An orphanage set up in Kenya by a Lancaster woman more than 20 years ago has helped hundreds of children affected by HIV and Aids – but is now suffering the effects of a two-year drought and the economic fall-out from Brexit.
Double Joy Children’s Farm in east Kenya was founded by former Morecambe High pupil Mary Hinde, in 1995.
On retiring, Mary, who had been living and working in the Bondo area of western Kenya since 1979, decided to stay in Kenya and do something about the suffering of local orphans.
Using skills gained from her school building project and money left in a legacy from her father, Mary, now 78, bought land and built ‘from scratch’ Double Joy Children’s Farm.
As well as the 96 children currently living at Double Joy there are a further 46 aged 15-18 funded by the orphanage as they complete their further education at technical college or secondary school after leaving Double Joy at age 15, and four more at university, part-funded by relatives and overseas sponsors.
All of the children living at the orphanage have lost both parents through Aids/HIV-related illnesses and are in danger of being harmed through child trafficking.
When the orphanage was set up, Aids was becoming a major cause of death in the area, affecting half the adult population between 15 and 55 years.
The illness and death of this group of adults resulted in many children being abandoned to fend for themselves.
This loss of adults of bread-winning age also had a negative effect on the economy as a whole.
Prior to the Aids pandemic the number of orphans in Kenya was relatively low and the children could be cared for by their relatives.
In recent years the number of orphans has become overwhelming. The mothers usually die around the same time as the fathers and relatives are too burdened with their own hardship and poverty to care for more children in addition to their own.
Double Joy takes in about 20 children each year. Some arrive without any formal education, and many are also malnourished, which is a common inhibitor of learning ability.
The charity’s mission is to help some of these youngsters pick up the pieces of their shattered childhood and survive with meaningful futures.
They take on groups of siblings with no other means of support, giving them love, a home, healthy lives and a vocation.
“We support children to return to their family land when they are 18; we keep them alive, said charity trustee Lou Andrews, who lives in Lancaster.
“A lot of the children have HIV but Mary’s philosophy is that they know they will stay alive. They are happy and there’s laughter.
“These children wouldn’t survive, but with our help some of them are going on to university and become teachers, priests, lawyers and doctors.”
Lou became a trustee of the charity after a stint running a summer school at the orphanage in 2011.
She now helps raise up to £7,500 each month to keep the centre up and running.
Double Joy is registered with the Kenyan Government as a children’s institution and has 32 full-time local staff, excluding Mary, who is self-funding.
All money raised goes towards the orphanage in Kenya – with no CEO or UK staff salaries to pay – at a cost of around £100,000.
Now in its 22nd year, Double Joy depends on the generosity of its donors through Friends of Double Joy.
About 200 donors give regular monthly sums, providing just less than than half the running costs. For the rest, they rely on one-off grants, donations and fundraising events.
However, Double Joy is now in need of extra funds to get through the summer and cope with the detrimental effects of both inflation and recent devaluations of the pound following the Brexit vote.
The region, which usually has a rainy season in February and March, hasn’t seen any rainfall for the last two years and this, alongside recent storm damage to recent to the children’s houses and water collection system, means staff at Double Joy have started developing a crisis strategy.
In addition, the drop in value of the pund following last June’s EU referendum result means the charity has lost around £600 a month of its usual fundraising income.
“The orphanage is close to Lake Victoria so we are lucky as there’s access to water but it’s very expensive,” Lou said
In a bid to further support the upkeep of the orphanage, the charity has applied for £10,000 from the Chrysalis Foundation towards the £21,000 a year it costs for the older children’s high school education.
They have also applied for a grant for the water collection and are looking into grant funding for solar power.
To find out more or support Double Joy, go to www.double-joy.org.uk. You can also donate via collection tins around Lancaster, which are at the Gregson Centre, Whale Tail cafe, Jo and Cass (in Lancaster, Morecambe and soon in Kendal), the Bowerham Hotel and the Station Hotel in Caton.