I was delighted when about 2 years ago in Croatia I met Ivan and heard what he was doing for abandoned children in Kenya. That was when I decided to go there to experience and see with my own eyes everything he was talking about and do what I can to help. Now my wish came true and I'm so happy because of that!
A little more than a week ago, my daughter and I arrived at "Mission in Action" Children's Home near Nakuru. The moment we got there the children had our hearts. So much love, simplicity, modesty and unity in one place - something I never experienced before so intensely.
I can clearly see what it means to sacrifice oneself for others and that is something this big-hearted man Ivan is doing. He was born in Croatia but grew up in Australia where he spent most of his life. One day he visited Kenya and saw the sadness and cruelty that abandoned Kenyan children were going through. Many parents were dying of AIDS and leaving the children all by themselves. He decided to give up his "good life" in Australia. He sold 3 houses he owned, put all the money into building a home for those children and move with his family to Kenya.
His road was not easy and he went through many obstacles while building the children's home.
82 children who are living there now plus 8 children who went outside the home for high school, all call Ivan and his wife Damaris "daddy" and "mommy".
Many of those children's stories before they were found are very sad. Some children were thrown away in the bushes when they were babies and some of them even in pit toilets. They never met their biological parents.
For most of us in Europe, those kinds of stories are almost unimaginable but unfortunately, in Kenya, they are not so rare. If there was not Ivan and the people who helped him, many of those children would not be alive today.
While Ivan was telling me stories about how they found some children, with sadness in his voice, he mentioned how they did not manage to save some children's lives because it was already too late for them. Stories that he shared with me, cannot leave anyone feel neutral.
Besides saving children's lives and giving them shelter, Ivan and people who help him also provided schooling for the children. The children's home campus contains separate buildings for smaller and larger children and a school which is also attended by some local children. It's also helpful to those people who work there as they can support their own children and families. The people need to be paid for their work regularly, children need to be supported, which makes it impossible for Ivan to finance it all by himself. Gladly, he has helpers and hearty donors from all over the world. However, there are always some unexpected expenses and even monthly expenditure is not always met. For example, they need to cut down on some food items. Also, bills for electric water heating are too high. Because of that, on Facebook, I started a fundraising by the name "Help Children's Home in Nakuru get two solar water heaters”. The solar water heaters would then minimise the heating bills. We already raised some money (and thank you all who participated so far!) But we are not yet close to the goal. The goal is 10 000 euros. Imagine if only a small percentage of you donated 5 dollars, which I think would not affect your bank account much, and the water heating problem would be solved!
Since "Mission in Action Children's Home" was started, Ivan and the people who joined helping him noticed people's needs in Kenya throughout their communities. That's how the "One Tribe Mama Project" started by the Australian non-profit organization by the same name as the children's home. The goal is to prevent mothers leaving their children by providing them a place to stay and giving them work to do. They make different types of bags, scarfs and accessories that are being sold in Europe and Australia.
We also went to the nearby villages to see first-hand how Kenyans live. We visited some families who live in homes made of mud without water and electricity. We brought them some necessities from donors from different parts of the world. They appreciated everything we brought for them welcoming us with open arms. Which also made us happy in return.
With the help of kind donors, Ivan managed to set up over 200 water tanks in the villages that solved one of the main problems for those families. Mission in Action wants to continue providing water within the community, so if you are willing to participate, your donations are very welcome as well.
I am sure that many of you have experienced that in life it's a greater blessing to give than to receive. What made us think that even more was visiting two local schools where we brought little presents for each child. The joy on those children's faces is the greatest reward anyone could experience.
Ivan and Damaris always like to take visitors to see how the locals live. If you want, you can also come to MIA Kenya to experience the blessings of giving just like myself, my daughter and other visitors did. For those who want to visit, the campus has a few bungalows where the visitors can stay for some time. If you are maybe interested in going there, don’t hesitate to contact me or ask for more information. Or, you can visit "Mission in Action's" website.
We are staying here for one more day. I’m sure that I will be returning home different than when I came to this place - with different worldview and values.
The question that I’m asking myself first and then you - how much does one need for happiness?
I will miss these wonderful children and will never forget them.