This week we welcomed Cindy Krishna, an engineer in the aerospace industry who came to talk about Educate the Kids, a charity for which she is a volunteer.
Twenty years ago an English couple Maureen and Ian McIntyre went on a retirement holiday to Mombasa, Kenya which turned out to be life changing. They loved the country and the people, but were horrified by the inequality and dire poverty they saw. Maureen resolved to do something about it, and in 1988 she set up the charity Educate the Kids, with a sponsorship programme offering the poorest children in the local community of Utange, Mombasa, access to education.
Money was raised to establish a kindergarten and primary school for children up to the age of 12, with continuing support for those who graduate to the state secondary schools. Class sizes are small [in the underfunded state system, classes of 100 are common] and the pupils are carefully selected by Cindy and other volunteers from the poorest families, who without this support would be unlikely to experience a school education at all. The children are sustained with a feeding programme, essential for them to be in a fit state to learn after making the often arduous and lengthy journey to school.
The cost of providing education for a child is approximately £11 per month. The charity is run entirely by unpaid volunteers, so all funds raised go directly for the benefit of the children. The school was opened in 2001 and currently provides education for around 700 children every year, employing several teachers, some of whom are themselves graduates from the school. The charity has had a significant impact in the surrounding village, with the installation of electricity and drilling of boreholes for fresh water.
A unique way of fundraising has emerged. Cindy told us that Maureen was inspired to form a singing group from among the pupils which she first brought to the UK for a tour in 2006. The children benefited hugely from the experience, and captured the hearts of those who saw them. The tour raised sufficient money to fund the building of an orphanage, and further tours, including one to the USA, have continued the good work.
The Singing Children of Africa are on tour again, and are expected in Leeds some time in October. Cindy promised to let us know the exact date when she knows it, so that Rotarians may see them performing their mix of traditional and contemporary songs African style.