|By Francis Kabutu|
Ever read a story that broke your heart — and then, right before the end, put it right back together again? Hold onto that thought…you’ll need to go back to it at the end of this short read.
In 2020, the year of lockdowns, I began a new tradition which I hope to continue for some time: listing out films which best generate empathy. As Roger Ebert wisely relayed, movies are mankind’s greatest empathy generating art. So it stands to reason that as I soak in many of the great films of each new year, I find my own heart expanding in response to great artists’ work. One of the all-time classics, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (PG, 1982), which you’ve probably watched, explores the friendship between a boy and an alien stranded on Earth. The protagonist creates a strong bond with a being he can hardly communicate with, who is totally different from him, and who others are afraid of. Ultimately, the film teaches us empathy, compassion and understanding.
About a week ago, I got to experience a real-life classic movie about humanity: the “Wings of Compassion” initiative, thanks to Annete Karanja, a colleague at Strathmore.
Spreading compassionate wings…
In the poem, “Teaching my Mother how to give birth”, British Poet Warsan Shire writes that no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark – A narrative too close to the psyche of a number of pregnant teenage girls in Kenya. Forced to flee their homes to escape sexual abuse and exploitation by close family members, neglected or rejected by the same families on conceiving, these school-going girls drop out of school with no one to turn to or nowhere to go. A couple in Kiambu County has attempted to offer a solution for them by providing a safe haven.
The Wings of Compassion Rescue Centre (WOC), a community project in Marurui, Kiambu County was founded on 1st May 2011 by Rev. Danshire Kang’ethe and his wife, Dorcas. It started as a feeding program in their residence and slowly transitioned into a rescue centre for teenage mothers, mostly 15 years old and under. This was borne out of deep empathy and commitment to alleviate the dire state of these victims of circumstance. They need someone they can trust and confide in. The centre has over the years more than just stepped in to provide them with food, shelter, clothing, protection. It also walks that all-important extra mile of showing them love, encouragement, counselling, mentorship, care, and a home for them as well as the children they are expecting.
Together, the team at the home try to plant a seed of hope to these girls by offering counselling, parental skills, availing a home, food, medical care and education until the girls become self-reliant and in a position to fully provide for their children. They are, however, continuously grappling with the problem of lacking enough support to keep this noble cause alive.
Inspiring a new generation of humanitarian activists
In the recent past, Strathmore’s Community Service Centre (CSC) has shown an earnest interest in this project, taking every opportunity possible to chip in whatever little way. In the process, they’ve inspired the next Mahatma Gandhi’s and Mother Teresa’s in the name of Mark Karanja and Catherine Nganga, 4th Year Bachelor of Commerce students and the next humanitarian activists.
In December 2020, they sought to spend festivities, and Mark’s birthday at the Wings of Compassion Home. I got to learn that Mark had long established a special bond with the home and he is actually friends with Rev. Danshire, a relationship that has spanned close to seven years. You see, conversations that spark a change in the world are quite simplistic and don’t require much deliberation, just a deliberate action.
Mark and Catherine lobbied for funds and managed to raise a substantial amount that afforded the young mothers and their children a one-of-a kind Christmas festivity. This seemingly simple campaign seemed to ignite something bigger and so strong, that they began a series of drives. This also doubled up as their Service-Based Learning (SBL) project. They’d go on to hold similar subsequent visits to the home on Valentines 2021 (to spread some love) and Easter with goodies.
“When we began the drive in December, as is the norm for such initiatives, we did not have it easy at first. No one believed that we had no vested interests, that we were doing it from the good of our hearts. We were adamant and trotted on with the help of two classmates; Esther and Leo. We used M-Changa, a local fundraising platform to raise funds. Our concerted efforts saw us raise over KShs. 40,000, food items and clothes in just two weeks during the festive period. We had a whole celebration at the home, including a cake cutting session.
From this first visit, we noticed with a lot of concern that the girls needed sanitary towels. This birthed the idea of a “Pad Drive” towards Valentine’s Day. In conjunction with the Student Council, we solicited the student fraternity to raise enough funds to purchase sanitary towels for six months – a goal we reached in less than a week!
During our highly successful June 2021 drive, we partnered with the Community Service Centre (CSC) and raised close to KShs. 50,000, academic materials (such as books), food stuffs, hygiene items, and clothes. I cannot exhaustively voice our gratitude to the Strathmore Family, well-wishers and friends for the many acts of kindness they continue extending towards this cause. We continue looking for ways to support this rescue home and are open to ideas on how to better tackle this,” concludes Catherine.
Love and compassion… Life’s necessities
The home accepts volunteers, well-wishers, donors as well as students on Community attachments. The Community Service Centre (CSC) encourages students and staff members to join them in helping improve WOC and the society at large.
Has your heart been restored? As you come to the end of this read, remember to attempt to practice at least two different acts of kindness a day. This could include donating clothes to the poor, time to help serve meals, or maybe just taking a minute to hold the door open for someone else.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”― Dalai Lama XIV
For more information on Wings of Compassion Rescue Home, please contact Michael Babu on firstname.lastname@example.org