Irishman sets up Kenyan charity


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.

Although a recession is not the ideal time in which to be fundraising and looking to send money abroad, Keown remains optimistic of people’s good natures, especially his fellow men. 

“I knew enough from growing up at home in Ireland and from my parent’s stories to know that Irish people always help even when we are in hard times ourselves,” he said. 

And so far so good. To date dozens of Irish men and women have supported OHMH in one way or another.

“An Irish lady, Una McKeever, who was getting married, dug our fish pond by having me write to all her wedding guests saying she had enough toasters so please give to OHMH instead of getting her wedding presents,” said Keown.

Keown, who began the organization in Boston, will open up a chapter in New York City this week.

The aim of opening a chapter in New York is to recruit more volunteers to help fundraise and support OHMH, said Keown. 

 “New York will be the big engine for us. I believe that there are many people here who are working hard and doing well, but know that there is something bigger than their jobs and success and home and want to help with it if it is good and reputable,” he feels.

“There is a quiet voice in their head telling them so, but it gets drowned out by life and the rush of the city.”

Keown is urging young and old to attend the launch and get involved with OHMH.

“The last year has taught us that no matter who you are, you can do something. If we all give a little of ourselves, large things happen,” Keown says.

“If you want to be in on the ground floor of building something new, then we want you. We need people to sit around the table and help us work out how we are going to transform a region over the next generation.”

The launch of the New York chapter will take place from 7-9 p.m. at the Galway Hooker (1 East 36th Street) on Wednesday, August 26.

 Visit or e-mail Thomas Keown at or phone 617-230-2574.