Did you know that New Life Home Trust was one of the first children's homes in Kenya to take in infants infected or affected by HIV and AIDS?
When New Life Home Trust began over two decades ago, it was just a small group of concerned people wanting to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable infants and, in particular, in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the early 1990s, seroconversion was a fairly unheard of concept. Hospitals were overwhelmed by the number of infants impacted by the disease and had little hope for their survival. Many abandoned infants who initially tested HIV-positive wound up dying from malnourishment, much too early for seroconversion to take place. Many had parents who passed away from the complications of AIDS, leaving their children as orphans.
It was a season of despair that brought people together seeking solutions. New Life Home Trust created a modest solution - a sanctuary for abandoned infants infected or affected by the crisis. As New Life staff took infants into their care, they began to notice that many of the babies who came in HIV-positive ended up testing negative for the virus after just a few months. New Life infants experienced a conversion rate of at least 80%. This incidence baffled even the medical community at the time to the extent that the Kenya Institute of Medical Research (KEMRI) conducted a study to test the phenomenon and concluded that it was actually true.
Almost 25 years later, we have witnessed the fruit of our labour with nearly every child reunited with biological family members or adopted or fostered by loving parents, and a 90% seroconversion rate amongst infected infants. What an incredible opportunity we have had to be a place of hope amidst a time of despair. As Desmond Tutu once said: "Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness." Your continued support helps us save the lives of the most vulnerable and continue to be that light for abandoned infants.
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." (Helen Keller)
Amani Cottage currently serves as home to 15 children with physical and/or mental disabilities. New Life Home Trust is committed to providing quality care for rescued infants until adoption. However, many of the infants we rescue with disabilities are less likely to be adopted, as they require more intensive and expensive care. As New Life began to encounter abandoned infants with special needs, we recognized the necessity of a long-term provision for these infants as they grew up. In early 2008, seven children with special needs, ages 2 to 3 years old, were transferred to our Kisumu home to grow and thrive outside the bustle of Nairobi, thus creating the Amani Cottage unit. The housing unit was appropriately named the Amani Cottage because 'amani' means peace.
Over time, as the children grew, so did the need for a larger facility. In early 2013, we had a groundbreaking ceremony in Kisumu for a facility to meet the varying needs of our Amani children, including specially adapted bathrooms, classrooms and bedrooms, a spacious kitchen, and a sensory therapy room. Through many generous donations, the building was completed in 2014. Our staff helped to build excitement for the children, giving them construction updates and countdowns, and allowing them to tour the rooms that would become their bedrooms. Slowly, cautious about all of the change, the children became excited about, and then accustomed to, their new bedrooms and common spaces (which they now love, of course).
In 2015, after committing 5 years to the general care and oversight not only of the children, but also to the construction process, funding needs, and standard of care at the Amani Cottage, a UK couple with expertise in special needs returned home. They were an incredible blessing to the Amani children and to New Life Home Trust during their time with us. In their absence, the Amani staff are daily rising to the challenge of learning and growing alongside the growth of these children. One of the greatest assets along the journey of New Life's Amani Cottage is the many specialized volunteers who have shared their time, knowledge, skills, and experience with our staff and have helped secure donations of need-specific equipment.
As the children age, the needs of our Amani children shift: outgrowing wheelchairs, reaching puberty, and just getting bigger. It is for this reason that we continue to seek funding for them and for this project to keep the as mobile as possible as they grow up. We continue to strive to offer these incredible kids the best care because they deserve it! Help us fund this bus project and enable transit to school, physical therapy, and other fun and beneficial activities by sharing why you care about our project and inviting your friends and family to lend their support!
Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel laureate, Wangari Maathi once said: “I’m very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork. When you do it alone you run the risk that when you are no longer there nobody else will do it.”
When New Life opened its doors, we were just a small team of committed people who hoped and believed we could make an impact in the lives of Kenyan infants who were affected and/or infected by HIV/AIDS. As New Life Founders, Clive and Mary Beckenham, describe it: “We did everything together, simultaneously looking after our own biological children as well as the abandoned infants in our care. The first 3 babies we rescued were 1 week old, 1 month old, and 5 months old. At that time, the staff was very small and everyone did everything. All the staff came in untrained, but we trained them [on] how to care for the infants and the facility. We were blessed with team members who were committed to our vision.”
Now 24 years later, because of that small group of committed individuals, nearly 2,000 infants have been rescued and the lives of staff, volunteers, adoptive parents, and these children have been impacted in remarkable ways! Of the total infants rescued, 75% have been adopted locally or internationally, 10% have been reunited with biological family members, and the remaining 15% were either transferred to another children’s home or passed away due to medical complications, often as a result of the extreme environmental conditions of abandonment.
This month we celebrated 24 years as an organization serving and saving abandoned infants and giving priority to infants affected by HIV/AIDS. With the help of numerous donors and well-wishers along the way, New Life Home Trust has been a standard bearer in Kenya for the quality care of rescued infants. Additionally, we have helped shift the stigmas around HIV/AIDS, adoption, and children with physical and mental disabilities. We continue to be incredibly grateful for the impact that we have been able to have because of your support and the entire New Life staff (nearly 200 Kenyan employees across 4 cities!).
As Wangari Maathai put it: “The little grassroots people can change this world.”