By Kyle Sinclair
Source : The National
June 23, 2013
DUBAI – Two Dubai residents are opening an orphanage in Ethiopia to try to help some of the more than 5.5million orphans that Unicef estimate live there.
Famine, Aids and conflict continually add to the figure.
Karen Kendall and Leeanne Reeves, originally from Australia, are doing their best to provide for as many of them as possible.
Not only have they adopted Ethiopian children, the pair have decided to trade in their Dubai lifestyles and relocate to the country, where they will set up and run their own orphanage – the Shamida Orphanage and Children’s Home (Soach).
The plan arose out of a chance meeting when Ms Kendall went to adopt her daughter Ruby from an orphanage in the Shamida region in August last year.
“When we decided to go ahead with it, basically it was our vision, for me and Leeanne as well,” said Ms Kendall. “There is a very strong tie to Ethiopia now that we have adopted. I am incredibly grateful to Dubai and the UAE for allowing me to adopt her, I couldn’t do that in Australia and now we want to give something back to the community.”
Ms Kendall comes from a legal background and runs her own business in Dubai, MAK Property Conveyancer, while Mrs Reeves has an extensive background in clinical nursing and has spent time in Ethiopia volunteering and fundraising for orphanages since 2001. She was granted Ethiopian residency status in May last year. Mrs Reeves and her husband, Rob have six children, four of whom are adopted. Ms Kendall’s mother is also planning to move to Ethiopia.
Soach will initially consist of four rented houses. These will house a kindergarten, the orphanage, staff accommodation, and a building for adopting parents and volunteers.
“At the moment there are a number of orphanages in the region but they are very basic and not really meeting the needs of the children,” said Mrs Reeves. “A lot of the children are malnourished, a lot don’t have any education.”
Once the unit is fully functioning, the pair hope to receive a land grant where they can build a more permanent structure nearby.
It is hoped that once the orphans reach school age they will be able to make use of the kindergarten, and get a good education, as well as having their food, clothing and care needs provided for.
At full capacity the orphanage will cater to 50 children and 50 kindergarten pupils. The pair hope to reach this goal by April next year.
They estimate the set-up cost at US$80,000 (Dh293,800), and that running costs will be $22,000 a month.
“It is scary, when you sit and look at the numbers for what we need, you need one nanny per five children and also people to do night shifts. To afford it all at once would cause quite a few problems,” said Ms Kendall.
“But I 100 per cent see it being a sustainable thing because there are so many people that want to help.”
Both of the women have donated significant portions of their own money to the project and say they have received a number of sizeable donations from other backers.
“We already have people who want to sponsor the kindergarten, or who want to sponsor a nurse for a year,” she explained.
“We’ve had some very generous people contributing, offering their time or physically donating either money, or supplies.”
They also plan to launch a number of fundraising initiatives in coming months, to ensure the smooth operation and continued success of the project.
They hope the licence will be granted for the project in September.
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