Why an orphanage in Stella?

Why an orphanage in Stella?

 Unfortunately, there are not enough orphanages to accommodate the increasing number of orphans in the Nyanza region. Happy Home was created to alleviate some of the region’s need and provides a home for orphans whose extended families are unwilling or unable to care for them after their parents’ deaths.

 Most of the time, when a child is orphaned, the extended family steps in to care for the child. Often when you ask a parent how many children they care for they will answer, “Five children of my own and four of my brother’s. And I also take care of my parents.” In cases of extreme poverty, when the cost of living already far outweighs the means of the family, taking care of another child is not always possible.

   


 HIV/AIDS in the province of Nyanza

Stella – a little village with a population of only a few hundred – is situated in southwestern Kenya, nestled between Lake Victoria and the Masai Mara reserve. It is lies within the Nyanza province – a region heavily affected by poverty and disease.

The Nyanza region is home to so many orphans due to the area’s high incidence and resulting high mortality rate of HIV/AIDS. In this region, a lack of education and continuing tradition contribute to the spread of this disease. It is customary for an AIDS widow (often infected herself) to marry her late husband’s brother. In many cases the woman infects her new husband and their future children, thus giving birth to a new generation of the virus.

Here are a few statistics concerning the Nyanza province taken from the 2006 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report on human development:

· 44 years: The region’s life expectancy – the lowest in all of Kenya
· 13%: The percentage of people infected with HIV/AIDS in the region – the highest in Kenya
· 63%: The percentage of the region’s population living under the poverty line – the highest in Kenya


An Orphanage: The Most Urgent Need!

 

We participated in a survey of the rural needs of the region’s population. The survey asked local women what kind of support and services they needed. We expected to hear the usual answers: micro-finances, agricultural development, NGOs, etc. Instead we were told that what was most urgently needed was an orphanage.

 

 


The Birth of Happy Home

Fifteen years ago the Mdeizi Sagwa family founded the “Medicare Maternity & Nursing Home Hospital,” a clinic offering medical care to local villages. As the medical services increased in the nearby town of Migori, the hospital slowly became financially inviable and was forced to close in late 2005.

Wanting to still serve the local communities, Alfred Mdeizi Sagwa decided to convert the former clinic into an orphanage and, with the arrival and help of Isabelle Vandeplas in 2006, Happy Home began to take shape.

“In March 2006 I came to Stella to work as an agronomic researcher,” Isabelle says. “It was during this time that I met Alfred, Rose and the whole family.

In Benin, where I worked for the United Nations World Food Program, I was involved in a food-support program for orphans. It was really amazing and touching to see Benin’s local families devoted to raising orphans, often on only one salary.

Seeing what these modest families could accomplish, I promised to myself that I too would do what I could to help orphans one day and, less than six months later, my wish came true. Thanks to Rose, Alfred’s wife, who had the same dream as me, and Tom, a friend of the family, the idea of Happy Home came to be.”

This is how Alfred Mdeizi Sagwa and his wife Rose Kavulani Sagwa (known as "Mam'dogo"), a neighbor Tom Jeseremi, Isabelle Vandeplas and her husband Georges-Edouard Lelievre-Douyon together founded Happy Home. While they were very busy organizing the legal issues with the Kenyan government and transforming the clinic into a home, a team of enthusiastic people in Belgium (Christian Vandeplas, Hilde Keunen and Roel Merckx) started fund-raising.

In November 2006, all ingredients were there to welcome the first children.

      Isabelle - Rose - Tom - Edouard - Alfred