Sue Stubbs is a (relatively recently) retired paediatrician who lives in the Aire Valley in Yorkshire. She became involved with Educate the Kids only a few years ago and was one of the last UK supporters to have been able to visit Kenya, travelling there first in 2019 and then again in 2020, just before the lockdown brought all such journeys to an abrupt halt. Sue specialised throughout her career in care of the new-born, so her thoughts on the health and wellbeing of the children looked after by Jolaurabi School are particularly interesting.
“I came across ETK via Heather Munro, who some of you may know is a real stalwart of the charity. My children went to school with her kids, so I knew her and I knew she was involved in this charity that helped looked after children in Kenya, but it was really when I went to see the choir that things took off.
“Then one day, Heather was telling me about her forthcoming trip and I found myself volunteering to accompany her. I had been to Africa before, to Nigeria to help with some training, but I’d never been to Kenya.
“In some ways, Nigeria prepared me for what I found: abject poverty and people surviving hand to mouth. However, I must admit it was still an eye opener, seeing, literally, how people were living. Given my professional background, when I looked at the conditions in which the children live it was upsetting in many ways. The start children have in life makes such a difference to their future and the way in which so many of the children there have to live was quite shocking. Although their diet is, in some ways, better than our western diet, the problems are that there is too little protein and, much more significantly, just not enough food.
“There aren’t really any health facilities as we’d understand them in the area around the village, although the first time I was there we went to one of the maternity units in Mombasa and it was very different from what we are used to the UK. There are too many women crammed together in one ward and maternal and infant mortality are quite high. It’s upsetting to see a mother who has undergone the trauma of having a stillbirth lying in a ward while in the next bed is another woman who has a new-born baby that is crying for attention…
“The reality there is that only a proportion of women go to hospital: most give birth at home, with local midwives. The problem is that they have to pay when they go to hospital and in many cases they simply don’t have the money.
“One of the many good things that ETK does is to work with the girls on their self-esteem and taking control of their own lives. Sadly, many don’t complete their education because they get married off for a dowry (because their family needs the money), or because they are needed to look after family members and animals at home.
“From what I’ve seen in the UK and from my two trips to Kenya, I’d say that Educate the Kids charity makes an enormous difference to children in a part of the world where they generally have very little or nothing. The fact that ALL the money goes to the child and the local community is great. What they have done is amazing. I know you can’t do the same thing for everyone and there is so much poverty in the world that you wonder where on earth to start, but the ETK model, with no paid volunteers and all the money going where it’s needed is a shining example of what a charity can do when led by those with the determination, drive and enthusiasm to make a difference.”
Interview by Alastair Blair