By Julianne Mosher
An initiative built a school for kids in Kenya, and now they need a way to get there.
Kyle Spillane, a graduate of Shoreham-Wading River High School and board member of the local nonprofit Hope Children’s Fund, recently set up a GoFundMe fundraiser online to buy a minibus to safely get Kenyan students to school.
“It has the potential to save lives,” he said.
Incorporated in 2003, Hope Children’s Fund is a New York State licensed 501(c)(3) that provides for the physical and emotional needs of some of the most vulnerable AIDS-affected children who had been living on the streets of Meru, Kenya.
With the goal to provide food, clothing, shelter and medical care to enable children to be enrolled in local schools, the Jerusha Mwiraria Hope Children’s Home was built in 2005, taking in children that are HIV affected or who come from tragic backgrounds with families who can no longer care for them.
According to Spillane, two of the group’s kids unfortunately — and tragically — lost their lives while walking home from school, due to the dangerous surrounding area. Their names were Glory and Michell.
“We wanted to fund a vehicle to transport our kids and doctors to and from the school,” he said. “We have never had a vehicle, and it’s been very costly for us to rent taxis and buses for them.”
Over the years, the organization lacked a vehicle to transport the children to and from their regular activities of attending school, shopping for food and supplies for the home, and visiting medical providers. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, public transportation is no longer the safest option for the group’s immune-compromised children, who regularly travel to the doctor.
Spillane said the GoFundMe, called A Vehicle for Hope, which was posted early last month has raised more than $4,600 to date. The total cost for a 16-seater minibus, from a Toyota dealership in Kenya, will cost $42,000. They have received a $10,000 grant from World Orphan Fund and received a partnership from an anonymous donor who has offered to match the first $5,000.
“We just got over 50% of our goal,” he said.
The 26-year-old Shoreham resident found out about the Setauket-based organization through the Global Awareness Club at Shoreham-Wading River High School. Since becoming a part of it, he has been to Kenya four times, returning more recently in 2017 and 2019.
“This is an organization I hold close to me,” he said. “They have really grown to be what I consider my family, and I wouldn’t still be interested if I didn’t believe in those children. The amount of growth I’ve seen them go through is amazing.”
Hope Children’s Fund is a completely volunteer-based nonprofit.
“The education is what they really want,” he said about the students. “It’s incredible — these students are coming from nothing and are becoming doctors. They are not taking anything for granted.”
Spillane is asking the community to donate and help keep these students safe.
“This GoFundMe will support and provide protection to some of the brightest youth minds, who are also some of the most vulnerable AIDS-affected children in Meru, Kenya,” he said.
To donate, visit the GoFundMe here.