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Western P.E.I. fishermen helping Kenyan fishing island

Ted Grant, third right, president of Mikinduri Children of Hope, accepts Royal Star Foods’ $10,407 contribution for children of Kenya from member fisherman David Getson. Looking on from left are Gaylene Smith, Mikinduri vice-president, Paul Crant, Rotary Club of Charlottetown, Nancy Hamill, Mikinduri volunteer and Royal Star Foods president Francis Morrissey.
Ted Grant, third right, president of Mikinduri Children of Hope, accepts Royal Star Foods’ $10,407 contribution for children of Kenya from member fisherman David Getson. Looking on from left are Gaylene Smith, Mikinduri vice-president, Paul Crant, Rotary Club of Charlottetown, Nancy Hamill, Mikinduri volunteer and Royal Star Foods president Francis Morrissey. - Eric McCarthy

Mageta Island gets double boost from Ch’town Rotary Club

TIGNISH

A $10,407 contribution from a group of fishermen in western P.E.I. has triggered more than $30,000 of assistance for a small fishing island in Kenya.

Ted Grant, co-founder and president of Mikinduri Children of Hope and Gaylene Smith, the foundation’s vice president and program coordinator, recently visited Tignish Fishermen’s Co-op Royal Star Foods to accept the donation from member fishermen.

Accompanying Grant and Smith to Tignish was Paul Crant, president of the Rotary Club of Charlottetown, whose organization voted to donate $20,000 to the cause based on the fishermen’s contribution.

“It’s just incredible,” Grant said in summing up what the P.E.I.-based international organization can do for Kenyans with $30,000.

Mageta Island is in the Western Province, off the coast from the city of Bondo, where Mikinduri has an office. About 25 per cent of the 11,000 people who live on the island are afflicted with AIDs. Nearly half the students in one school are orphans.

“They have no money. They earn, on average, 70 cents a day,” said Grant who added that 75 per cent of their income is spent on food.

At $10 for a water taxi, people rarely get off their Island.

Royal Star’s contribution is proceeds from the sale of lobsters member fishermen donated to the cause. Francis Morrissey, manager of Royal Star Foods, told Grant and Smith he’ll be encouraging fishermen across P.E.I. to support the cause next year, expressing hopes of raising $100,000.

“When I look at it, there’s really no reason for those kids to be going hungry,” Morrissey reasoned, suggesting that with irrigation and making use of composted seaweed for fertilizer, families will become self-supportive.

“I know it’s easy to say, but when you don’t have any money to get started, not even a bucket to carry water in, then it’s not too easy.”

Grant, who founded the foundation in 2003 and visited Mikinduri for the first time in 2004, is grateful for the support.

He acknowledges education and a constant supply of clean drinking water are keys to helping residents improve their lives.

“The first thing we are going to be doing is treating the water; getting them good, clean water, because, if you’re drinking filthy water, dirty water, you can’t go to work. You can’t get out of bed. You can’t go to school,” Grant emphasized.

Mikinduri Children of Hope is relying on the UPEI School of Sustainable Engineering to design a pipeline for moving water from the lake to the schools, and will make use of sand filters developed by the University of Indiana to purify the water.

A team will be heading there in February to help dig a pipeline to supply water from polluted Lake Victoria.

Latrines are being replaced with compostable toilets and the waste subsequently used for fertilizer. The foundation, while still providing support in Mikinduri, expanded its programs to Western Province last year. They’ve started a feeding program at the five schools on Mageta Island, providing 3,000 children with one meal a day. They’ve also started school gardens that parents help maintain. Students get to bring home food from the gardens and parents learn how to grow food in their home gardens.

“That community is going to change and change fast,” Grant predicted. “I mean, in two or three years this place is going to be a changed place.”

Making a difference

Gaylene Smith still gets emotional as she recalls presenting Days for Girls kits to schoolgirls on the Kenyan Island of Mageta last February.

Smith, program coordinator with Mikinduri Children of Hope, said children in Kenya can’t afford anything extra. Those extras include sanitary pads, she explained.

So when schoolgirls are on their monthly period, she said, they are sent home from school.

“They’re hidden away.”

For the past year and a half, four community groups on P.E.I. have been making the Days for Girls kits for an international organization. The kits include washable, reusable pads, hand soap and panties.

Smith said she delivered 450 kits during her visit to Mageta Island.

“It’s just like our kids on Christmas morning but better because our kids have so much, and they don’t,” she said in describing the smiles and the giggles when the Kenyan schoolgirls examined the kits.

“They don’t have any of this and, without it, they don’t get their education,” said Smith, noting girls miss about a week of schooling every month because of their menstrual cycle and they fall behind.

“It allows them to stay in school,” said Smith. She said the presentation of the kits is also an opportunity to educate the girls about their bodies, their menstrual cycle, about pregnancy, about ‘no means no’ and about their rights.

“They’re staying in school and they have passion, then, to get educated and to move on and hopefully get the education we are hoping will change their life,” she said in describing the significance of the kits to the recipients.

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