Wednesday, 9 June 2010

New Dawn

Jennie and Don Waterman live in La Teulière in an old stone house surrounded by roses. Don is totally passionate about roses and their garden has so many that there is hardly room for anything else. They sell their roses as cut flowers to support the charity that Jennie and Don started which is called New Dawn after one of the roses. On 24th May they ran a fund raising event.

Jennie was teaching in Uganda in 2002 and was appalled by the devastating plight resulting from AIDS of the widows and orphans that she witnessed there. With Don she started to raise money and made more trips to the region. In 2004 they registered “New Dawn” as a charitable association in France.
After working with a project in Uganda they focussed their support on another orphanage and teaching project in Kisumu where they met Nancy and Jonas Okoth. Jennie and Don came to know them well whilst they were working closely together in December 2006 and saw in them both a remarkable young couple, who were totally dedicating their lives to helping orphans and “street” children.
The orphanage was started by Nancy and Jonas in January 2007 to provide care and support to the orphans, street children and widows of the Kisumu area. Nancy used to work for the Imperial Hotel in Kisumu but left her career behind, bought some land about 4km north of Kisumu in the hills overlooking Lake Victoria and together with Jonas and their three children set up the “Arise and Shine” Kogony Orphanage and Community Project. We met Nancy last year at a social event hosted by Marie-Ange and Jean-Louis Dreyer whose daughter Julie has spent three months at Kogony. I did not know about Nancy's work then but I was struck by her self assurance and sense of humour. Others have used the word charisma.
They now have twenty four resident orphans and run a nursery school on the site. Often children in the community are left in the care of aged grandmothers or sick mothers. With the intention of improving the quality of life and the life expectancy of these widows, Nancy and Jonas have reached out to the local community by arranging nine empowerment groups for the many women left widowed by AIDS. They have encouraged these groups to start mini businesses, which sell locally made soap and high protein meal. Other plans are underway which include selling articles made by the tailoring group and vegetables grown on the orphanage land. In April 2009 they asked the community to select twenty widows most in need of help and started the “Desperate Widows Group”. Each member receives monthly food packs, regular home visits and other articles such as mosquito nets, extra blankets etc.

When Jennie told us all Janet’s story I was very moved;
“On another visit we found Janet very sick with AIDS and we thought she was going to die. It was decided to bring her back to the orphanage, and with the assistance of the staff, resident children and our American friends, Mary Lynn and Wayne McLemore, part of the cowshed was joyfully transformed into a clean hut for her. After six weeks of medical treatment, good food and loving care, Janet made a wonderful recovery, put on 11kgs, increased her white blood cell count enormously and to everyone’s amazement was able to return home.”
It has since been decided to create a small hospice on the site where people can come, to be treated and cared for or, if they are not as fortunate as Janet, to die in peaceful surroundings.

In 2009 the “Arise and Shine” orphanage hosted a Medical Camp in which 440 people were treated and about two-thirds of them were tested for HIV and received counselling. This was so successful that the orphanage was chosen to host an Eye Camp during which over 500 people from the local bush community were examined and 48 people including five of the ”Desperate Widows”, had cataract operations done by the team of five visiting doctors in the local hospital.
Jennie emphasises that all of this was made possible by a local Indian team “The Bhagini Samaj”, the Dutch aid group “the Klara Foundation”, the Kisumu “Ladies in Action” and Lions Club International.

The New Dawn Association is entirely responsible for the running costs of the “Arise and Shine” project and relies on donations mostly from individuals in France, Switzerland and the UK. You can learn more about it on their website.
The “Arise and Shine” project is still in need of additional buildings and facilities, an improved water supply and an electrical supply.
In 2009 Edinburgh Direct Aid has made valuable contributions to specific infrastructure projects and in particular they filled a container with much needed items to equip the orphanage. You can see more pictures and read about their involvement on their website.
A generous contribution from Rotary de Levaux, Switzerland has enabled improvements to buildings, toilets and washing facilities, rainwater collection and storage and will also allow lighting to be installed.

At a time of my life when, I am ashamed to admit, I find myself more and more tending to doze off over a book after lunch, I admire Jenny and Don’s energy and determination. But then, as Jennie said last night, “Each time we go to Kogony, and work with Nancy and Jonas, the children and the widows we come back re-energised and feeling that we get back more than we give”! “It’s just as well, otherwise we wouldn’t do it”!
And of course it is impossible to adequately express my admiration for Nancy and Jonas in a few words. They are truly an example for us all!


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