When they arrived, they couldn’t believe their eyes. The children’s play equipment was rotten and rusty, so much so, that their hopes of recycling some of it was impossible.
This autumn one of our team went to Nairobi, Kenya, to facilitate the build of a playground at an orphanage by global security firm SEPAR International Group.
Splash Project Leader Symon Austin, 51, from Plymouth, supported SEPAR’s team of 26 volunteers to build the play facilities at Nyumbani Children’s Home, home to around 150 abandoned children living with AIDS or HIV.
SEPAR has been supporting the home, which is run by Catholic nuns and located close to its Nairobi base, for some years, and through its charitable foundation, the team raised around £23,000 to visit in October 2022 and re-build its playground.
Over five days, the team created an adventure tower, a role play hut and a sensory hut for under four-year-olds.
Our design team came up with the designs for the build, while one of Symon’s first tasks was providing the cutting list for the timber, sourced locally in the city.
We also provided tools and equipment, and Symon, who is a mastercraft stonemason, bricklayer and trade carpenter, facilitated the build throughout, providing the team with expert guidance and logistical support.
“It was a massive task, we were working from dawn until dusk,” said Symon. “The children were fascinated by us and by what we were doing. They were really happy to have us around.
“It was very emotional at the end. The children are treated like outcasts; if the Sisters weren’t there, they would be on the streets, so they are not used to this sort of thing, and their reaction was phenomenal.”
The SEPAR team included employees from the UK and Nairobi.
Joanne Smith, Chief Operating Officer & Director at SEPAR, said: “There were a lot of sad stories, so it was an emotional week. We all got to know the children; they were so humble, happy and appreciative.
“What they had was about 30 years old; the wood was rotten, the metal rusty, nothing could be recycled as we’d hoped. We couldn’t believe the children actually played on it.
“The orphanage has had a really difficult time during the pandemic. Despite getting medication for their HIV from an American company, a lot of the children are immune to it, so the orphanage has to pay for other medication anyway.
“The moment we let them into the playground was amazing, they all swarmed in laughing.”
So moved by their time at the home, the SEPAR team has launched a crowdfunding campaign to buy food and medicine for the children. To donate, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/joanne-smith-Nyumbani?utm_term=X33XGGrkb