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Newsletter - Maua Street and Destitute Children's Home

A Christmas message from Miriam Westendarp, Co-Founder of New Life Nyambene

An All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues recently invited our trustees to the launch of 'Local First: Development for the 21st Century'. Local First is a simple but radical idea: development should be led by local people and local organisations before international 'experts' are brought in. This concept is being showcased as the 21st century reinvention of overseas programmes. But…. We have news: we are already doing this! New Life Nyambene has been working like this ever since its inception in October 2000, when my husband Charles and I first met Ambrose Gichunge in Kenya and were introduced to some of the street children that our charity has since rescued.

One of the reasons I am so proud of our work, and so confident in our future, is this very thing - New Life Nyambene is a partnership of equals. The team out there working day by day in the Children’s Home, the community and on the streets, initiating every project themselves and telling us at all points what will succeed and what is needed next; and the team of volunteers here in the UK play an equally crucial role visiting, strengthening relationships, listening and advising, and…raising all of the money which makes everything happen. This is our sustainability: that we are one team in two countries. It is reflected in our name – English and African – and it is reflected in the personal relationships which we have with our children and the staff. As a supporter you can be confident that not only will every penny of your contribution go towards helping the children in Kenya, but that you will be able to see where it is spent, and write to and be written to by the child you save.

And this style of operating really does work! Take three of our older boys - Eliud Waigwa, John Gikundi and Stephen Kimathi, who on my recent trip to Kenya I had the pleasure of watching horse around with new games and toys in a manner in which they – and we – would never have dreamed of when they were the starving, energyless children we found on the streets. Twelve years have been invested in those boys, and now they are grown up, educated at school and ready to live independently. Entirely thanks to YOU our cherished sponsors, who have saved their lives. When I was with the children recently I was touched by how they talk of their sponsors with such gratitude and love! They feel utterly connected to you even though they have never seen you; and they know that they owe everything to you. They are always asking me to pass messages of love to those who have rescued them from the unliveable and given them a future and a hope.

And the other reason I am so proud to represent New Life Nyambene is that their whole community is being changed as a result of the hard work of Ambrose and his team in Kenya. Theirs is a brutal society with no infrastructure and nothing between you and death if your crop fails. Corruption is rife and tribalism creates conflict and enmity all over the country. Into this mess, Ambrose and his counter-cultural team are making a startling impact with their emphasis on mutual support, honesty and generosity even in the face of starvation. When we first began working together, he told me that female circumcision was the norm in his area and that young girls were more or less unmarriageable unless they had been violated in this way. He had set his face against it, in the face of death threats from tribal elders, and insisted on offering alternative ceremonies to 13 year old girls, which avoided this barbaric mutilation. Now, as a result of his work, female circumcision is outlawed in his area, and the threats are long silenced. Also, because of his incorruptibility, he has been made a local counsellor, and our children’s home has an excellent reputation locally.

It is particularly exciting to be able to report that as 2012 draws to a close, our new vocational training centre is now built. My trip this summer was to open it – you can see pictures on our website – and we are on target to begin to offer courses to young people still living on the streets, as well as our own children, from January.

But of course, a huge new project like this Vocational Training Centre costs a lot to run. We need to find an extra £1,400 a month to sustain it. We are confident that we will find that money because people like you care, and because you know that a small regular sum over here translates into a huge effect over there. We have never been disappointed in the generosity and compassionate imagination of the people who ask us about New Life Nyambene, and we are all working together to make this next wonderful venture, our vocational training centre for street children, succeed and bring the hope this community so desperately needs.

So we end the year by saying a huge thank you to you our supporters, who play such a crucial role in the struggle against poverty, corruption and despair. You can be certain that your support is bringing freedom and new life to children who know you by name and will be grateful to you for as long as they live.

Based on a speech delivered at our recent fundraiser concert

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