Make Me Smile Kenya is an NGO with a holistic approach to sustainable development cooperation and was founded in 2008 in Kisumu, western Kenya. To guarantee the sustainability of our work, we involve the structures of the government as well as all relevant actors. This enables the beneficiaries to provide for themselves and their children in the future and to represent their rights themselves.
With this short story we would like to give you an impression of how Make Me Smile Kenya came into being. Starting as a small children’s home for 10 girls, we now take care of over 22,000 orphans and vulnerable children in western Kenya. With each new milestone, our projects developed step by step and today we follow a sustainable approach to development cooperation.
A journey into the unknown
In 2007 Maximilian Ullrich visited Kenya for the first time as part of his school’s volunteer program. The Danube International School Vienna has been funding a lunch program for the 800 students of Waluka Primary School since 1998. Together with his colleagues, he supported the teachers and helped to serve food. He is impressed to see how 800 children queue daily for a bowl of corn and beans, especially how many even empty some of it into their pockets for their brothers and sisters at home. For many it is the only meal of the day.
During his stay, friendships are also made with the people of Kenya, including the hairdresser Dan. He tells him a lot about the great poverty and the problems in the country. This year there is also great political unrest, followed by post election violence, which makes everything much worse.
A children’s house is being built
Back in Austria he cannot forget the impressions. He stays in contact with Dan and they exchange ideas how to help in a meaningful way. Now Simon Otieno, the future manager of Make Me Smile Kenya, also comes on board and the first project takes shape. In a short time he also convinces his mother, Irmgard Ullrich, that something has to be done. Together they mobilize friends, relatives and acquaintances and in 2008 they found the children’s home Miwani, where ten girls orphaned by HIV/AIDS find a loving home.
The decision to do more
The support is being increased. A fish pond and a chicken farm are being built and an agricultural business is being established. In 2012, we choose a sustainable path of development cooperation and set the biggest milestone in our history. Make Me Smile Kenya has been registered as an NGO and Simon, as an excellent manager, will initiate our cooperation with USAID.
Together we are building a network of 69 family caregivers who will care for 3,155 orphans and vulnerable children and young people over the next four years. Our girls from the children’s house are reintegrated into local families in the spirit of helping them to help themselves and are also supported by family caregivers.
We focus on prevention
After five years of work we realize that sustainable development cooperation is only possible with family planning. First, our experts visit families on a small scale and objectively impart knowledge about contraceptives and reproductive health. Subsequently, we start a cooperation with Aktion Regen and train more than 150 Community Health Workers in family planning, contraception, safe motherhood and HIV prevention and form a network to reach all inhabitants of our project region with this information.
Our concept is recognised and promoted by the Austrian Foreign Ministry through ADA (Austrian Development Agency). This will enable us to start a three-year programme in 2017, which will provide 24,500 people with knowledge and access to family planning. Our aim is to encourage families to make informed decisions about the timing and number of children they have, taking into account the best interests of the child.
Good work is recognised
Our sponsor, USAID, recognizes our commitment and is increasingly expanding the number of children entrusted to us starting in 2016. Make Me Smile Kenya is awarded by USAID as the best partner organization in Western Kenya. At the end of 2017 we are entrusted with the implementation of the five-year MWENDO program (USAID) and are given responsibility for over 13,300 children.
Within the framework of this program our family caregivers ensure that basic needs such as food, education and health are met. We also promote the psychosocial health of the children and help them to help themselves through savings associations, training courses and the distribution of seeds, so that families can soon meet the needs of their children themselves.
Health for all
A cooperation with Graz University of Technology, the local community and the Ministry of Health of Kisumu County made it possible. Make Me Smile realised the construction of a health centre in an area where people had no access to health care.
It was our first major construction project, which in combination with the Kenyan bureaucracy led to a longer construction process. Since the beginning of 2019, the health centre and all its outbuildings have been in place. In July 2019, the “Angola Health Centre” will go into operation fully equipped. We will enable the start-up for six months and from January 2020 the Ministry of Health will take over the running costs. We have laid down minimum standards in a contract. If these standards are not met, we have the option of operating the health centre privately. Our aim is to provide free, high-quality health care. Will that work? We are curious.