UAE-based expat Megan Graham is helping an African orphanage through hours of hard work. We spoke to her about the East African Mission Orphanage and her mission to support the cause.
In Nakuru, Kenya, more than 250 children are being provided for by a husband and wife team who run the East African Mission Orphanage (EAMO). The couple, Ralph and May Spinks, provide for these children through sponsorship and donations, ably assisted by Megan Graham, a working professional in Abu Dhabi, who is tirelessly helping them to keep the orphanage afloat.
Megan is an Australian expat who fell in love with the children and the family when she was on holiday in Kenya, to the extent that she is now sponsorship coordinator for the orphanage. ‘I visited EAMO on a safari tour in 2008 and was so impressed with the set-up that I sponsored a child. In 2010 I went back to visit the child (Jack) and volunteer for two weeks; I left six months later. In that time, I realised I could make a difference by assisting Ralph with email correspondence from sponsors and potential sponsors. As a sponsor myself, I saw how important it was that sponsors feel that EAMO is communicating with them,’ she says when asked how she got involved with the project.
The orphanage, which was founded in 1998, began on a much smaller scale when May Spinks brought home two children to look after.
It snowballed quickly and now cares for 200 children and employs many local staff. Ralph explains: ‘The Spinks family arrived in Kenya 16 years ago, with not much more than two suitcases each! We brought an old four-wheel drive and headed towards Uganda. It was dark when we arrived in Nakuru so we stayed here and have stayed put ever since. We took in two orphaned children to begin with and now, 16 years
later, we have around 250 kids in our care.’
The children, aged one to 18 years, are schooled onsite, and they receive shelter, food and toys. Ralph chuckles as he explains, ‘The kids all call us mum and dad.’ Many of the children have been referred to EAMO, with Ralph and May telling of horror stories involving children that they have taken in – some of whom are HIV positive. ‘We teach the children about our special ones, to keep everyone happy and healthy,’
The orphanage relies solely on donations, Megan says. ‘EAMO is 100 percent supported by child-sponsorship and donations. The sponsorship money and donations are pooled together to cover the day-to-day operational costs of the orphanage; such as salaries for carers, cooks, gardeners and teachers, food, clothing and education. EAMO is as self-sufficient as possible and grows around 70 percent of its own food on the property.’
The orphanage has also constructed a lodge on the rear of the property which accommodates visitors and helps with revenue to provide for the orphanage. Ziwa Bush Lodge is newly opened and provides guests with the opportunity to mingle with the children while being housed in five-star comfort.
Megan contributes hours each day to administration for the orphanage, despite working full-time herself. ‘When I start feeling that it is all a bit much to fit into life, I go and visit and within five minutes and 200 hugs,
I realise the value I am adding.’
Ralph says Megan’s passion to help never dries up. ‘We are so thankful to have her on board. Without her, EAMO’s sponsorship department would not be running anywhere near as smoothly.’
As sponsorship coordinator, Megan runs all aspects of the sponsorship programme. ‘This includes processing sponsorship application forms, a formal yearly update to all sponsors, corresponding with potential or current sponsors with any queries, processing monthly payments and reconciling sponsorship payments, following up with visitors with information on our sponsorship programme,’ she explains.
‘Yes it is busy with full-time paid work. I average around one to two hours per day with EAMO and visit at least four times a year. When you have a passion for what you do, it’s amazing what you can fit in.’
Children can be sponsored for Dhs100 per month. Visit www.eamo.co.ke