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Putting smiles on needy children faces drives me

By Mathew Ndungu
Monday, February 10th, 2020
Otto Hoffman Children’s Home
In summary
    • Otto Hoffman Children’s home is located in Kiandutu, a few metres from Thika town.
    • Jane Wanjiru Muchiri founded the centre to offer accomodation and education to the needy children of Kiandutu slums whose parents’ focus was putting food on the table.
    • The centre accomodates 40, but more than 200 children have transitioned through the home, with two  girls pursuing higher education.

To get to Otto Hoffman Children’s Home, one must be ready to withstand decrepit housing units and deteriorated infrastructure, inhabited primarily by impoverished persons.

A few metres from Kiandutu slums, tucked away from the growing Thika town, Kiambu county, most residents’ priority is putting food on the table.

“Education here is optional, unless the stomach is full, so many children are uneducated,” Jane Wanjiru Muchiri, the proprietor of the orphanage, says.

Born in the remote parts of Nyanduma village in Lari, Kiambu county, the story of Wanjiru is that of resilience, dedication and sheer passion to breathe a future to the unkempt children whose parents have seemingly lost the meaning of literacy.

Wanjiru was born in a big family of 32 children as his father, a renowned circumciser and great hunter had six wives.

Timely sponsorship

None of her 31 siblings made it to secondary school since their parents, guided by traditional fallacies about education coupled with absolute poverty, did not show interest.

Only her and one of her stepbrothers managed to complete primary education at Gakenge Primary School, then ending in class seven.

After completing her primary education, Wanjiru started casual works and developed a savings culture, which saw her become the first woman in the large family to open a bank account.

After four years of sacrifice and saving, the optimistic lady was sure she had collected enough money to pay for her secondary education.

She withdrew all she had banked, but as if luck was not her thing, her mother’s diabetes deteriorated, compelling her to change gear and take her for treatment.

Wanjiru only managed to pay for her first term at Precious Blood Girls School, Limuru after which she was sent away to collect activity fees ahead of the upcoming music festivals.

“Luckily, I was the soloist to the main songs and it happened that after staying home for a few days, the teachers recalled me to school.

They actually raised the activity fees for me, bought me a new uniform, raising the number to two.

I wore them everyday, including Sundays while attending church services,” she says.

After excellent performance at the division level, the school qualified to entertain the first president, Jomo Kenyatta, at his Gatundu residence.

After two years of challenge in school, Wanjiru applied to sit for her junior secondary exams, as she felt incapable of completing four years over lack of fees.

“This is when one of my teachers, Sister Engel Berta Frohligh, was touched and linked me to Otto Hoffman, a German fellow and donor to the school, who paid for my subsequent schooling years,” she explains.

After displaying excellent performance in her final secondary exams, Wanjiru, through a partnership between her former school and Hoffman, was sponsored to take a social work course, which she completed in two years and managed to secure a job at Del Monte Kenya Limited, where she worked for eight years.

She was later slotted to work with Precious Blood Group in Nairobi, and even as she worked, her friendliness towards children and the elderly, developed in her tender years, did not fade.

“I used to interact with children since I was young.  Whenever a child was born in the neighbourhood, our house could not have peace until my late mum allowed me to go and hold them,” she recalls.

“The elderly loved me because I could painstakingly remove jiggers from their bodies,” she adds.

One day, while working in Nairobi in 2001, her friend, living in Kiandutu slums contracted a disease that got her admitted at Thika Level Five hospital.

“I travelled from Nairobi to check on her, but on arrival, she had already been discharged.

I decided to go to her place at Kiandutu and a group of small uneducated kids playing at the village during schooling hours confounded me,” she says.

Call to humanity

Wearing torn, indecent clothing, the seemingly hopeless kids got Wanjiru thinking how best to help them become useful persons in the society.

After travelling back to Nairobi and narrating her experience in Kiandutu to friend, the friend gave her Sh3,000 to buy them clothes.

“I bought mutumba (second hand clothes) at Sh1,000 and used the rest to purchase some makeshift structure, which I later developed into a nursery school.

It now accommodates 40 children from that slum and who are educated free courtesy of well-wishers,” she said.

Two years after coming up with the nursery school, Wanjiru started receiving street and abandoned children taken to police stations. She left her well-paying job to concentrate on her call-to-humanity cause.

“I started thinking about how to house them and that is how I came up with the idea of establishing a children’s home named after the man who helped me finalise my secondary education,” she said.

Currently, the children’s home has 48 girls abandoned by their parents while others are victims of sexual abuse by their fathers. All of them depend on Wanjiru for food and fees.

Over the years, over 200 children have gone through the home, with two girls now pursuing higher education.

Wanjiru hopes to inspire more children no matter their backgrounds. “I cannot rest when there is a suffering child anywhere.

I have totally dedicated my life to aid neglected children in the society,” she says.

“All limitations are surmountable and not even a poor background can hinder anyone from becoming who they want.

Though I face endless challenges each single day, I will strive and continue to better this idea that is God-founded,” she concludes.

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