In today’s fast-paced world, especially in the wake of the pandemic, taking time to slow down and show gratitude is of utmost importance. One way you can do this is by taking part in community care. Giving back is a fun, interesting, and healthy way to spend your free time. A 2013 study found that helping behavior, along with other types of social interaction, is associated with positive health outcomes, including reduced mortality. Your contribution, no matter how small, could be one step towards changing a person’s life for the better. Your donation could help secure a meal or a month’s supply of sanitary pads for a needy child. Your presence and words of encouragement can make someone feel cared for and reassured. One visit to a children’s home has the potential to transform a child’s thinking and mindset, inspiring them to think bigger and aspire more for themselves. Taking time to interact and spend a few hours with kids also gives you a whole new perspective towards life.
On one of our missions to touch lives and put a smile on a child’s face, Hill Light Foundation came across Tollen Community Education Centre. Located in Dagoretti, Kabiria, the Centre is home to over eighty children aged between two and seventeen.
One early morning back in 2014, Reverend Tom Nyakundi, who was then working as a security guard, came across two boys sleeping outside at a construction site. Overcome with emotion, he decided to take the boys, aged seven and eight years old, under his care. His wife, Hellen, and their three biological children were supportive and welcoming to the new family members. This altruistic act would lay the foundation of an ever-expanding family, where the children also get access to education.
A Growing Family Meant Resourcefulness
“As the number grew to five, we were concerned that these children were not attending school. It was depressing to see them stay at home while other children went to school,” Tom tells us. They managed to acquire a letter from the chief to enable the children to attend a local public school. Unfortunately, this was short-lived as Tom and Hellen could not afford the expenses — school uniforms and fees. To make ends meet, he would work on farms during the day because his wages as a security guard were not enough to sustain their growing family.
Although they could not afford to sponsor the children’s education at a public school, Tom and Hellen wanted these children to know that they, too, could learn. Hellen began teaching them from home, to which they responded enthusiastically and with a desire to learn. Within a short time, people passing by mistook the home for a school. One woman came asking for a teaching job and they hired her. They would pay her from Tom’s daily wages. Fast forward to almost a decade, the institution currently has several volunteer teachers, mostly ones still in practice.
Society generally shuns and looks down on street children. Tom and Hellen have had people who do not understand their actions openly express unsolicited negative opinions about their choice to take these children into their home.
Tom and Hellen believe that it is their responsibility to care for these children and provide them with opportunities to grow into individuals who were raised in a loving home and see the importance of giving back to society. The couple strives to give the children all the love, care, and tenderness that a child deserves from a parent. They do this with the understanding that theirs is a unique family, in which some children, particularly the girls, are carrying great burdens and trauma from various forms of abuse, including sexual abuse.
Tollen Community Education Centre is a home as much as it is a learning institution built on faith. Tom and Hellen work hard to strike a healthy balance between the two by encouraging the kids to participate in extracurricular activities that help them explore their abilities and be happy. Whenever you walk by the home, you can be sure to hear their joyful voices singing or rehearsing a choral verse.
The institution’s motto is “So unique, so different” — an accurate reflection of who they are as a family. The children are different, each in their own unique way, and so full of life. A short time in their warm presence is all it takes to see the truth of this statement. You see it in their smiles and hear it in their laughter. As the only parents to more than eighty children, Tom and Hellen are more than just mom and dad. They are the perfect role models, in every sense of the word. As they selflessly and wholeheartedly continue to open their doors to more children, they constantly remind them that they matter and have a unique life purpose.
Their goal is to provide these children with a quality life and a decent education. You often hear people say that where you came from does not have to define who you are or whom you become. But Tom and Hellen want these kids to always remember and be proud of where they come from, because that is neither the streets nor anywhere else that came before. They hail from Tollen. “If these children will one day be defined by the values we instill in them, we will consider our mission a success,” they say.
With the help of several well-wishers, like you, these children stay fed and get to grow up in a warm home filled with love and surrounded by family — as should be the reality of every child in the world. You can also be a part of this beautiful family — the next time you are wondering what to do with your extra clothes, time, or other necessities, feel free and welcome to drop by at Tollen Community Education Centre, whose doors are ever open, and share your blessings with these wonderful children. Better yet, in addition, you can also reach out to Hill Light Foundation and join us on one of our fun-filled visits. After all, it does take a village!