In 2001 the Kenyan Kepher Misasa and the Dutch Madelon de Vries started a project in the west of Kenya. Here they lost their hearts to the orphans in the village of Awasi, about 25 kilometers from Lake Victoria. The number of orphans and vulnerable children in Nyanza Province, Western Kenya, is particularly high, mainly due to HIV / AIDS. For example, out of a total population of 370,000 people, there are about 37,000 orphans! These children are generally cared for by the community; by grandmothers, uncles and aunts and other family members. There are usually other children in such a family, which puts a lot of pressure on the available resources that the family has to make ends meet.
As a result, children cannot always go to school, not to the doctor when they are ill and they lack sufficient basic necessities In their desire to improve the situation of orphans and vulnerable children in this area, Madelon and Kepher have founded Pamoja Child Foundation. Pamoja is a Kiswahili word and means “togetherness”.
Through a sponsorship program, orphans and vulnerable children were given access to education and basic health care and HIV / AIDS, psychosocial support and income generating activities were set up. The organization operates in two areas: Awasi and Nyang’oma site, in Nyando and Muhuroni District, Nyanza Province in Western Kenya. Pamoja Child Foundation is registered as a Community Based Organization (CBO) at the Ministry of Social Affairs in Kenya and mainly received funding from the Netherlands through a sponsorship system in which individuals sponsor children, but also from donations from rotary clubs, organizations and schools. In the Netherlands, PCF has been registered since 2001 as a foundation, a non-profit organization, with a board that supervises and provides direction.Kepher Misasa was killed in a fatal accident on December 22, 2004. Madelon returned to the Netherlands with their son in April 2005. Thanks to Madelon’s network and loyal sponsors in the Netherlands, the work of Madelon and Kepher has continued.
While Pamoja Child Foundation started sponsoring 5 children in 2001, the number of children has grown to 88 in 2003 and 100 children are sponsored in 2010, ages 7 – 20, with about the same number of girls as boys. In those early years, PCF has done much to help these children by paying tuition fees for primary and secondary education, providing uniforms and textbooks, making healthcare accessible by providing vaccinations, deworming them, organizing medical clinics and medical pay bills.
Pamoja has helped schools build classrooms, organize a breastfeeding clinic incl. Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT), train health workers in home care to AIDS patients and peer educators
In 2007, the organization underwent a number of changes, based on the desire to work more effectively and efficiently and to achieve sustainable results. The biggest change was the transition to working from a child’s rights perspective, to enable children and their parents / guardians to claim their rights to education, health care and food, among other things, and to protect children from the violation of their rights. This change automatically led to the desire for a larger target group, to reach more orphans and vulnerable children, in the light of the HIV / AIDS pandemic and the high need for support and care for orphans, which have been handed over to the (already) overburdened community care. In other words: “the organization wanted to do more, for more children, in a different way”. Pamoja helps realize children’s rights by strengthening existing community structures, such as schools and groups, in addition to the sponsorship program. Orphans and vulnerable children are seen as part of their environment: within their school with teachers and peers and at household level with their parents, guardians and brothers and sisters.
The rights approach changed the way of working, with the organization facilitating more in the development process, rather than an executing organization giving, which caused dependence on the target audience in the past. Collaboration with the various ministries at district level and with other NGOs and CBOs, local administration and the community itself has become central to Pamoja’s work for better results and sustainability.
In 2010, Pamoja Child Foundation succeeded in becoming a serious partner in the field of children’s rights in its areas of work.