Almost 20 years ago, Lufthansa Cargo pilot, Fokko Doyen landed an MD-11 freighter in Nairobi. His luggage included a suitcase full of children's clothes from Germany. The gifts were
intended for foster children in the care of the Mothers’ Mercy Home, a local charitable institution. It was the beginning of an intense relationship that started small and has since reached a
significant dimension - to the benefit of local Kenyan orphans.
In this part of our tribute to pilot and social worker Fokko Doyen, he looks back on the past and comments on future projects. Here are his statements:
John Kaheni’s tragic fate: grief and motivation
Social assistance, government welfare, minimum pension - you can forget all that. All these programs, common in most European countries, simply do not exist in Kenya, a country where half the people live below the statistical poverty line. Eat or die is the motto there. This sounds heartless to the ears of Europeans, but it is the naked truth for millions of people in Kenya. Especially for those who no longer have any relatives, i.e. no one to support them. And it is precisely these orphaned children hit by extreme poverty that institutions like the Mothers’ Mercy Home look after.
My first impression, during the clothing drive in 2001, was of run-down corrugated iron huts in Nairobi’s outskirts housing 84 orphans. One of the kids, who I subsequently got to know better, was John Kaheni. He had a congenital heart valve defect. "You want to save this boy's life," was my immediate inspiration. So I entered into a sponsorship.
Then, at the age of ten, John underwent surgery at the Nairobi Kenyatta Hospital. Everything looked quite positive after he had recovered. He managed to finish school and had to leave the shelter as a 19-year-old - that's the rule there. He went to live with his grandmother, who lived in the poorest of conditions. So I arranged for him to have his own hut built in the immediate vicinity. The condition was that he should send me an online report once a week about his education and the condition of his grandmother. This also worked out very well.
Lighthouse project is named after Fokko's godchild
In the meantime, we had long since founded Cargo Human Care, which resulted in a large number of sponsorships for local orphans and also led to donations. In order to train school leavers from Mothers’ Mercy Home and to introduce them to working life, because we did not want them to end up in slums or, in the case of girls, to become prostitutes, we had a boarding house built. There, the boarders are offered online seminars and they undergo basic vocational training where they are taught, for example, how to calculate prices for goods produced or traded, so that they make a profit in the end. After all, most of them will later work as craftsmen, traders, bakers, tailors, or similar to earn a living. By the way, I would like to emphasize that constructing the boarding house was made possible by the generous financial support of the renowned newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The facility can accommodate 32 students and was half-completed when I was notified of the death of John Kaheni, my own godson, due to heart failure. The brutal news that he had died at just 20, totally brought me down because he had grown incredibly close to my heart over the years.
After overcoming the shock, we decided to name the facility “John Kaheni Residence,” following its completion.
Large circle of supporters
What started small in 2007, has become quite big meanwhile. Today, CHC runs an orphanage for 120 children, a medical station where 50 German doctors are regularly on voluntary duty, as well as a youth home for the vocational training provided to the school leavers of the orphanage. Two schools called Wings Academy in Marsabit area / Northern Kenya, and Happy Child Education Centre in Nairobi complement the charity and educational provisions. All this would not be unthinkable without the active support of Lufthansa Cargo's management over all these years, which was never cut back even during the current pandemic. Lufthansa Cargo provides the tickets for the doctors and transports medical devices or equipment to Nairobi free of charge. Support comes from many Lufthansa Cargo stations around the world. Hence, at the beginning, there was nothing but a suitcase full of clothes. Today, a large international network consisting of Lufthansa Cargo employees, donors, medics, CHC members, and supporters ensure that the foster children are taken care of in the best possible way.
Hardly any administrative costs
Those who donate money to CHC can be absolutely sure that every single euro or dollar goes to where it is intended. Thanks to the many volunteers, administrative costs account for only 0.5% of donations. Supporters can therefore be certain that their money does not flow into dark channels. Our Chief Financial Officer, Gerhard Meyke controls this extremely conscientiously, and it also helps that we are very often on site. Anyone who intends to support us, can become a CHC member, assume a godparenthood, or support us through donations.
What comes next?
After my career as a pilot ends on 31DEC20, I’m determined to become even more involved in CHC matters. One of the schemes standing on our masterplan is a water project in northern Kenya. A second one is to build a home for the elderly people there, because poverty among the elderly is a huge problem in Kenya, and not just there.
How I will feel right after my official retirement as a pilot, I don’t know yet. In any case, I am very excited and looking forward to my growing commitment to CHC. There are so many wonderful people who are closely cooperating to achieve the same goal – giving orphans a future. By the way, and this must be emphasized, some of our foster children that have entered working life meanwhile, still visit us regularly and support CHC in various ways. Thus, the circle is closed.
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