Nigel Roberts writes:
“During our annual trustee visits to Kenya we are invariably asked to take on additional projects. Funding our existing long-term commitments to some 700 children is already
challenging so generally we resist these requests, but, in 2018 Oliver Kirimi, who heads the Meru North Disability Community Centre, took us to Irindiro Primary School which has a special educational needs unit.
The facilities for the children were wholly inadequate. There were two classrooms in poor-quality buildings with extremely limited teaching materials. Of the children with teaching and encouragement some dozen might be integrated into the community. There were also eight deaf children, some very bright. The remainder of the children, some with limited mobility, were simply left to play in the dirt without any form of teaching or stimulation. There was no daytime carer: many of the children being unable, without assistance, to take care even of basic hygiene needs.
The dormitory provision was also wholly inadequate. The roof leaked, the floor was earthen, children slept three to a bed and there were no mattresses. There was a strong smell of urine and the conditions could only be described a squalid.
What we saw was truly awful and whilst we could not adopt Irindiro as a long term project, humanity demanded that we respond, but in a structured and time-bound way. Initially those who visited agreed to donate enough for three years to ensure the children were properly fed, that a trained day carer was recruited, and the night carer received training. We also undertook to raise money from third parties which did not detract from Karibuni’s established income streams.
Reverend Maureen Jones, former Bishop of Nairobi, raised substantial funds which when added to awards from grant-making trusts to which we could not have applied for our day-to-day work enabled the replacement of the roof of the dormitories, a washable, sealed cement floor in the male and female dormitories, purchase of sufficient beds so that each child has its own, purchase of mattresses with plastic covers to prevent the cumulative effect of soiling, and improvement to access between the dormitories and classrooms as the site slopes.
In addition, two stone-built classrooms are to be erected, with purchase of teaching materials to improve the learning / play experience of the children. There will be connection of the water supply to the ablutions area and improvement to the kitchen.
2020 was the final year of our support and Oliver has had the special educational needs classes separately registered so that their funding from Government is secure, and to attract other funding partners. A headteacher has been appointed and a further five teachers are being recruited.
It has been wonderful to see the transformation in the wellbeing of the children (who have increased in number from 30 to 90 in view of the improvements), the school infrastructure and its re-positioning so that it is now separately and adequately funded.”