Indiana Daily Student

Group works to help Kenyan orphans

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

To many, 11 million might seem an abstraction, simply a number written on a page. But in sub-Saharan Africa, this number – how many children, as of 2001, who had lost one or both of their parents to AIDS – is a harsh reality. And according to a 2006 UNICEF report, by 2010 the number of children in the region orphaned by AIDS is expected to reach 42 million. \nBut turning stark statistics into a unified mission, one group on campus has made it its passion to help these orphaned children and to provide a beam of hope from an ocean away.\nThe Daraja Children’s Project-Kenya was started last year as an organization focused on providing a dependable bridge between donors and programs that support Kenyan children. According to the National AIDS Control Council, Kenya, a country where about 7 percent of adults have HIV, has a growing number of orphans since an estimated 150,000 people there each year die of HIV/AIDS.\n“Daraja,” the Swahili word for bridge, is the focus of the group members, who work to bridge the gap between people who want to help and the children who desperately need assistance. \n“The group was registered in December, but the work started much earlier,” said the group’s founder, Philemon Yebei, a doctoral associate for the Center for the Study of the College Fraternity. “We realize the needs in Kenya are very diverse, but we decided to focus on helping the children because we were providing a means for empowering a future generation of leaders.”\nYebei, a native of Kenya, and his wife, Violet, created the group after a number of students came to them with inquiries on how to get involved. Now, with a membership of about 18 and motivation that defies its small numbers, the DCP is making its presence known through such events as a recent call-out meeting.\nAriane Hollub, a graduate student researching HIV prevention, had the chance to go to Kenya with the project, an experience that she said changed her life.\n“Visiting the orphanage was truly an eye-opening and inspiring experience,” Hollub said. “When you’re there you realize how little it takes to make life almost fulfilled for these children. People don’t know how the smallest amount of money or volunteering time can make such a huge difference.” \nThrough collected donations, the group was able to buy a stove for a Kenyan orphanage and school serving more than 100 children. \nFittingly, it was named the Hoosier Stove. And while many IU students still struggle with the meaning of the word “Hoosier,” at the Solid Rock Children’s School, the word is now on a nameplate commemorating a project’s success. \nAnd on the horizon are more projects and goals for the group.\n“We’re thinking big. One day we hope to act as a service-learning opportunity,” Yebei said, “but for now we’re trying to give as many volunteer outlets in Kenya to the people at IU.”\nFor more information on the Daraja Children’s Project-Kenya or how you can get involved, e-mail daraja@indiana.edu.

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