By Christina Clagg Reyes | Photography provided by Upendo Kids International
The “Make A Dream Come True” Fundraising Gala to benefit Upendo Kids International and the Upendo Children’s Home will be held on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at The Skirvin Hilton Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. The event will be hosted by Lacie Lowry, the morning news anchor of Oklahoma News9, and will feature a black tie dinner, an auction and a special performance from the Upendo Children’s Choir.
Making dreams come true has been Eunice Menja’s mission for many years. Growing up poor in a small village in Kenya, the Edmond resident hasn’t forgotten her roots. Although Menja was fortunate enough to receive an education, she knows that many children do not attend school, simply because their families cannot afford to send them. In 2007, Menja established Upendo Kids International, an organization that raises funds and awareness in an effort to end child poverty in Kenya.
Over the years, Upendo Kids missions have helped sponsor school supplies and hot lunches to public school children, medical camps, hospital visitations, food and clothing for the poor, as well as water filter/pump installations. Over 10,000 lives have been impacted by Upendo missions through various programs that include early childhood education sponsorships.
Upendo Children’s Home
In 2012, while on a trip to Kenya to visit some of the children sponsored through the organization, Menja encountered a child named Jussy whom she says, “would change our lives on that sunny day.”
Eight-year-old Jussy was home without food that day, and couldn’t attend school because her school uniform was wet. Her home was very small and contained no food or belongings other than a small grocery bag that contained clothing that belonged to her, her two siblings and her mother. There were “no signs of any cooking in the house for the last several days,” says Menja. “She had no idea where her mentally ill mom was.”
Jussy displayed signs of neglect, however, she was acting as the caregiver for her younger siblings. “The sight of her home was nothing I had ever seen before, [even]growing up in a poor village,” says Menja. “It was enough to convince me that we needed to do more for children like Jussy. We (myself and the other 35 American volunteers) instantly held hands and prayed for a way forward. By the time we left the scene, God had already laid a burden in my heart to start a children’s home.”
And so Upendo Children’s Home was born. Currently, the home is a 4,000-square-foot facility located in Juju—Thika, about 45 minutes from the country’s capital city, Nairobi. The home houses about 40 children who are either orphaned or were once street children. With the children rapidly growing and developing, there has become a great need to expand their space.
“The funds raised will help us relocate the home to a three-acre piece of land with five existing buildings and facilities that will meet the increased needs of our children,” says Menja. More space, she notes, “will allow us to separate the kids according to their ages and gender.”
Since food prices are so high in the area, the proposed site has plenty of room for food and animal production. This will enable the home to become self-sustaining as well as give the children life skills to take with them as they age out of the program.
The following are some facilities to be developed at the new location:
Dining hall/ chapel
Bore hole with water pump/tanks
To learn more about Upendo Kids, visit upendokids.org. To RSVP to the gala, call Eunice Menja at 405-408-8868 or email her at email@example.com.
Eunice Menja graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Masters Degree in Human Development and Family Science. Her first-hand experience and education allowed her to see the needs of poor children in her native home. Upendo Kids International was founded by Eunice because of her desire to end child poverty in Kenya.