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Colours Of Life


Seva 2011: CHILDREN'S GARDEN HOME, NAIROBI, KENYA (27 Aug - 24 Nov 2011)

Children's Garden HomeHow did we come to Children's Garden Home (CGH)? It's due to amazing networking through The Art of Living. Alvin attended the AOL Advanced Course in Bali in Apr 2010 and met Monika Fauth who is the Chairperson of AOL Kenya. Through Monika, we met Sonal Nagda who is the Secretary of AOL Kenya in Nairobi. And Sonal introduced us to Moses Ndung'u, Founder-Director of CGH.

From 27 Aug to 24 Nov 2011, we lived with Moses and his family, and 150 children in CGH, situated within walking distance from the Kawangware slum. This period offered our family a glimpse into the life of street children and the poverty-stricken living condition in a slum. We stayed in the 'volunteer flat' in the CGH accommodation block, which has the best furnished condition of all. Still, it was ultra basic with no piped-in water and it leaked during heavy rain. But it was a comfortable home to us, warmed by the friendship and love of the souls around.

Founded by Moses and Sylvia in 2001, CGH has grown from helping 5 street kids under a tree by the roadside to providing a safe home and school to 150 live-in children plus an additional 100 kids who come daily for school from nearby slums. Thankfully, a sponsor donated the premise to them so they don't need to worry about rent.

Jin and childrenHaving so many little souls to care for and mouths to feed is such an astronomical responsibility. Moses has relied solely on donation to run CGH and fund was always not enough to make ends meet. Sometimes, the bread had to be sliced thinner so every child would get something to munch.

Despite the ongoing challenges, we observed that Moses and Sylvia carry a smile on their faces more often than most people who are far wealthier and considered more successful by conventional measure back home in Singapore. We learnt from them how to live joyfully in the present moment. With too much of a planning mind, we tend to stay in the future and forget to live in the present.

Every child has a moving story of how he/she has come to live in CGH. Some had no parents, some were abandoned or abused, some were rescued from the street... But even these children become our teachers about life. They are joyful, loving, caring for one another, and they study, farm and work hard everyday with a determination to grow up into mighty oaks.

By the grace of the Guru and God, we had landed in CGH. By the same grace, we would allow ourselves to serve as the channel for the grace to flow to become new ideas, hopes, capabilities and possibilities for Moses and add new wings for the children to soar.

Like waves in the ocean, we rolled out initiative after initiative, and we are eternally grateful to our friends from different parts of the world who come forward with donation to support and sponsor the seva project. Now, let us give you the details of all __ seva initiatives that had made a definitive impact on the children in CGH...

Children's Garden Home website
Little Fingy's website

CGH used to have a website but when the domain name renewal was up and Moses didn't have the money, it literally expired and vanished from the web. So one of the first help we rendered to CGH was to re-register for its domain name and web hosting, design and launch a new website for communication.

About the same time, we helped CGH to conceptualize and organize all income generating self-projects under a new social brand, Little Fingy's. We designed and launched a new website in record time.



Since CGH had run out of its old and outdated brochures, we designed a brand new brochure featuring a list of updated donation options that we jointly developed with Moses and his team. The design was completed by Alvin in one day and we printed 5,000 copies the following week. Click to download CGH brochure.



Little Fingy's was conceived to be the social enterprise arm of CGH. All the self-help initiatives under Little Fingy's are to be run like for-profit businesses but with the sole objective of generating a surplus to be donated to CGH for sustainability purpose. True to the design of a social business as defined by Prof Muhammed Yunus, Little Fingy's is non-loss and non-dividend.

The BEADwear craft project was launched to allow the older girls to design and make their own style of bead jewellery for sale to visitors, supporters and the market. Since Christmas was coming, we designed 3 collection sets - Safari, Tribal and Waka-Waka - and promoted them to all our friends via emails. Orders started pouring in and as of 3 Nov 2011, the revenue shot past Ksh.280,000 and hopefully BEADwear will stay on as a ongoing concern to generate much needed income for CGH's sustainability. Click to support BEADwear.

CAPITAL=Ksh.40,325 (funded through revenue and not by donation)


Sponsored by a group of Italian donors, the Posho Mill was set up about a month prior to our arrival. It was to mill maize grain into ugali flour for the home's consumption and also to provide milling service to the community to generate an income. But we observed that business was poor due to lack of publicity. So we designed and launched a Customer Loyalty Program (mill 10 bucket, get 1 free) and a Friend Referral Program (refer 5 new customers, get 1 milling free). We printed some Friend Referral namecards and sponsored 2 sacks of maize grains as capital stock.

The new marketing initiative helped to improve business volume in the weeks that followed. It drove home the point that business success is not due to just having some goods or machine, rather it is achieved through human action based on good ideas. To optimize the use of the Posho Mill, which has immense potential for income generation, we encouraged Moses and team to secure institutional orders for maize flour from nearby schools and organizations for long term, repeat sale rather than relying on individual walk-ins.


Chicken Farm
Baby chicks

Instead of buying eggs to feed the children, although very occasionally only, it would a saving to have own chicken to lay fresh eggs for consumption and on a more regular basis for better nourishment to the growing children. Moreover, the children will learn experientially the livelihood skill of rearing chicken.

So we sponsored 20 chicken, bought from the interior (villages) but 1 died during the matatu journey to CGH. We also sponsored the construction of the chicken coop. The chicken farm is a good investment because it runs almost on zero cost since the local chicken feed on the maize waste from the Posho Mill. By end Oct 2011, the first batch of eggs had hatched into 10 cute little chicks, with more to come. We aim to grow the number into about 100 chicken at which point there should be enough eggs to feed the children twice a week with extra eggs for sale to generate an income to sustain the farm and probably partially pay for the water bill.



Dairy cow farmCGH has one cow that provides milk sufficient for just the infants everyday. We decided to sponsor another 1-2 cows so the children may benefit from fresh milk once or twice a week. There'll be a long term saving from having to purchase milk from the market. More importantly, more children would be able to learn hands-on about animal husbandry. A group of donors from Singapore sponsored the construction of a new cow shed and christened it "Singa-MOO-Lah". Robyn taught the children a remix of the Singapore folk song, Singapura, and they gamely performed the song for filming. Click to watch Singa-MOO-Lah.



Green house tomatoA greenhouse was sponsored by a Korean University and erected by Service For Peace in early 2011. There was some confusion amongst SFP volunteers resulting in the tomato seeds going missing. It's Africa so things do go missing sometime. Long story cut short, we sponsored the tomato seeds. They got planted, grew in a neat nursery bunch, and transplanted in early Nov 2011. We are expecting to begin harvesting in Jan 2012 and are hopeful that the 600 tomato plants in the greenhouse would provide an ongoing income source for CGH in the new year 2012.



Recurrent expense for stationery like exercise books, chalks and files is a constant cashflow challenge for CGH. As the new school term kicked off, there was an urgent need for new exercise books and files for the school so we sponsored the purchase.

COST = Ksh.31,230


This was our first seva initiative, decided on our 2nd day at CGH. Some classroom doors were damaged or missing so the children have to withstand the cold winds and splattering rain. We got carpenter Fester to set up a carpentry workshop onsite and involve some older children to construct and install the new doors to cultivate a sense of achievement and belongingness. It was quite an experience when we went shopping for timber at the timber yard at Kawangware.

COST = Ksh.39,000 (sponsored by Hands Up for Kids, a child empowerment initiative under The Art of Living Kenya)


We borrowed the idea from the Tribal School Project in India to put up blackboard paint on half of each classroom wall so the kids can doodle away with chalk and express their creativity at will or draw what they learn from class. Crown Paints kindly sponsored all the paints needed so we just spent a little on paint brushes.

COST = Ksh.1,140


Initially, there was no furniture in the dining hall so the children had to carry their heavy wooden study desks and benches from the classrooms to/from the dining hall every meal time. It’s not only tedious but the constant moving in/out tend to damage the furniture. So we decided to help solve this daily concern once and for all by getting the same trusted carpenter to involve the kids to build 10 tables (seat 12 kids on both side) and 20 benches. Now there's a permanent seating capacity of 120 in the dining hall.

COST = Ksh.79,935 (sponsored by Kwang Cheak, Kirit & AOL Kenya members)


Water pipingOn 18 Sep 2011, the 280m long pipe of the borehole broke off and fell into the deep well. While waiting for the engineer to assess the damage and fix the whole thing, the children faced a water shortage crisis. On 20 Sep, Moses had no choice but to rush to the Nairobi Water Board to apply for council water to be supplied to CGH. He was made to pay a Ksh.25,000 registration cost. We sponsored water pipes to bring water from the council tap to the kitchen.

COST = Ksh.5,000


We sponsored the erection of a shower compartment adjacent to the children's toilets. This provided the boys with a permanent shower room with piped-in water for the boys.

COST = Ksh.15,723


A member of CGH's board of advisors had 5 truck loads of firewood for sale at low prices. She donated 1 truck load and we sponsored 4 truck loads. The opportunistic purchase stocked up 4 months' supply of firewood for CGH. Moreover, Moses selected some longer pieces to be used in the cow shed construction. It was a great saving.

COST = Ksh.42,000


We helped Moses and his management team compute the cost of running CGH and derive the annual cost of providing a child with homecare and school. We are pleased to eventually have 7 children sponsored by Singaporeans and a Swedish donors - 2 children for 4 years of homecare + secondary education; and 5 children for 1 year of homecare + school.

COST=Ksh.520,000 (sponsored by Arthur, Chin Tiong, Vivienne, Kim and Inger)


Staff are crucial to keep the home and the school running. We have the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the staff situation. All the core team members who have been working with Moses for 5-10 years to help these children have NO regular income ALL THESE YEARS due to the highly irregular funding by donors. Whenever Moses manages to get enough money, he helps the staff pay off their rents and compensate them. But the core team of about half a dozen 'die-hard's' stuck by Moses through the years, sharing the hardship and sometime hunger, as well as the joy of seeing the children grow up cared for and educated. We are grateful to donors who supported our idea to partially sponsor the salaries of ALL staff and teachers at Ksh.120,000/month for 7 months from Oct 2011 to Apr 2012. This will hopefully allow some lead time for other donations to flow in and for the various self-help initiatives to gradually bring in income.




Read more at our weekly updates at Children's Garden Home (27 Aug to 24 Nov 2011)


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