St. Ann orphanage changes children’s lives

 –Samuel Mugo (left) and Kennedy Njuguna have become good friends since both began living at St. Ann Baby and Children’s Home in 2010.

By LAURA TESTER

The two Kenyan boys smiled at each other and laughed while standing under the shaded roof of their school.

Samuel Mugo and Kennedy Njuguna, both eight, have become good friends since coming to St. Ann Baby and Children’s Home in midwestern Kenya.

They have several similarities. Both want to become pilots. Both came to the orphanage in 2011. Both enjoy living there, especially playtime.

“There’s nothing I don’t like,” said Kennedy, speaking in Swahili and translated through an English interpreter.

But their stories of why they ended up at the orphanage are vastly different.

Samuel’s mother was a barmaid and used to leave her children home alone at night. She was put in jail, so the children ended up in the hands of the government. When the single mother was released from jail, she disappeared.

Samuel, along with a younger brother and sister, have been living at the orphanage ever since.

Kennedy ran away from his home and was found walking all alone.

“He had nowhere to go,” said manager Florence Anaiza. “He ended up at the police station and the children’s department brought him to us. No one has ever come to ask for him.”

Staff are well aware that children may have various behavioural and emotional issues because of what they went through before landing on St. Ann’s doorstep. A total of 28 children live at the orphanage run by Irene Wainaina and her husband Ayub Njenga.

As of November 2013, the oldest child was eight years old, the youngest was two-and-a-half. Seventeen boys and 11 girls live at the home staffed by 10.

Anaiza, who has worked at the orphanage for more than seven years, said her main focus is tending to the children’s daily welfare.

“These children come from different families so most of them have different behaviours,” said Anaiza, while cleaning with other staff in the kitchen. “We want them to bring them up and make sure they are behaving well and being nice.”

Anaiza’s day is hectic. Once she arrives early, sometime after 7:30 a.m., she begins washing clothes.

While the children go to classes, Anaiza and the rest of the staff make up the beds, arrange clothes in wardrobes, and other tidying duties inside the four-bedroom house. There’s lunch to prepare, then kitchen cleanup. The children have an afternoon nap followed by a bath and playtime.

Then there are shoes to clean. Supper preparation gets underway so the children can eat at 7 p.m.

Working at the orphanage is a true labour of love for Anaiza. She began looking after children at another orphanage in 2004. Anaiza said she’s passionate about working with children and loves them very much.

“If we don’t take care of these children, where would they be?,” Anaiza said. “Most of them might have died a long time ago. So I find this is a very good life for these children. It’s a very safe place for them.”