In 1994, Winnie Barron made her first trip to Africa to volunteer on a medical team during the Rwandan genocide. Three years later in 1997, she returned to volunteer at hospital in Makindu, a small, rural town in eastern Kenya where food, jobs, and education were hard to come by. To complicate matters, AIDS had taken the lives of countless parents, leaving the community with a large number of hungry and sick orphans that they simply could not support. Most were left to fend for themselves on the street.
During her time at the hospital, Winnie met several of these children and became determined to change their situation. Shortly after her trip, she founded the Makindu Children’s Program to develop an innovative approach to re-integrating children living on the street back into the community.
The Makindu Children’s Centre grew out of a close collaboration with the community, offering high-protein meals, education, income-generating projects, and HIV and AIDS treatment for the most vulnerable children in Makindu. For children who are in need of significant intervention, or those who have been orphaned, abandoned, neglected, or abused, the Center also provides safe and stable housing with local elders known as Guardians. Thanks to this collaboration, Winnie has successfully ensured that children who were once marginalized by society are now valued and no longer viewed as a burden.
Today, the Makindu Children’s Program and the community can celebrate the success of each child together, many of whom have now completed their education and are self-sustaining citizens giving back to the community they grew up in.
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