A brighter future for Kenyan orphans’ charity

Excello employment lawyer Nelu Abeygunasekera recently spent a fortnight in Kenya volunteering at the YoYo Mission Centre, part of the H Giving Foundation – a small, dynamic charity supporting over 250 orphans with accommodation, education and other life staples.  The school also educates 100 children from the local village.  The key ambition of YoYo is to build a sustainable future for the children and wider community in which they live.

The YoYo Mission Centre was founded in 2010, by young entrepreneur Eric Ho as a means of contributing directly towards supporting children whose futures have been blighted by extreme poverty and lack of care, education and support after being orphaned, primarily due to high levels of civil conflict and who had lost their parents from HIV/AIDS.

Entirely funded by Eric from his successful portfolio of business interests, he had become outraged by how badly corruption prevented genuine progress from being made by some of the larger charities and NGOs, he had previously contributed to.  He wanted to ensure that 100% of the funding went straight towards the cause.

Eric Ho, centre, with some of the children.

Eric Ho, centre, with some of the children.

Construction of new learning centre

After purchasing some land and forming a local team, Eric built a small orphanage which homed, educated and looked after 63 orphans.  Now with 350 children to look after, YoYo has relocated to a larger plot of land and is constructing an entirely new learning centre, consisting of classrooms, early development centre for the under 5s, separate boys and girls dorms, office complex, kitchen, play and gym area.

For Nelu, it was a lifetime ambition realised: “I had always wanted to volunteer and have spent part of my legal career working and volunteering within the charity sector, including at the Terence Higgins Trust and Breast Cancer Care.  When I met Eric through business connections, it was a great opportunity to get directly involved.

Nelu, second from left, with the other volunteers in Kenya

Nelu, second from left, with the other volunteers in Kenya.

“It was the first time YoYo had taken such a diverse group of volunteers out to Kenya to support the project.  There were 10 of us, from business and professional backgrounds, aged from 21-51.  Through a combination of extraordinary team work we achieved a huge amount in our short time there. It was a revelation how powerful team work can be when there is a common purpose, unity of spirit and mutual respect.”

Creating a sustainable way of life

From hands-on support with some of the construction projects, to teaching the children, putting together ideas for sustainability and researching pathways for older children to move on to higher education, Nelu emphasised that everything they did was in partnership with the kids, teachers and the local community: “Let’s face it, it would have been easy for 10 successful business owners/professionals to simply have donated 2 weeks’ earnings and stayed at home.  But that wasn’t the point: it is about creating a sustainable way of life, where ultimately YoYo can be self-sufficient.

“We learnt so much from the teachers, children and the community.  It wasn’t about us imposing ideas and ways of working – it was a genuine collaboration and about finding ways to be resourceful with the resources we had around us.  I am really proud of a cooker we built – it is made from stones, clay and cow dung, with a bit of help from Google!”

For Eric, “it was amazing to have Nelu join us during the last Kenya trip supporting financially and physically, joining us on the ground finding new sustainable ways to help the community. For the past 6 years we have experienced many challenges along the way and our mission is simple: to find creative new ways to achieve lasting change for these kids. We are extremely excited and grateful to have Excello Law involved in supporting and believe that together we can make huge lasting impact to the lives of many out there”.

Supporting YoYo

Nelu continues to provide support working with the other volunteers on ongoing and longer-term sustainability projects.  If you’d like to join with Excello and help the YoYo Mission Centre to support the orphans and its local community in providing a brighter future, please donate via H Giving the non-profit organisation for Eric Ho’s charity projects.