"We were amazed at what ChildFund did with the sponsorship money"

For ChildFund New Zealand sponsors Rob Hunter and Gina Kamerbeek-Hunter a trip to Emali, Kenya was not only to meet one of their three sponsored children but to see first-hand the HUGE impact sponsorship has in the community. From seeing tomatoes in harvest to meeting Maureen the high-fat milk producing cow to seeing a resource centre under construction.

It's fair to say that Rob and Gina's two days in Emali were busy! Not just meeting their sponsored child Joshua and his family but visiting a multitude of ChildFund projects. From a diary project that's helping local farmers produce cows with a higher quality of milk, to an under-construction youth resource centre, to a deep water bore for stock and crops. They even saw tomatoes in harvest! 

Rob and Gina took a few minutes with Thrive to reflect on their pre-COVID-19 trip to ChildFund New Zealand's dedicated community Emali in Kenya.

Thrive: Rob and Gina, tell us about your visit to Emali?

Rob and Gina (R & G): Our visit to the ChildFund Emali Dedicated Child Program was a two day visit.  The wonderful ChildFund team provided us with a full two day itinerary which involved us meeting the team, seeing the projects being undertaken and meeting Joshua and his family.

The visit began with the local team picking us up from our hotel in Nairobi and driving us to Emali. An introduction to the team in Emali was followed by a full and very thorough briefing about the work of ChildFund in Emali and the projects that are being developed in the local area. This was done in the boardroom and the team were very proud of their IT and presentation skills. We were treated to a lunch with the team which we enjoyed very much.

We then walked through the village and visited the business of a young man who had been a sponsored child and started his own business as a barber and was making a success of the opportunity that he had been given.  We also went to see the youth resource centre Emali which was being built. Talking with the team we could see the positive  impact this centre will have in Emali in helping them to help the children there.

Next we visited the site of a farming project being undertaken on the grounds of one of the local schools. There were tomatoes growing and very close to harvest.

The second day we began with a visit to Maureen the cow. She is part of the project to assist the local farmers to understand the value of changing to a higher producing dairy cow and the value that is gained from the change. Maureen was just about to give birth to her first calf, which would go to another farmer.

We were then taken to the home of our sponsored child and met his parents and grandmother. It was lovely to meet them. A local ChildFund team member was with us, reducing the communication limitations and making it much more comfortable for everyone.  The family home and the surrounding ones too had been cleaned, tidied and freshened up for the visit, which made us feel very welcomed. 

Our next visit was to Joshua’s school.  He was even taken out of an exam to spend time with us but we were assured that the time he spent with us would be added to the time he had to complete the exam.  We also met one of his sisters at the school. A sit down chat with the head teacher gave us an interesting insight to a schooling system that is so much different to the one we are used to.  We noted too that the Kenyans value education very highly.

Next we went to a local supermarket to buy some food and supplies for the family. With help from a team member, it certainly gave us a different experience in shopping too

We all then had lunch together, the ChildFund team along with Joshua, his parents and another sister. Joshua seemed very happy but he is a very shy young man and it was very difficult to engage him in conversation. He was very polite and clearly well brought from an incredibly loving family. We purchased some school shoes for Joshua in the village and this brought an ear to ear smile from him, although we could see he was overwhelmed too.

We also received gifts from Joshua’s family, Massai blankets which were wonderful and we will treasure them. The ChildFund office team also gave us gifts which we will also treasure and we take pleasure in showing them all off to our friends and family.

We gave gifts for Joshua’s siblings and his parents, and for Joshua a soccer ball and pump. The gift giving/receiving ceremony is an important part of the visit and it included lots of photos, speeches and recognition for all involved.

We then went back to the farm with the tomatoes to see the harvesting in action, followed by a visit to another project that provides water for Massai farmers for their animals.  Water comes from a deep (168 metre) bore run by solar panels to bring water up to a series of troughs with the overflow being used for crops.

Lastly we went to a milk collection plant being set up in one of the nearby villages to collect, chill and on-sell milk on behalf of the local farmers.

We spent a second night in our accommodation before being taken safely back to our hotel in Nairobi, the team were marvelous and knowledgeable hosts.   

Thrive: Rob and Gina, you had the opportunity to see benefits to both children and the community in Emali through ChildFund and the local partners. What did you learn about the importance of sponsorship in the community?

R & G: We were blown away by the enthusiasm of the whole team in Emali. We were amazed at what ChildFund did with the sponsorship money and what they managed to achieve in addition to the support provided for the children of Emali.

It was very good to see a presentation about how they run the projects and manage the sponsorship money and for us to understand the rigour that they put into responsible stewardship of that money provided by sponsors and MFAT. No money was wasted and they were very proud of their systems and accountability. This first-hand experience has enabled us to pass on this understanding of what happens to the sponsorship money and what we have seen achieved on the ground in Emali.

 It was extremely interesting and exciting to see the community value add benefits of the projects being undertaken in Emali. This ranged from the provision of water to surrounding families from the bores put down for crop production, to the knowledge that at harvesting time the money made from the sale of the produce goes back to supporting children after the required funding for the next crop is allowed for. The value add potential from the work in the dairy projects is extremely interesting and exciting. This includes the changes being made to the type of cows raised for higher production, the milk collection centres being established which will improve the returns to the farmers, and the future opportunity to establish the milk pasturing plant.  All of which will boost the returns for families and improve the health and education opportunities for the children of the village.

Thrive: Any advice for other supporters who are considering visiting their sponsored child?

 R & G: Try and have as much contact as possible in advance through cards, letters, photos and presents, so that they have as much understanding as possible of who you are.  This will make the visit less overwhelming for them and for you. Also, learn some of the local language in advance if you can.  It would have been good for us to have learnt some Swahili before going to Africa in order to chat with the locals.

All the work happening in Emali through ChildFund New Zealand with local partners is to help children there have better futures through more access to water, sanitation, healthcare, education, livelihoods opportunties for their families and child protection. With thanks to ChildFund New Zealand Child Sponsors, Child Essentials monthly givers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's New Zealand Aid Programme we can do this.