Kenya (MNN) — Nearly two million children are orphaned in Kenya. Kids Alive International works daily to provide stability and sanctuary through their Kenyan children’s homes and schools.
But what happens when a child ages out of traditional orphan care?
That dilemma is why Ruth Henningham dedicates her time as a missionary to Kenya, where she works with teens transitioning from Kids Alive homes into adult life.
“We support our children up until the point where they are going to leave the home, and then we encourage them to either go back to a family network, or to find work for themselves to become financially stable,” shares Henningham.
Stability, coupled with university or vocational training, is essential in the transition process. So is community, she says.
“We encourage them to stay in touch with each other. So young people who don’t have family very often get together with brothers and sisters they’ve grown up with in the home, and they have their own network where they care for each other as well.”
Transition from the Kids Alive homes is not rushed; teens are encouraged to stay and work alongside the staff so they can learn valuable life skills. Henningham states, “At that point they’ll be cooking, they’ll be looking after themselves, they will be helping at any jobs in the farms. So we try to give them some very practical experiences. Then when they go out of the home itself, that’s when we encourage them they’ve got to look for work.”
The teens are taught micro-finance, and they learn about available loans and grants provided by the country specifically for the orphaned. And Henningham and her team focus their efforts on equipping the teens to make sound, biblically-based decisions.
“We teach them everything from a biblical standpoint. So we teach them about how to handle money, how to handle relationships, how to handle all the pitfalls they’re going to see; but again, with biblical foundation.”
At the core of those decisions is healthy community.
Henningham says, “Our children are always encouraged to join a local church. That is one of the major things we ask of them. And so we do keep in touch with them, we ask them how they are growing spiritually. When they take on a course, some kind of further education course, one of the requirements is they must attend a local church.”
Henningham encourages people to invest in the lives of Kenyan teens in two ways.
The first is through contributions. “We have an independence fund. And from that independence fund, as they become stable, we can offer them this next step up, which will give them a much better opportunity to get a better job and to do more,” she shares.
The second is prayer.
“We really need prayer” reflects Henningham. “I think, there are so many pitfalls out there. There are so many temptations, and so many things that can take them away from the Lord and get them into serious trouble. We really need prayer for our young people.
“The things I have learned over the years as they’ve been in the home, that these things will be deeply implanted in their heart. And they really will continue to grow spiritually and be able to stand on their own two feet with the Lord as the center of their lives.”
Learn more about the Kenya Independence Fund and ways you can help at KidsAlive.org.