I always try and wrap a bit of kindness into my Christmas each year, doing small things in the hope it makes someone’s Christmas a little brighter. But my friend Jane Shakespeare has taken this sentiment to a whole new level this Christmas – she has started a charity in Australia to support an orphanage in Sierre Leone, West Africa.
St Mary’s Children’s Home, in Bo Town, Sierre Leone was established in 1999. It offers shelter, food, care, love and support to war orphans, homeless, vulnerable and separated children. St Mary’s is currently home to 38 children, and there are a further 80 children being supported in an outreach program.
Jane first travelled to Sierre Leone in West Africa in 2006 as part of her university degree. Jane was immediately struck by the poverty, and the plight of women and children, in this war ravaged country.
Wanting to do something about it, on her return home, Jane set about raising money and collecting non-electric sewing machines.
“I placed an advert in the local paper asking for non-electric sewing machines to be donated to send out to the women’s groups I’d come across. It was obvious to me that if the women had their own sewing machines they could make their own fabrics into garments to sell, cutting out the middle man. I thought I might get 20 or so donated and ended up collecting 176 which was quite overwhelming,” she says.
On that trip, Jane also met Father Peter Konteh, founder of St Mary’s Children’s Home, an orphanage in Bo Town, Sierra Leone. He was also president of the Desert Flower Foundation that fights against genital mutilation of young women, a practise still rife in parts of Africa.
Having seen first hand the orphanage, Jane became a sponsor of a child at St Mary’s, and actively encouraged friends to also.
Over the years, Jane stayed in contact with Father Konteh and earlier this year heard about the increased number of orphans due to the Ebola outbreak, and the problems his orphanage was experiencing. St Mary’s resources were being stretched beyond capacity and raising money became increasingly urgent. Jane again decided to do something about it and set up a Australian charity to help raise funds for the orphanage.
“My objective is to show ordinary people around the world how they could help in their own small way.”
For $10 you can buy a child pens and pencils for a whole year, for $25 you can send a child to school for one month, and for $33 you can buy a bag of rice – the orphanage need eight bags of rice to feed the children.
“Every little bit counts” Jane says.
Jane would be very grateful for you to consider a gift big or small to help the kids in “her” orphanage this Christmas. To learn more about what Jane is doing click here, follow on facebook click here, to make a donation to St Mary’s click here.
“It is inspiring to think we are capable of reaching out and helping in whatever little way we can. I consider myself a normal person – not particularly special – all I did was help the only way I knew how,“ she says.
Learn more about St Mary’s Children’s Home here, visit www.stmaryschildrenshome.com