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.
Since returning from Kenya, Keown has worked tirelessly to make a difference.
He began raising money by asking friends and family for donations. They in turn organized local fundraisers, and soon enough people both in the U.S. the U.K. and in Ireland were doing their bit to help house, protect and educate young Kenyan children.
Describing the conditions of the children OHMH and Mulongo help save, Keown said, “Some of these girls lived on trash piles and ate from the streets or the bins. Girls are very vulnerable to pimps and traffickers and so wear baggy clothes and cut their hair short so they will look like boys.
“Some of the girls had been forced to be married as young as 10. Others had been raising siblings since they themselves were as young as six.
“You can’t describe it to people in the U.S. easily because our eyes glaze over; so much have we seen and heard on the news. But when you have seen it for yourself, you don’t glaze and you can’t not do something about it,” added Keown.
Currently, OHMH, a 501c3 tax-deductible charity, is housing 32 girls and three housemothers in a four-bedroom house in Mtwapa in coastal Kenya.
“We are rescuing girls and raising leaders so we aren’t asking people for charity, we are asking people to invest in 32 shattered lives who will heal and do work in Kenya that generations of generous and well-intentioned charity hasn’t done and will never do. We are all volunteers and so every dollar people give goes to the project. Zero percent is spent on admin and the like,” explains Keown.
“We use donors gifts to develop ways of sustaining the children and adults. For example, instead of buying milk every day they have five cows, instead of buying vegetables they grow them. Instead of paying electric bills they have solar panels.
“We recently dug a fish pond for the house and aim to fill it with 10,000 tilapia fish so we can provide the children with protein rich food, but also so they can hopefully sell fish to locals and so create income to sustain themselves.”
By the end of 2009, OHMH is expecting to have raised $70,000 to build a “proper home” for the girls. Currently all 32 of them and their four housemothers live in one four-bedroom house. The aim by the end of the year is to raise enough money to build a much larger residence for the children already living there.
“A volunteer architect has designed our new building – four floors, 12 girls and a house mother in four rooms on each floor complete with a living room and a kitchen so as the children feel that they are in a home as a family, and not in an institution as an orphan. And so they can study fruitfully,” said Keown.
Unlike many charities that build orphanages to house parentless children, Keown said OHMH creates a home environment for each child and fills it with love and education.
“Our aim is not to house every orphan in Kenya, although that would be lovely, but our aim is to very strategically raise up this group of future change agents, a group of highly educated indigenous people who have suffered the worst at the hands of a corrupt government as children so they can become the leaders of the future,” he says.
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