Irishman sets up Kenyan charity
Thomas Keown is the founder of One Home Many Hopes (OHMH), a loving and inspirational home for orphaned and abandoned girls in Mtwapa, Kenya.
Never in his wildest dreams did a young man from Co. Down think he would be spending all his free time rescuing, housing and educating parentless street children in Africa.
“I didn’t mean to. It happened by accident or providence maybe. Truthfully I never liked children that much and they definitely didn’t like me,” laughs Thomas Keown, 31, during an interview with the Irish Voice.
Keown, who has worked at the Irish Immigration Center in Boston for eight years and still does so on a part time basis, is the founder of One Home Many Hopes (OHMH), a loving and inspirational home for orphaned and abandoned girls in Mtwapa, Kenya.
Helping children in developing countries was never something on Keown list of things to do in life.
“I went on holiday to Kenya in the summer of 2008 with no plans to do anything to help anyone but myself,” smiles Keown at the irony.
While visiting Kenya, Keown met a young Kenyan journalist, Anthony Mulongo, who had given up his job, his house and a lucrative journalism and broadcast career to rescue and house abandoned street children.
“Anthony had met one child in particular, a six-year-old girl called Gift who in between his first and second meeting of her had lost her mother to AIDS, leaving her and her nine-month-old brother on the streets,” said Keown.
“By the time he met her again her brother had died. He died on her back as she carried him around the streets looking for food.
“Anthony was profoundly moved and moved her into his house and basically adopted her informally. Then another, then another and another.”
Mulongo has a vision to educate children so they can become the doctors and journalists and teaches of the future. Keown was blown away by Mulongo’s foresight and plans.
“I had seen orphanages in several other parts of the developing world and wasn’t moved to help. But Anthony’s vision of creating those who would be leaders and agents of change in the future was exactly in line with my own thoughts on how development can most effectively be done,” he said.
“I’d thought for a while that we can build orphanages for the rest of lives, but to what end, when and how does it stop? And then suddenly, boom! Into my path had come a genius with the same notion, but who had started doing it with children already.”
Keown was so inspired by his new friend that he made a decision right there and then in Kenya that he was going to help Mulongo’s mission.
Keown quickly formed an attachment to a three-week-old baby boy called Macharia while in Kenya, and realized he had the ability and means to access the pockets of those living in the developed world to help Mulongo in his quest to save many lives.
“I know people all over the world who want to make a difference but don’t know how to in an effective, high impact and trustworthy way. Now they can help through OHMH,” said Keown.
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