When we visited the Bondeni Children Rescue Centre and School on Monday located in the heart of Athi River Town, we found Charles Gitau, his co-founder Florence Gitau and their seven employees all engrossed in a beehive of activities with the main aim of putting a smile on the faces of the over 90 children who depend on them.
For the 55 year-old father of three, what started as a noble feeding programme for orphans and vulnerable children in Bondeni slums in April 2014 has now transitioned into one of the most praised and sought after Children Rescue homes and Centres in Machakos and its environs.
“My wife is very passionate about children and even before we started this home, we used to reach out and help the needy. We started as a feeding programme of eight street children with the main aim of making them open up on why they had resulted into scrap metal business and other vices. Our aim was to rehabilitate them and take them back to school,” says Gitau as he walks us around the compound.
Gitau said that to this end, over 300 vulnerable children have benefited from the home and rescue centre with two of them Vincent Bichange and James Kyalo set to join University this September to pursue a Bachelor of Education Degree and a Diploma in Construction engineering respectively.
“Currently, the Home and Rescue Centre has up to Grade One classes. Those from Grade two have been enrolled in private day primary schools in the neighborhood, , while those in secondary school attend public secondary schools like Mavoko and Athi River,” says Gitau.
We were also informed that the centre has also on several occasions offered refuge and food to women running away from abusive relationships not to forget a number of neglected senior members of the society.
“After the Sophia fire slum incident for instance, we gave out 20 blankets to the affected families. We also rescue abused women, old women and widows almost on a daily basis. It’s not about the home, it’s about the community,” says Mrs. Gitau
Asked how he manages to fund and support the children centre, Gitau says that the centre does not have sponsors and donors but depends on support from well-wishers and friends.
He however, acknowledges the enormous support the centre has received from the County government of Machakos, the department of Children Services and other government departments particularly the police in helping rescue and rehabilitate the children.
“In December 2016, we could not afford to pay the Sh. 35, 000 monthly rent for the flat we had rented and we were locked out for a month. The county government through the first lady, Lilian Ng’ang’a came to our rescue and paid our house rent for a year in addition to buying us food,” says Gitau.
He further lauds the country government for seeing to it that a great majority of bright children from the centre who join secondary schools are awarded bursaries
The Director also commends the support they have received from the Ministry of Lands in allocating them the public utility land reserve where they put up a temporary mabati structures in 2017 as they await to be allocated land elsewhere where they can set up a permanent structure.
A walk around the establishment shows that Gitau has also embarked in poultry, goat keeping and green house horticulture farming in a concerted effort to supplement the supply of vegetables to institution.
Furthermore, the centre also organises a yearly charity marathon event aimed at nurturing the talents of the children and raising awareness about the plight of vulnerable children to the surrounding community.
The marathon also acts as a way of raising funds to support education of the children and the home sustainability and projects.
However, despite the support accorded to the rescue centre, Gitau tells us that the noble charitable cause has not been without its fair share of challenges particularly on financing
“At some point we had to dispose two of our plots. One in Kinanie, Athi River and the other in Kantafu along Kangundo road. My business proceedings were not spared either,” says Gitau.
But despite all these hiccups, Gitau’s only wish is to see the rescue centre allocated with a public utility land where they can set up a permanent residence, school and a vocational training college for the children who will not manage to make their way to university.
“For the five years we are humbled to know that we have given hope to the community. That we have given hope to vulnerable children who can help transform the world in future,” says Gitau.
“Focus on what you are doing, do not listen to people. If we had listened to people’s criticism we would have given up a long time ago” says Gitau in his parting shot
The Machakos Inspectorate Officer, Elija Mutie lauded the Children Rescue Centre for its exemplary work in offering a home to the orphaned, neglected, abandoned and defiled children.
“We rescue children and reunite them with their parents who are in far flung areas, including Kisii and Nakuru. We thank the Bondeni Children Rescue Center for assisting us by taking care of the kids as we look for their parents,” says Mutie who also doubles as a volunteer children officer.
By Rachael Kilonzo/KNA