“Upendo” is a Kiswahili word meaning “Love”. A project supported by the Irish Jesuit Missions which has been a wonderful success is the Upendo Vulnerable Care and Support Programme. The project aims to meet the needs of vulnerable children who live in Kangemi slums in Nairobi, Kenya through education, care and psychosocial support.
Since its beginning in 1995, more than 450 orphaned and vulnerable children have benefited from the Upendo programme at St Joseph the Worker Catholic Church. Currently, the programme takes care of 194 children in nurseries, primary and secondary schools and now has 25 students at third level institutions. There is also a programme for the development of the parents or guardians with home visits and counselling.
In addition, a focused project has been incorporated to meet the needs of the children in Kangemi who are from very poor families and may have been abandoned and/or abused, have lived on the street or been much neglected. These children are given extra support and accommodation is provided for up to 30 children each year. They are rehabilitated for one or two years there before being integrated into the Vulnerable Care Programme. Thanks to ElectricAid, the charity set up by the staff of the electrical supply company in Ireland, a grant from it has provided the children with text books and uniforms, lunches during term and holiday times and other activities like drama, poetry, music and handcrafts. Parents are also encouraged to be involved and to help with the cooking and cleaning.
However access to quality secondary education remains a challenge for young people in Nairobi and especially in the Kangemi slum. It remains an area with problems of high unemployment, dense population, poor sanitation and housing, and low income levels.
To tackle these problems in an integrated way, the Kangemi Development Office — in St. Joseph the Worker Parish — developed a strategy to change the existing Training Centre into a technical secondary school. This school will equip students with theoretical and technical skills and prepare them to earn their livelihoods. Some of the practical subjects to be taught include computer science, electrical works, electronics/mobile repairs, tailoring/fashion designing and beauty therapy/salon treatments.
After months of renovation the school opens its doors for Form One Class in early 2015 when 40 students will be recruited. By 2017, it’s expected that more than 160 students will have been enrolled and received training in all four levels. The project is halfway there! As funding becomes available, this wonderful education and training facility will be completed and give many more children and young people the opportunities they deserve.
In addition, the Parish also started constructing a permanent, larger church at the Christ The King Outstation, located about 3km from the Parish. It is needed as the increasing population in the Kangemi area, which is currently estimated to be 140,000, counts 20,000 Catholics amongst them. The church will have the capacity to accommodate over 1,000 parishioners and will be easily accessible for disabled people. Building is underway and the roof is currently being constructed. Supporters of the Irish Jesuit Missions have generously contributed 10k towards the roofing and are much appreciated.
The project is halfway there! An additional 40k will see it completed and provide the training and education for more vulnerable children and young people who may otherwise not have had a chance to earn a decent and dignified living.