These local heroes have dedicated years of their lives to helping cold, hungry and desperate youths thousands of miles away from Sussex.
Roger Dann and his wife Leslie are the founders of Harambee for Kenya – a charity that supports, cares for and educates ‘street boys’ to help them become valued members of society.
Thousands of children as young as five face a life scavenging on the African country’s streets after being orphaned by Aids or suffering ill-treatment from their parents – leaving them to be regularly beaten and made to beg and search for their food on rubbish tips.
However thanks to the help of Roger, Leslie and the volunteers and trustees behind their charity, Kenyan children are being given the chance of a healthy and thriving future away from the dark and dingy streets.
Leslie, 58, from Heathfield, said: “I started going out there in 1998 and I just knew I had to help somehow.
“Roger joined me the next year and we started fundraising to help get the boys off the streets.
“But after a couple of years I thought what we needed to be doing was giving these children shelter and warmth.
“In 2007 we formed Harambee for Kenya. We managed a safe house to make sure they were safe, warm, fed and going to school, which we hoped would allow them to become useful members of society.”
Without help from the charity, the children could otherwise be found begging on the streets at risk of beatings from strangers and policemen – or searching their way through rubbish tips for food.
Leslie continued: “Every time we go out there we feel a mixture of emotions. We feel frustration, sadness, annoyance and sometimes encouragement that these kids have smiles on their faces still. We laugh with them, we cry with them. But what we try to do is give them a platform for a safe and successful future.”
Harambee, which is Swahili for ‘all pull together,’ depends solely on sponsorship and donations to continue its work. This year, new drop-in centres for street boys will provide access to medical care, clean clothes and rehabilitation and another safe house is close to completion.
And the charity’s hard work is paying off. Leslie recalled one particular boy who revealed some exciting news during her last visit.
She said: “We have a boy who has been with us for about four years called Samuel. He came and said to me, ‘I need to speak to you’.
“He said he had been picked to play for the under-17 team of the Harambee Stars – the Kenyan national football team – and he was flying out to Sweden at the start of February for a competition.
“He said he was thankful for the help he had received from everyone at the charity and he was so excited for the future.
“But it’s not just myself and Roger in this – it’s a team of volunteers and trustees and so many more people who are all involved and we are thankful for their support.
“We’d also like to thank Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club for its support too. We’re very grateful.”
For more information about Harambee for Kenya, or to make a donation, visit www.harambeeforkenya.org.