An 11-year-old street orphan. An ancient Muslim beggar living in a tree. An elderly woman caring for her many grandchildren. These were the faces of rural Makindu, Kenya in the late 90s. These were the people who inspired Winnie Barron to change the community forever.
After volunteering as a paramedic and physician’s assistant during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, Winnie returned to the United States leaving a piece of her heart in Africa. Three years later in 1997, she volunteered to serve at a hospital in Makindu where she met Madona (the street orphan), Mr. Kampona (the beggar) and Mama Ngesa (the grandmother)—Samaritans working together each day to keep the children in the village alive. Each morning, Mr. Kampona would beg for shillings outside the local Sikh Temple so he could feed the orphans, leaving just enough for himself to have a piece of bread and chai. His extra shillings were given to Madona, who took to the streets to buy food and beg for more. In the evening, Madona would return to Mama Ngesa’s mud hut with the collected food so she could cook for the children in the village who hadn’t eaten that day.
These three people had so little, and yet Winnie was a witness to how much they gave to others. Compelled by their quest, she teamed up with a friend in Kenya who shared the same vision, returned to the United States to raise money, and together, they established the Makindu Children’s Center in 1998.
Since then, more than 13,000 children have benefited from the services Makindu Children’s Program provides. Children have access to necessities including high-protein meals, education, income-generating projects, and HIV and AIDS treatment. But most importantly the Center provides safe and stable housing with local elders known as Guardians for children who are in need of significant intervention, or those who have been orphaned, abandoned, neglected, or abused.
The once isolated, marginalized and desperate children of this small, rural community in Kenya now have a family and a sense of belonging. And most importantly, they have hope. Hope for the future. Hope for their community. Hope for a better life.
Please help us in congratulating Winnie Barron on her outstanding accomplishments as our 2017 World of Children Humanitarian Award Honoree!