Supporters Stories

Paul Hargreaves explains why his company supports Bala Children’s Centre

I first became involved in the Bala Children’s Centre as, when my company was finally making a profit, we wanted to give some of that back to people not as fortunate as ourselves.  We wanted to find somewhere that my team of 40 could relate to, and be involved in, rather than just a charity that wanted our money.

The Bala Children’s Centre proved to be that place.  Staff, suppliers and customers could easily see a clear need of feeding and educating children (predominantly orphans) in Kenya, and there was also the option for them to go and work there for a week or two, which some have done.

As a company the money we raise has to go towards sustainable agri-businesses which we have set up, as income-generating projects are the only real way forward in what is a very poor part of Africa.

Dorian and Maura Ferdinando talk about their trips out to Bala

We have visited the Bala Mercy Children’s Centre four times now with different teams who have taken lessons, taught sports and done art and craft and other activities with the children.

Most of the children are orphans or they come from families who are struggling and impoverished.  The children very much appreciate the opportunity of a good education and the support provided for them and their families.  They work very hard hoping to make a better life for themselves rather than relying on subsistence farming.

They love hearing from and writing to their sponsors.

Angela Hughes on how her family got involved with the charity and their visit to Bala

I have been involved with Bala since 2010. At that time my two daughters were pupils at Prior Park Preparatory School in Wiltshire and I was Chair of the school’s Parents’ Association. Working with Charles Hainsworth, a teacher at the school with a passion for the Bala children, we twinned Prior Park Prep School with the Centre in Kenya.

In 2011, I celebrated my 50th birthday and had a large party. I didn’t want any presents but I did ask my friends who came to the party to donate to Bala instead. We managed to raise sufficient funds to purchase 2 bullocks and a plough to support the work of the farm, which was just starting up.

In November 2012, my husband, two daughters and I made a visit to the Centre. I was introduced to the bullocks, which had been named ‘Dave and Angela’ and were already working with the plough. We also met the two boys who we continue to sponsor, Alphonse and Fredrick, and have since bought Fredrick a bicycle to help him with his long journey to school and back every day and evening.

Whilst we were in Bala, we helped to decorate and organise a small library for the children, supported by a local carpenter who came and put up the shelves for us. My daughters also organised a ‘sports day’ for the whole school and taught them how to do wheelbarrow, three legged and egg and spoon races. The children were particularly good at anything, which involved balancing. We also tried to teach them how to play the traditional English game of rounders, but it all fell apart as every member of the team wanted to run at once!!

Another challenge we undertook whilst in Bala, was to buy approximately 50 pairs of shoes for the children whose sponsors had requested this. We measured the size of their feet by drawing around them on a sheet of A4. We then took these sheets to the shoe shop owner who translated them into shoe sizes. I think we managed to get them all correct, except one! The shoe shop was very gracious and did give us the correct size shoes before we left Kenya.

Dave took a projector out to Bala to show the children nature programmes from parts of the world that they had not even imagined. They watched penguins, whales and saw ice and snow which amazed them. They also watched several children’s DVDs including the ‘Tigger Movie’. Dave had taken this for the younger children, but remarkably the building filled with all ages, including adults, when word got out what was showing!!

Visiting the Centre made a big difference to me. It is one thing sending money every month, but it is another thing to actually experience first hand how the children live. When in Kenya, my daughter said to me ‘they have very little, but they are all so happy’. The Centre is a very happy place and alongside this, every year, they have an excellent track record of academic results.

As well as being a sponsor, I continue to support Bala Children’s Centre by administering the lists of sponsors and children. I match new sponsors with children requiring their support and try to answer any queries that sponsors may have. Please bear with me if I don’t answer immediately!!  During our visit, we also witnessed how thrilled the children are when they receive letters and gifts from their sponsors in the UK, so please, keep sponsoring and keep writing!

Tracy and John Mannakee tell us why they support Bala Children’s Centre

We have chosen to support Bala because we believe in the old adage that if you teach a man to fish he can find food for life.  It is all about the opportunities for education and further development that we can help the centre to offer.

Having been out to Bala twice we were struck by the positive, ‘can do’ attitude of the girls in particular.  These girls aspire to become engineers and doctors.  Research shows that when girls are educated they have fewer children, later in life.

The team who run the centre, both in Kenya and here in Gloucestershire do a fantastic job inspiring the children to be self-sufficient.  We hope they will ultimately become part of the new generation of Kenyans who won’t need charity as they help to forge a Brave New Africa.

Mandy Rymill on becoming a monthly sponsor

I heard about the charity from Paul Hargreaves at Cotswold Fayre and have second hand experience as my sister went out to the orphanage last year.  She was inspired by the people she met there, both the volunteers and the children who want so much for their future.  I like the fact that the charity is all about helping the people to become self-sufficient by providing them with education and some of the resources they need to farm their own food.

I also like the fact that my monthly contribution goes directly to the charity.

My sister took some clothes, toys, shoes, etc. following a collection that I did at work.  Everything was gratefully received and it’s something that I will definitely do again.  There are so many ways to get involved but becoming a monthly sponsor is a good start!