After 30 years of anticipation and penny-pinching, 14 years of traveling to east Africa, and nearly 50 years old, I have finally seen my dream come true. In October 2012, I purchased a barren field in an ideal location outside Nairobi, and almost immediately construction of a house began on site—a family home for street children (over 40,000 children are living homeless in Nairobi), orphans (2.6 million children in Kenya have lost one or both parents as a result of HIV/AIDS), and at-risk girls from the slums (over 2 million people in Nairobi live in slums and an estimated 30,000 child prostitutes as a result of poverty). Since people, not furniture, are ultimately what turn a house into a home, these precious children will instantly transform our house into Saint Jerome Emiliani Family Home.
After 12 months of dedicated hard work, the construction of the house is finished. Water was finally struck (November 4, 2013) while digging a borehole manually for four-months; a reservoir was installed to hold two 5,000-litre water tanks, and filled from the borehole; gutters and downpipes were installed around the rim of the house to collect rain water and store into another 10,000-litre water tank; and the hooking-up of electricity gave light to the night. All of these amenities are thanks to Bishop Emeritus Denis Croteau and his Development Foundation. Saint Jerome Emiliani Family Home will “welcome home” 12 former street children and orphans by December 12, 2013, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is one of our patrons and Mother of all children. By January 2014, these same children will become day-scholars in the local school community.
Our home has 20 rooms, including 9 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms—so it will be a “full house” as they say. I have also started an Street Outreach Program, whose purpose is to reach out to other homeless children living on the streets, including mothers and children infected with HIV/AIDS (more than 1 million Kenyans live with the disease—the 8th highest number of any country in the world), and at-risk girls in the slums (¼ of all Kenyan girls under the age of 15 are married). Through this Street Outreach, my hope is to protect the most vulnerable from child trafficking, substance abuse (glue-sniffing and drugs are common among street kids), and exploitation (26% of Kenyan children aged 5 to 14 are child laborers).
In the summer of 1999, James and Julius were the first boys I helped rescued from Kibera slums in Nairobi—the largest urban slum in Africa and likely the world. Since then, they have successfully finished their school studies, moved out of the slums, and today share a modest business in graphic design. At 31 years old, Julius is happily married with a beautiful family of his own now; while at 30, James is devoted to helping me raise these children in Saint Jerome Emiliani Family Home. He has also single-handedly managed the construction of the house, and all done by local laborers! I couldn’t be more blessed, more grateful, and more proud of these young men. They are shining examples of what can happen when we invest in children through our energy, time, resources and, most importantly, our love. These boys—all grown up now—are giving back to the poorest of the poor from which they came, and helping me to mend the broken humanity of other children in dire need.
What I’m excited about most is that these children will have a safe, peaceful, and fun-loving home for many years to come. All the things I take for granted in Canada are now in their reach in Kenya—three meals a day (nearly half of Kenya’s 40 million people are poor and unable to meet their daily nutritional requirements); health care (12% of Kenya’s children dying before the age of 5 years); clean running water (more than 15 million Kenyans are without access to safe water or sanitation facilities); a change of clean clothes (most poor children in Kenya do not have underwear, socks, sleepwear and adequate shoes); and the chance to study at local schools (only 1 in 10 children in Kenya will complete Grade 8). I am hoping that all of my children in Saint Jerome Emiliani Family Home will remain with us at least until they finish their primary and secondary school education which, for most of them, could take up to 10 years. So you see, my dream has become their dream too… the dream of a promising future… a home, a family, and all the wonderful things in between.
Our home in Kenya is a safe haven for disadvantaged and orphaned children, who might otherwise be left to fend for themselves on the streets and in the slum areas of inner-city Nairobi.
If you are able to support Saint Jerome Emiliani Family Home for homeless street children, orphans, and at-risk girls and boys from the slums, as well as destitute mothers and children with HIV/AIDS in the slums through my Street Outreach Program, there are 3 easy ways to make a donation today—
1. E-mail Transfer or Bank-to-Bank Transfer. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. This seems to be the most popular, quickest and easiest way, especially from long-distance.
2. Donate online by visiting http://www.michaelbotermans.myevent.com/ (Sorry, tax receipts are not available for online donations at this time).
3. Send cheque or money order to Bishop Denis Croteau Development Foundation, 5117—52nd Street, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, X1A-1T7—ATTENTION: Children’s Home in Kenya (Tax receipts will be issued for all donations). Please make sure to write: ATTENTION: Children’s Home in Kenya so your donation goes directly into our account and 100% towards helping these children.
“Asante sana na Mungu akubarikie.” Thank you and God bless you.