in Edinburgh sea life centre and jumping in with over 60 different species of shark, including one in particular which is pretty dangerous in the wild… you certainly wouldn’t want to bump into one of those on a dark night!
Fae visited Mtwapa herself with me on my very first ever trip back in 2007, where she volunteered at Mtwapa Academy, worked to distribute lots of toys and to help lots of children. She has had a really close link with the children out there ever since and now also sponsors one of our own children, little Saidi. On top of all this Fae is keen to do more to help children in Kenya and is now doing a shark dive to raise some money.
Fae has a target to reach of £450… if we can reach this figure then Milele will receive an additional £155 donation! So we are really working hard to hit this target! If you are reading this and you would like to dig deep and support Fae in her plans then you can donate now!
While we were out in Kenya this time we had the opportunity to sponsor another child onto the programme. Thomas is 10 years old and is now in Standard 5 at Mtwapa Academy along with Safari and Kaingu. I think they had better watch out too, since Thomas will certainly soon be competing with them for the top spot in class!
Thomas is the youngest child of a family we know very well. They are extremely hardworking and intelligent, almost all of Thomas’s elder brothers and sisters having attended extremely high level secondary schools. However, the family have recently fallen on hard times. Thomas’s father, who was the main provider in the home, a dedicated and very intelligent man unfortunately passed away just less than two years ago. After his death, with a very large family and one disabled son to support, Thomas’s mother found it very difficult to sustain school fees for her two youngest children, Thomas and George. Both were achieving very high marks and with George just months away from his final Primary Examinations she was at a loss over what to do.
Eventually she was forced to send the children away to stay with some extended family so that George could take his final exams at a free Government primary school. These schools are often hopelessly overcrowded with more than 100 children to a classs, very poor facilities, no textbooks, desks, teaching or even writing materials. George received his marks at the end of January and I am pleased to report that, in spite of everything he managed to get exceptionally high grades and was offered a place at one of the best secondary schools in the whole country.
However, Thomas was still only in Standard 4, and with another four long years of Primary education in a poor quality government school ahead of him, the whole family was concerned that this would seriously affect his marks and performance, impacting on the level of secondary school he could attend and therefore his entire future. Thanks to many of your kind donations we were able to take on Thomas as part of the Milele group and assist his mother in his education. Now she can focus all her efforts on getting George through secondary school without needing to worry about paying for Thomas’s fees too. Thomas can also look forward to a future he deserves and has worked so hard for.
He is a lovely boy with a fantastic sense of humour, he is great fun to be around. I am sure he will settle into life at Mtwapa Academy in no time at all and reach his academic potential.
We are now back in the UK and wanted to fill you all in on the rest of our news from the trip.
One of the major achievements was the distribution of the food parcels to families who needed them in the area. As I mentioned in a previous post, we visited more than 100 families and encountered some very severe situations of families in desperate need. With 55 food parcels to distribute we couldn’t possibly make them stretch out to help all the families, so we squeezed a little here and there and managed to scrape together 87 parcels in total.
Each food parcel was worth 1100 Kenya Shillings (roughly £10) and contained 8kg of flour; 2kg of beans; 2kg of sugar; 1 litre of cooking oil and 2kg of rice, enough for an average sized family for around one week. I would like to introduce you to some of the children and their families who received food parcels.
Juma – 13 years old
Juma is a child who currently attends Mtwapa Academy. He contracted HIV at birth and is fighting to prevent this virus developing into AIDs. As is common with many children in his situation he is now an orphan since both his parents passed away. He currently lives with his elder brother and his wife, neither of whom have a stable job. Since taking in Juma, the whole family have suffered a huge amount of discrimination rooted in a lack of understanding and knowledge of the disease. They have been chased away from jobs by people who thought that now they must also be ‘infected’ and Juma is struggling to see himself as normal or to imagine a future life for himself.
One of the largest problems Juma faces is food. Such a simple thing yet it is causing him huge problems. As HIV positive, Juma is entitled to free anti-retroviral drugs to control the virus, which he is receiving, however the tablets are prescribed three times a day, to be taken with a big meal. As with many children in his situation, Juma is lucky to receive three large meals a week, so the medicine is unable to work effectively.
Loice (2 years), Saumu (4 years), Amir (9 years), Musa (10 years), Ishmal (11 years) & Swabrina (13 years)
This family have a total of six children living with their single mother together in one room. Their father abandoned the family some years ago and their mother, without any formal education or qualifications of her own, is struggling to make ends meet. Some of the children attend Rescue Foundation, a local community group providing free or very cheap education and day care for the youngest children, others attend the local government school which is overcrowded, poorly resourced and badly managed.
Without any regular income, the family struggle on a daily basis to put food on the table.
After their mother passed away due to HIV these nine children were left alone. Their care was discussed by village members and in the end they were divided amongst neighbours, extended family and well wishers in the area. Mohammed (around 5 years – pictured) is living in a single-roomed mud hut with his aunt, who is herself a widow with three children and no stable job. His brother and sister, Richard and Madiha, (around 7 years and 3 years – pictured) are staying with another aunt in a mud and iron sheet construction in serious disrepair. In this house are a total of nine children, the eldest of whom now has an 8 month old baby boy of her own.
Brian is a little boy attending New Life Kindergarten. Neither his mother or father are around, leaving Brian in the care of his grandmother, who is blind. In the same home, also under the sole care of the grandmother are Emily (aged 4) and Charity (aged 7). The girls are currently not attending school after being sent home to fetch school fees. This family is a very large one, with many children and grandchildren who have been left to the care of this elderly lady. Without a job of her own, and with very few people around to support her, she struggles to feed and care for the children, let alone send them to school.
As I said, there are 87 families who received food parcels. I could tell you 87 stories just like these ones here. But I think that’s probably enough for now. I cannot tell you how important this food was to these families. If you are reading this knowing you donated a parcel, please know that it has truely gone to a family who need it.
Clearly these parcels are a short term fix and most certainly do not even begin to address the depth of the problems for many of these families. However, it does give them a head start for the next week or so and a reprieve to get on top of other costs such as rent or school fees which have been outstanding and building up over time. To help families like these ones find a long term solution we would love to be able to assist them in starting small businesses to create a sustainable income over time. We have done this already with some of the families on our sponsorship programme who have started businesses such as charcoal sales and chicken rearing, and have found it to cost roughly £85 per family, depending on the type of business they start. If you think you could help any of these families to find a sustainable income by donating that amount of money, please contact me today and we can get started. My mobile number is 07950329398 or my email is email@example.com. I would love to hear from you.