Mother,daughter turn home into a safe space for neglected children

“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has born? But even if that were possible I would not forget you! See I have written your name in the palm of my hand.”

This is a well spelt signage at the entrance of Recho Daycare in Kibera informal settlements in Kenya’s capital. Around this area business activities are ongoing along the nearby railway line in the informal settlement of Kibera. A path diverts to crowded structures made partly of iron sheets.

Not far from these structures, we reach our destination; a blue gated structure. Inside the compound children are playing in the verandah. Inside one of the rooms, sits on a mattress placed on the floor. She is feeding some toddlers in turns. This is Recho Mutengu, the founder of Israel school and daycare.

This is her house which she chose to convert into a day care as well as a foster home for children neglected by their parents or guardians. But at the same time the compound which has several houses in it still serves as a school adopting the name Israel school.

Recho is the mother to Phoustine Khayosa who is a teacher by profession, a mentor and a student pursuing a diploma in Education.

Their generosity would make you wonder why the mother-daughter duo would take in that burden. What do they gain from it? The answer lays on the signage at tye entrance of this facility.

The daycare

“I’ve lived in Kibra for the longest time now and I have seen the adverse effects of parental neglect to their children. I understand that in order for a child to even excel in education and make it in life they need to be in a safe environment that would support them not only financially but also emotionally. This is what led me to this work; helping children in toxic setttings within the slums,” says Recho.

Having seen someone pay tge school fees for her own daughter, Recho says this inspired her to reciprocate the favour by helping needy and vulnerable children.

Before the foster home came to existence, Recho had begun offering day care services in 2011 having to look after one child. The parents were happy with her service and spread the word out to other people who also brought their children to her care. “I took care of them as if they were my own despite not being paid most of the time and forced to even work way past my working hours which was from 6:00am to 6:00pm. Some parents were bringing their kids as early as 5:00am and picking them past 9:00pm,” says Recho.

But Recho understood that most of the parents were still young and had to be helped with the responsibility of taking care of their young children.

Foster family

She later came up with the foster family where q11she could provide essentials for the children. “Buying into my mother’s idea wasn’t really hard to do as I have always been fascinated by children and just like my mother’s motivation; I too felt the need to give back to my community with the little I could. Someone paid for my school fees and catered for my personal needs for the longest time in my life. I felt the gap that they were working toward filling in the community,” says Phoustine, Recho’s daughter. She adds: “I took it upon myself to be not only a teacher but also a mother to a big nation.”

The foster family runs in conjunction with the school. Together, they have 23children formally in their custody. The children come from the community as well as the school depending on their cases; abusive parents, absent parents or guardians, unfavorable environment for learning, as well as those who don’t go to school for one reason or the other. Being a teacher, Phoustine works in the same school which runs from PP1 to Grade Six.

“I can’t say we do enough through our services but I can assure we are doing our level best. We provide them with food, shelter, education, clothing and other essential needs like books and sanitary towels for the girls. At the moment our youngest child is five years and the oldest is seventeen years in a high school in Vihiga. Israel school currently has 106pupils from PP1 to Grade Six and has six teachers. Most of our teachers are volunteers.

The challenge

Phoustine admits one challenge they face is finances to run the facility. They mainly rely on donations from well-wishers and sales of the art work that they do. The money helps in provision of food, rental of the houses, paying the worker and buying school equipment.

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