The Association

The Association and its Members

The support association wajibu wetu – artners for Kenya (registered society) was founded in August 2005 by Lisa Böning, Barbara and Jürgen Hansen, Alexandra Pongratz, Johannes Schüttler, Robert Suske as well as Birgit and Stefan Walk in order to help and advance the work of the „wajibu wetu“ project. Most of the founding members are very experienced travellers to Kenya and they know the Kilonzo couple, the managers of the home, personally.

The small circle of founding members has meanwhile developed into a sizeable group of active members who get together every two or three months from all corners of Bavaria (and from Cologne) and deliberate decisions and courses of action in order to further the welfare the children in Kenya.

A photo of the active members of 2009, from left to right:
Top row: Alexandra Pongratz, Kraiburg (vice-president), Barbara Hansen (president)
Standing: Reinhold Reitzer (Ingolstadt), Andreas Krieglmeier (Hepberg bei Ingolstadt), Beatrice Oxenius (Isen), Julia Sedlmeier (Egglkofen), Robert Suske, (Munich: secretary), Andreas Harpf (Ingolstadt), Ursula Harpf (Ingolstadt), Johannes Schittler (München), Anita Wimmer (München), Ralf Walk (Munich: webmaster), Steffi Walk (München)
Bottom row: Martha Krieglmeier (Hepberg: treasurer), Lisa Böning (Cologne!), Jürgen Hansen (Edling)
Barbara Krohne from Munich is unfortunately missing (as indeed in the following picture)

From left to right, back row:
Evi Karg (Ingolstadt: letters of thanks), Berta Zimmer (Ingolstadt: patchwork art), Carline Mutz (Eichstätt: liaison/contact with interns, lectures), Mathew KinuthiaKithioma (Kenya), Reinhard and Maria Riegg (Gaimershaim: auditor, address adminstrator), Susanne Tiedemann-Mutz (Ingolstadt), Alexandra Pongratz (Kraiburg), Martha Krieglmeier (Hepberg), Jürgen Hansen (Edling)
Front row:
Timo, Barbara, Noah, Barbara Hansen (Edling), Arne Mutz (Ingolstadt), George KilonzoKithioma (Kenya)

t is our aim to support the work in our home „wajibu wetu“ mainly by financial donations but also by any other kind of help, as well as to introduce our project to as many people as possible. In doing so, we respect the wish of the managers of our orphanage to act self-reliantly and independently, which is also reflected in the name „wajibu wetu“ (= „our responsibility“). So our principle is not that „he who pays the piper calls the tunes“.

The current members of the board:

  • Barbara Hansen, mother of three, two of them adopted from Kenya, with a long experience as a voluntary assistant in an orphanage north of Nairobi.
  • Alexandra Pongratz, doctor’s assistant at a paediatrician’s; during her spare time: frequent engagements in Kenyan children’s projects in recent years.
  • Martha Krieglmeier has been a very committed member of the German support organization of „wajibu wetu“ during the last two years and has been an active member of the association for a long time. As an expert in financial management she is ideally suited for the job of treasurer.

 f.l.t.r.: Barbara, Martha and Alex (Africa festival 2011)

A short history of the project and of the association

When, in April 2005, John G. Kenuthia first informed Barbara Hansen of his plan of starting a children’s home together with Jane and George Kilonzo, we hardly expected that this idea would be put into practice by mid-July. But many voluntary helpers from the environs of Nairobi and the two extended families of Kilonzo and Kinuthia created, in countless wearisome hours of labour, a new home for ten children, all of whom had had to experience traumatic events in their short lives. The exclusively Kenyan initiative, however, soon came to its limits, for ten children need more than just a roof over their heads; that’s why, on August 19th 2005 in Edling, we founded our association „wajibu wetu – partners for Kenya“ and we’ve been trying, ever since, to help our friends and children in that country.
t took, however, three meetings of our association, in the course of which we had to alter two details of the society’s rules, before, on October 6th, the association was at long last entered in the registry by the magistrates‘ court of Rosenheim and, on November 6th, was recognized as a charitable institution by the revenue office of Rosenheim.

Robert Suske created this homepage in early October 2005, which was slowly growing along with our association; it was taken care of from 2007 on by Birgit and Stefan Walk in Stockholm. In 2012 it was completely rebuilt and designed and is professionally run by Marco Struck.

At the end of November 2005, the first flyers, also a teamwork product, were distributed. In the meantime, we have already had three reprints and new editions (300 copies in April 2006; 1000 in November 2006 and a further 1000 in February 2008). In 2010, „atnic“ of Wasserburg took charge of the design and transformed it in a professional (and inexpensive) way: the next 1000 copies were gone in no time at all, so, by the end of 2011, we were busy reprinting again.

The small circle of eight founding members (Lisa Böning, Alexandra Pongratz, Johannes Schittler, Robert Suske, Birgit und Stefan Walk, Barbara und Jürgen Hansen), each of them, in one way or another, closely related to the founders in Kenya, has grown, within the space of just four months, into a sizeable community of 21 members. In December 2006, we were able to report, in our first circular, that, thanks to the standing orders and direct debit mandates arranged by our members, we can now count on a steady income of € 510 per month.
Since February 2006 we have been able to pay regular salaries – albeit modest ones, in keeping with Kenyan living conditions – to our friends Jane and George Kilonso as well as to further employees of the project. Meanwhile we have 30 children playing, eating, sleeping and learning in the framework of the project.

e are in regular e-mail and texting contact with the foster parents Kilonzo and we follow very closely the development of our project. In mid-January, John Kinuthia, one of the founders of “wajibu wetu”, returned to Nairobi from his visit to Germany, but for various reasons he has decided to leave our project. At the 6th meting of our society on March 25th 2006, back here in Edling, he explained his decision personally. We are reluctant to let him go, but we accept, of course, his decision of creating a new life for himself and his German girl-friend.

In April 2006 our association consisted of 45 members und could dispose of a fixed monthly income of € 697.50. The second circular was issued with news of the project.

In August 2006 a group of nine people flew to Kenya and visited the project. They reported about it, full of positive impressions and impressive experiences with “our” children, at the first great general assembly of our society on September 23rd 2006 in Ingolstadt and they managed to motivate the numerous members who had turned up even more enthusiastically! Alexandra Pongratz and Julia Sedlmeier were on location in March 2007 and shared life in the project for two weeks (more, with pictures – please click here). They also visited our “outreach children” (= children who are cared for outside the compound and who live with relatives) in several slum areas (pictures – please click here).

About 70 members and interested people turned up at our second general assembly in September 2007, which was certainly also due to our guests of honour from Kenya: Jane and George were in Germany on a two weeks’ visit. (more, with pictures – please click here).

Additionally, in August 2008, two of our active members, Alexandra Pongratz and Barbara Krohne, paid a visit to the project. They lived with the children in the home and enjoyed Kenyan hospitality, cordiality and joy of life. Full of positive impressions and reports, they allow us to share their enthusiasm and their experiences in their many photos and a circular that takes the form of a journal of their trip. (more, with pictures – please click here).

Since November 2008, female volunteers (interns) from Germany have been flying to Kenya on a regular base in order to spend between two and four months at the children’s home. This exchange is a blessing for both sides! (more, with pictures – please click here).

In September 2009, our third general assembly took place, again in Ingolstadt. (more – link to gallery)

You could call 2010 the year of the visits: wajibu wetu accommodated no less than 5 volunteers (Carline Mutz, Elisabeth Schmid, Katharina Finke, Alina Schindlauer and Elisabeth Auer); over the year there also were a lot of visits by members or supporters from Germany: Bernd and Maria Schirmer with their friends, Alex Pongratz and Juliane Reis, Willi Lemke, Barbara Krohne and Barbara Hansen, Laura Berg with a friend. It’s a very special experience to be on the spot and to see, taste and feel that the children are thriving! We all saw incontrovertible evidence of that! For the first time in the history of the German-Kenyan cooperation, German hospitality comes into play (over a longer period): the son and the niece of the foster parents arrived in October for a year as au-pairs in Germany.

2011, too, was quite an exceptional year: after a break of four years, Jane Nyambura and George Kilonzo returned to Germany for a visit (flight and stay were financed by special donations) and graced our fourth general assembly!

Only two months later, the Hansen family, Lisa Böning and Bernhard Gutsch flew to Kenya and immersed themselves vigorously into the everyday life of both WW home and family. It is rewarding to be so close to the children, to get in touch with the educators and to discuss the challenges on site with Jane and George, as well as to work out new plans together. This form of close contact and exchange is immensely important to all of us (more on this in the travel report).

While, in Germany, all the year round, many classes and schools are keenly engaged, with great eagerness and commitment, in collecting donations for our children, while people who celebrate jubilees and anniversaries donate their presents to our Kenyan family and many friends and members are supporting us, on site in Nairobi, again three German volunteers (Elisabeth Auer, Julia Eichinger and Katja Rieder) are helping and gathering enthusiastic impressions of a very special kind (more on this in the volunteers’ reports).

2012 was a year that confronted us with a very special challenge: owing to legal disputes among the joint owners who are our landlords we saw ourselves suddenly obliged to intensify our search for a property of our own. Undeterred by all obstacles and setbacks, Jane and George succeeded, even without the help of an estate agent, in discovering a suitable object and we were able to raise the not inconsiderable funds to purchase this piece of land. Without delay, we started architectural plans for a central building and annexes for girls’ and boys’ residence. All this was to be designed and built in both an enduring way and in conformity with Kenyan requirements and expectations. In autumn of that year, the entire plan was completed (detailed information on projected buildings); now we are eagerly waiting for the official permission to go ahead.

Neither the purchase of the site nor the planned construction of the buildings would have been conceivable without the fantastic support and the generous donations that we had the privilege to receive in 2012, as in former years, at the hands of schools, businesses and private persons, at feasts, sales and sponsored runs. Many friends and acquaintances have given us their support with encouragement, advice and practical help, sharing their experience with us. We are very grateful for this wide-ranging support and are looking forward to the next steps which we hope to take as soon as the forthcoming elections in Kenya are over.

And, as always, our volunteers of 2012, Hannah Ziegler, Christina Hans and Fabienne Palmtag, are of course also sharing their experiences in their new big Kenyan family (more).

By the end of last year, our German association reached a total membership of 150, and the inner circle of active members has also been extended by the accession of Andrea and Marco Struck. Marco has been tending our homepage with loving care and they both contribute their intense knowledge of Kenya. The founding members Birgit and Stefan Walk have been able to return from abroad closer to our association, owing to professional reasons; on the other hand, Lisa Böning, our founding member from Cologne, has moved to Norway. However, thanks to email and skype, communicating with Norway is no longer a problem – fortunately not even with Kenya.

The History of our Association: current developments

In 2013 we reached a point where the inspiring progress of the previous years levelled out and where a lot of patience was called for. Numerous visits to the local authorities were required before George Kilonzo finally got our new plot of land officially registered (in May). Yet it wasn’t possible to obtain building permission in the course of that year, which illustrates the fact that bureaucratic obstacles are not only a German prerogative.

Peter Riegg, however, assisted by Samuel Wamagunda and Alex Gatumo, provided new impulses for our project when he visited the site and worked out a plan for its environment-friendly agricultural development. This ambitious project was completed in the spring of 2014, with the help of fellow students from Kassel University (in Hessia).

Our (just as highly motivated) volunteers of that year, Ramona Schöckle, Ulrike Bock, Ann-Kathrin Bernstetter and Verena Perzl, also contributed considerably to the maintenance of a lively string of communication between Kenya and Germany so that we received very detailed information about the varied life of children and adolescents in the WW home.

Our special thanks go to Alexandra Bratzdrum, who, for many years and with untiring commitment, co-presided over our association. Our general assembly in autumn 2014 elected Barbara Krohne as her successor. In the company of Barbara Hansen, who was re-elected as co-president, she visited the project in October. In a meeting with George Kilonzo, Jane Nyambura and the local architect, who largely took over the plans of Richard Kröff and Harry Niederlöhner, the next steps for the building of the new home were agreed on.

Shortly after, the situation became critical. Noting, at first, that our informational contacts to Kenya were petering out, we soon became aware of the fact that our conceptions of the new site and those of our Kenyan partners are harder to reconcile than we had anticipated. Additionally, the lack of concrete and current information places us in a difficult position with our supporters (150 registered members, plus many other generous donors), whom we feel obliged to keep continuously informed about the progress of our project, so that they can see how their money is being spent.

We organized several emergency meetings to discuss how we might continue and we decided on a meeting in Germany with the parents who run the home in Kenya, so as to work out a solution that is acceptable to both parties. After four long evening sessions, we had to acknowledge that no common denominator can be found.

Since, after so many years of constructive cooperation, we decidedly don’t want to leave the children and adolescents in the lurch, as it were, we agreed on a continued financing of the expenses for their school education up to the point where they take a qualifying exam.

But what about our building project? It was clear that, owing to the differences of opinion, it could not be initiated where we had originally hoped to do so. But the building plans are fully worked out, the ideas of how to put it into practice have been designed in painstaking work over many months – was all that to be in vain?

So, we hit on a daring plan: we made an application, with our most important sponsor (Ein Herz für Kinder), to transfer the project to a different location. This new project is called Maisha Mazuri (= for a better life) and is run by our Kenyan partner Jimmy Kilonzi. He has already been cooperating very successfully, over the last ten years, with the German association named “Promoting Africa”, and we have got to know him as a very committed and reliable partner. “Ein Herz für Kinder” is a very meticulous organization and they have been asking many detailed questions concerning this project, and they have also been scrutinizing Jimmy Kilonzi’s concept very critically. And then, in August 2014, we breathed a sigh of relief: our troubles had not been in vain; “Ein Herz für Kinder” is going to sponsor the building of a boarding school for Maisha Mazuri.

So, already in July, we had a special meeting of our members, where all the latest developments were discussed in detail. We reached a unanimous consent to both continue our support of the education or training of the WW kids and, at the same time, to start the new project Maisha Mazuri.

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