Feed the Children brings together caring individuals to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. We address childhood hunger by empowering children and communities to achieve self-sufficiency around the four pillars: Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods. Today we salute our staff who work tirelessly to ensure that children with different needs at the organization’s Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC) in Kenya are well fed.
The DCC has been caring for babies who have been abandoned and providing professional services and care for children with special needs since 1993. The 8-member team based at the DCC works to ensure that the children living at the center (as well as staff who take care of the young ones) do not go hungry and are well nourished.
Each team member specializes in a specific skill, which when combined, form a well-oiled machine that churns out delicious nutritious meals. Some children require special diets to address their nutritional needs, especially those who were brought in malnourished. Our team makes sure these special children have what they need as well.
The team is composed of a nutritionist, a specialist baker, and experienced cooks. They prepare balanced meals for resident children, staff and guests–about 150 people on a daily basis. They also prepare special meals on an as-needed basis, such as when there are events or special occasions.
Some of the staples of the DCC menu include ugali (solid mixture of water and corn flour), rice, beans, vegetables, beef, fish, and cake–and on special occasions they prepare chicken, sausage, and other items.
Redemptor Agagi, who has worked with Feed the Children for over 14 years, leads the team. She is proud of her team, which she says has never let her down. She says that, like any other system, there are minor challenges, “but nothing that stands out that we haven’t been able to take care of, and I thank the management for always supporting us.”
The team members say they enjoy working at the kitchen and that it’s been a great experience. “When someone gets hungry, that person cannot be productive. Preparing meals that they enjoy and that helps them work well gives me satisfaction,” says Florence Mwangi.
Justus was born with the odds stacked against him.
His family lives in a very poor community in Kenya. At just one month old, Justus was struck with meningitis which led to cerebral palsy. His mother, Gladys, struggled to care for him and her other children.
When Justus was six years old, his father abandoned the family, making a hard life even more difficult for everyone in the family. Gladys does the best she can, managing to find menial daily jobs to earn a little money. But as a single mother with seven children, including one with debilitating medical issues, it can be overwhelming.
She spent countless hours in hospitals, trying to find doctors who would look at Justus—in those rare times she had the money to afford such care. With an unreliable job and a family to care for, she was constantly stressed and worried about their next meal, let alone paying for medical bills and the family’s ongoing needs.
In the Kibera community where Gladys, Justus and their family live, folks are challenged financially… and in every other way.
Young people find their way toward criminal activities, drugs, and alcohol due to the high poverty levels, according to Purity Wanja, a social worker in Kibera. Sanitation is sorely lacking, with sewage water running freely and garbage strewn about.
At the age of 12, Justus was discovered by community social workers. He was crawling in the mud because he couldn’t walk. The social workers encouraged his mother to admit him to Feed the Children’s Dagoretti Children’s Center (DCC).
Once admitted, Feed the Children staff gave Justus a full examination and began an ongoing regimen of physical and occupational therapy. He was enrolled in the Dagoretti Special School to begin his education – Justus had never attended school before. In class, Justus learned the basics that kids around the world learn. He also received technical training in textiles and sewing.
And because Feed the Children supports keeping children connected to their families and communities wherever possible, Justus visited his family on weekends and during school holidays.
While in our care, Justus also began intensive therapy and underwent surgery to improve his mobility. The corrective surgery made his legs more flexible so he is able to walk better. The procedures also eased the pain which came along with his condition and made him more comfortable. In addition, he received a wheelchair, a pair of crutches, and some calipers to help brace himself as he walks.
And for Gladys and other mothers like her, Feed the Children gives professional advice on the care of children with disabilities. The social workers are in constant contact with the children and their guardians.
After completion of his technical course that was sponsored by Feed the Children, and once he’d met various milestones set by the rehabilitation team, Justus was reunited with his family in November 2010. But our work doesn’t end there—Wanja stays in contact with Justus and his family. Today, Justus is easy going and social, with a bright smile. He is friendly and polite, wonderful with children, and has a small babysitting business for friends and neighbors.
Now, at 23 years old, Justus just received another live-changing gift, thanks to Feed the Children and our supporters—a sewing machine. With this gift, he can take the textile training and expertise he gained at Dagoretti and use it to increase his livelihood—one of the four pillars of Feed the Children’s work around the world.
“I used to wish for one every day, but could not afford it,” Justus says. And his mother, Gladys, couldn’t be happier. “Everything starts from one step,” she says, “and this [sewing] machine is a step forward for Justus.”
“The machine will be useful since now I can go ahead and work without waiting for help,” Justus says. “I have skills I can use.”
And Justus’s new independence and self-sufficiency means Gladys now has more time to pursue her business interests. As we walked out of the house, she couldn’t contain her happiness for Justus in his business pursuits. She also seemed energized in her own quest for more income, despite the harsh conditions of their neighborhood.
Gladys concluded by saying, “I don’t know how I can repay what Feed the Children has done for us.”