Nairobi, Kenya has been featured heavily in the news the last few days. The tragedy of the Westgate Mall terrorist attack that left more than 65 dead and dozens held hostage during a three-day siege left the world reeling. “Kenya will never be the same again,” Karen Allen told BBC News.
Those responsible for the attack – Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab from Somalia – knew they were hitting a high-profile symbol of Kenya’s economic power in booming Africa, and that has been drawing lots of foreign investment. After generations of problems besetting African nations, from poverty and disease to civil war and oppressive regimes, countries like Kenya are on an upward rise economically. But insurgents and violent episodes like this, which tap into conflict, inequality and poverty, threaten to halt the forward gains.
Which is all the more reason to look at the bright side of hope in a place like Kenya, and to support grassroots efforts that will help give the next generation there an education, a way out, and a brighter future.
The face of such hope can be found in a girl like Maggie, who lives at St. Monica’s Home for girls just outside Nairobi. The 40-plus kids at St. Monica’s are supported by Mothers Fighting for Others (MFFO), which recruits sponsors and raises money to ensure that all the girls living there can go to school and have nutritious meals and proper medical care. These girls are either orphaned, or have family members who are too poor to care for them.
Maggie, 18, just received a laptop donated by MFFO, as she graduates from high school and prepares to enter Law School in January 2014. Other high school graduates also received laptops as they take on the opportunity of higher education: Irene is pursuing a degree in Accounting, and Anne in Child Development. This amazing feat would not have been possible without such a home and foundation support.
MFFO was started by Rocky Turner, a wife and mother of six who stumbled upon St. Monica’s home while doing a google search on volunteering in Africa, back in 2006. A few months later Rocky was volunteering through Global Volunteer Network, where she met and fell in love with the girls of St. Monica’s for the first time.
“Let’s just say I will never be the same woman, let alone Mother again,” Rocky says. “This was the beginning of a path that I had no idea I was on. These girls that I met were strangers to me when I arrived. By the time I left, they were my daughters.”
Rocky went back home a different person – one who started a new nonprofit organization dedicated solely to supporting these girls, and empowering them for a better future.
While she realized that while there were many needs for clothing, school support and daily necessities, by and large the greatest need the girls have is simply to be loved. “I was never alone. I was never without a child holding my hand or under my arm. That first trip was overwhelming. It was difficult to remember names and what grades they were in. Now, six years later, I know each and every one of them. I know how tough and feisty Ann is when she feels she’s been wronged and I know how Winnie puts up a front when she is sad and hurting. They are all survivors.”
On Saturday, October 12, MFFO will be hosting its first Annual Calendar Ball. The Mardi Gras themed evening will change lives, and Rocky hopes that the gala will raise the money needed to support 100% of the girls at St. Monica’s for a full year. NBC News Anchor Chris Schaubel will be the emcee of the evening, which will include a silent auction, DJ, hors d’oerves and a cash bar.
All donations to MFFO are tax deductible. Tickets can be secured at http://scvball13.eventbrite.com.
Fighting for a better Kenya for girls such as Maggie is possible – and this is the way to do it.