In late September, volunteers from the New Hope Therapeutic Society spent two weeks at the St. Elizabeth Children’s Centre in Kisumu, Kenya working to fix the orphanage’s latrines and fasten down the corrugated tin roof that the wind would occasionally pick up.
It was slow going. Basic parts like nuts and bolts were hard to come by and they had no electricity for power tools. One volunteer, who is a contractor in Canada, posted on Facebook that he would have given his arm for a Home Depot.
The society, which has its roots in Delta, organized the trip as part of its commitment to the over 100 orphans they support, over and above the financial assistance they already provide.
On Dec. 3, the non-profit is hosting a fundraising concert at Surrey City Hall’s Centre Stage theatre to ensure the children can remain clothed and fed in an impoverished region.
Dawn Vath sits on New Hope’s board of directors, and though her home on the Sunshine Coast is a world away from the Kenyan savannah, her mind is never far from her adopted children.
During her interview with the Reporter, Vath split her attention between chatting and busily turning old denim jeans into purses she can sell to further support St. Elizabeth’s. After all, every dollar helps.
“This is what I do in my spare time,” Vath laughed.
But the lion’s share of the funds New Hope is hoping to raise will come from the concert itself.
A delivery of new mattresses arrives at St. Elizabeth Children’s Centre in Kisumu, Kenya, courtesy of New Hope Therapeutic Society. Photo submitted
While this isn’t the first time the society has put on a fundraising concert, this is the first time they have rented a hall to do so; the previous two were held at Delta Church on 112 Street, a smaller venue that doesn’t have room for the performances planned this year.
In addition to musicians and a choir, the concert will feature a dance troupe, something that wasn’t possible before.
“We didn’t charge an entrance fee (before) but now we kind of want to step up the whole event and so we’ve rented the theatre this year,” Vath said.
Vath said it only costs $25 per month to sponsor someone though New Hope because the organization is made up of volunteers.
Once the child she sponsors through World Vision ages out of the program, Vath said she plans to use the $41 a month she gives to World Vision to help two more children at St. Elizabeth’s, explaining her dollar stretches further there and she knows the money will go where it’s most needed.
Next, New Hope plans to turn its attention to upgrading the children’s textbooks. Vath explained that the orphanage doubles as a school for the children who live there and nearly half of St. Elizabeth’s children are sponsored, but the monthly donations don’t even come close to paying for up-to-date textbooks.
“The whole curriculum has changed in Kenya so we have to get all new books now,” Vath said. “This is why we’ve put on the concert.”
In fact, the monthly contributions are barely enough to buy the children decent food to eat. Most of the children’s meals consist of a cornmeal porridge called Ugali with small amounts of meat or vegetables sometimes added on the side.
A volunteer from New Hope Therapeutic Society helps build a new bunk bed at St. Elizabeth Children’s Centre in Kisumu, Kenya. Photo submitted
New Hope was started in the 1980s by Dr. Kenneth Murray and helping the orphanage is just its latest project.
Murray, a psychologist, previously worked with female victims of sexual assault and opened a halfway house for convicted offenders trying to reintegrate into society.
Sylvia Murray said it was after a trip to neighbouring Tanzania in 2008 that she and her husband came to learn about the orphanage.
“That’s how we met Julius, who is the founder and director, and we pledged some monthly support. It wasn’t a huge amount,” Murray said.
What she didn’t know until later was that St. Elizabeth’s only other benefactor had recently passed away, and if it weren’t for her family’s support, the orphanage would have had to close.
Murray went with a group of other volunteers to the orphanage for two weeks in 2013, and again just this year. She said the group would have stayed longer each time if they could, because there was just so much work still to be done.
“Those kids don’t know any better and they accept it, that’s fine. But you just kind of think, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have the ceilings all repaired?’” Murray said, quickly adding that St. Elizabeth’s – as shabby as it may be – is an oasis in a region stricken with poverty.
Which is where the concert in December comes into play. Murray’s hoping the event can drum up the kind of financial and volunteer support that St. Elizabeth’s and her 100 children need.
“We’re not expecting people to give huge amounts of money,” she said. “We need lots of people doing what they can, and most people can do something.”
Tickets and event info can be found at tickets.surrey.ca/TheatreManager/1/tmEvent/tmEvent1783.
For more about the New Hope Therapeutic Society and St. Elizabeth Children’s Centre, visit newhopesociety.org/orphanage.
New beds are installed at St. Elizabeth Children’s Centre in Kisumu, Kenya New Hope Therapeutic Society is holding a benefit concert for the orphanage at Surrey’s Centre Stage theatre on Dec. 3. Photo submitted.