COLUMBIA — Two Columbia women journeyed more than 9,000 miles to help an orphanage in need, and now they’re asking the community to help the children they met in Kenya.
“It would be really good if every child would be able to open something for Christmas,” Deborah Hamilton said.
In September, two members of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Hamilton and Rose Nunley, set out on a mission trip to Kisumu, Kenya, where they volunteered at a Christian orphanage.
“We saw how much the people needed help,” Nunley said. “There’s an 80 percent unemployment rate with a population of 700,000. People live on the street; a lot of children are homeless because their parents have AIDS.”
Hamilton and Nunley, with the help of Sunday School Coordinator Sharon Session of Calvary Episcopal Church, are continuing their efforts to help the children they met by collecting donations from the Columbia community this holiday season.
They’re asking the community to make monetary donations or give articles of gently used clothing and small toys to the children at Mama Wilfrida Children’s Home, where Hamilton and Nunley volunteered.
The two held seminars discussing hygiene and food with the children at two churches, one at the orphanage, founded by the Rev. Samson Nyameche. They also bought food and supplies for the children while they were there.
Nyameche became an orphan at the age of 12 and was taken care of by a “good Samaritan,” which motivated him to start Mama Wilfrida Children’s Home.
The orphanage relies solely on donations and has no electricity or running water. There are about 55 children living there, in buildings made from mud and sticks, Nunley said. It serves children from the Nyando and Kisumu district of western Kenya.
“The food has little or no nutritional value,” Hamilton said. “It was very clear that the children suffered from a lack of essential vitamins.”
Session said, “We thought maybe we could help do something. When Deb and Rose went to Kenya, they took the money they didn’t use to put a roof on their dormitory. We were hoping to buy a bed or two. The kids need everything.”
The orphanage has one dormitory that is shared by both boys and girls. It would require $30,000 to build a boys dormitory plus expenses for beds, blankets, sheets and pillows. The orphanage is also in need of a vehicle for emergency transport, a tractor for the garden and daily food.
Both Hamilton and Nunley sponsor a child for $30 a month and send care packages.
“When I went over there, I had no intention of fostering a child,” Nunley said. “But while I was there, a little girl singled me out and asked me to send her school books. I recently sent her a Christmas box.”
Monetary donations are preferred because of the high cost of shipping items to Africa and the cost of customs the Rev. Nyameche has to pay to pick up packages.
“When we don’t send money, the Rev. Samson doesn’t have the money to pay for all the kids to go to school,” Nunley said.
People interested in donating to the orphans of Mama Wilfrida Children’s Home may contact Friendship Missionary Baptist Church at 449-5414 or Sharon Session at 445-2668.
“They’re just really smart kids. They have a passion and love for God,” Hamilton said. “They’re just grateful for anything that they can get.”