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St Vincent de Paul Community Development Organization
Amidst the extreme impoverishment of life in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums, St. Vincent de Paul Community Development Organization is a rare bright spot of hope and sanctuary. Our mission is to build a society where all children receive the necessary love and care essential to survive and thrive. We do this by providing critical care, protection and support to orphans and extremely vulnerable children in Kibera. Operated by local community members, our Nursery School, Rescue Center and Community Outreach programs reach over 200 children and their families – mostly female headed households – annually, with education, nutrition, protection, health and counseling services.
St. Vincent’s leads by example. We promote love by treating both children and parents with the love and respect needed to flourish. We offer a safe and supportive environment in which children’s basic needs are met and simultaneously teach children to treat each other with respect and thoughtfulness. By opening our doors and caring for children from all tribes, religions and household statuses, we foster a strong sense of community where children learn that they are all worthy of equal treatment and care despite their differences.
Many of the children reached by St. Vincent’s have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS or other illnesses. They have experienced a profound sense of loss, grief and fear and many must go to live with already overburdened extended families. St. Vincent’s knows that, particularly for these children, love is essential for their full development. From the security guard, to the teachers, to the board members, St. Vincent’s ensures that children are surrounded by love from the time they walk in the door in the morning, to the time they go home in the afternoon and then beyond - as we consistently track families once children have graduated from our program so that we can provide continued support for their growth.
With this deep and ongoing concern for children, St. Vincent’s inevitably becomes an integral part of families, providing a safety net to vulnerable households. St. Vincent’s works with the whole family by establishing partnerships with parents through continuous communication, meetings and workshops that help parents provide adequate care to their children. We assist parents to meet their families’ basic needs (for instance by helping them to start businesses), help them problem solve and resolve conflicts and teach them to be loving, engaging and forgiving both within and outside their homes. In return, St. Vincent’s asks parents to be creative and devise ways to make contributions to support their own families. Contributions, no matter how small, are seen as a critical part of building the partnership. Parents can contribute financially to help cover school fees, volunteer with St. Vincent’s or bring extra water - whatever they can do to demonstrate a commitment. It is only through partnership and empowerment that St. Vincent’s feels long lasting change can occur.
St. Vincent’s works in Kenya to support parents and guardians in providing care and support to orphans and other vulnerable children, meanwhile building children's capacities for a brighter future. High rates of HIV/AIDS in the slums of Kibera, together with high rates of poverty and increasing food insecurity, have contributed to a large number of vulnerable children, including those who have been orphaned, that lack the care and support needed for healthy development.
St. Vincent’s aims to instigate the following changes in Kibera:
1) Increase access to early childhood development programs for children ages 3-6 years, thereby contributing to improved health, education and child protection outcomes;
2) Provide a consistent and nurturing environment where children are safe and protected from the risks of life in Kibera;
3) Build a support network for vulnerable households so that they can properly care for their children and other OVC under their care; and
4) Increase access to food and nutrition services for OVC.
St. Vincent’s Nursery School provides early childhood development services – including education, nutrition and protection – to 85 children. Students are divided into three classes based on age and receive instruction in English, Mathematics, Science/Environment, Outdoor Activities, Religious Studies, and Swahili. Alongside quality education, the school also provides children with school uniforms and two daily meals.
St. Vincent’s Rescue Center provides shelter and care for children that have been abandoned or abused and need a safe and loving home. A total of 21 children are supported by the Rescue Center.
St. Vincent’s Community Outreach program helps parents to start businesses, assists families with children’s school fees once they leave the Nursery School, provides food to HIV-affected families and helps families to secure shelter. St. Vincent’s also supports children and families to access medical care by paying health care fees. St. Vincent's program creates a safety net for families in the community so that they are able to continue caring for the children.
St. Vincent’s activities have evolved over more than 20 years to meet the changing needs of the community. St. Vincent’s was founded by a group of volunteers who came together through their involvement in their local church to do community outreach. As the volunteer group became more organized, opening the Nursery School in 2000, they sought legal registration as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Kenya -- operating with a local Board of Directors and completely independent of the church. At the outset, St. Vincent’s received a portion of their funding from an arm of the Catholic church, however that ceased completely four years ago and they are now funded exclusively by donors outside the church.
Today, amidst hundreds of NGOs in Kibera, St. Vincent’s early childhood development program stands out for its longevity and its success in providing direct services to families, as well as for the high levels of staff competency and standards of care. Cornerstone to its success has been St. Vincent’s ability to establish itself as a trusted, reliable resource within the community.
Improve children’s development and education outcomes by providing early childhood development services to 85 children ages 3-6 years through our Nursery School annually
Provide comprehensive support to 20 orphaned children 5-18 years old who have been abandoned or abused through our Rescue Center
Reduce child malnutrition by supporting 140 HIV-affected, food insecure families with food baskets
Reach at least 80 women caretakers and their families with comprehensive support services.
Support girls’ education by providing scholarships to 3 nursing school students
Expand counseling services to children and families by hiring second social worker
Diversify funding base; attracting support from 1 or 2 foundations