AmericaShare was started by Lorna Macleod more than three decades ago. Walking through a Nairobi shopping center, she was approached by a little boy. Little did she know, that brief, chance meeting would change her life.
She watched the child move from one person to the next. In his hand, the little boy held a piece of paper. When her turn came, Lorna Macleod read the note, written by the boy’s headmaster, explaining that the little boy was an orphan. The boy needed to raise 700 shillings—the equivalent of just under $18 today—to buy a school uniform so that he could attend class. Learning that the little boy had raised only 100 shillings so far, Ms. Mcleod, a Micato Safari’s employee, gave him the 600 shillings he needed. The little boy said, “God bless you!” and cried with happiness as he dashed away. The encounter gave Lorna Macleod an idea.
With Micato Safaris attracting some of the wealthiest people in the world to a region inhabited by some of the poorest, Lorna Mcleod set about bridging the gap, culminating in the creation of AmericaShare.
Mukuru kwa Njenga is one of eight villages that make up the second-largest informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. Streets are lined with colorful storefronts, but behind them, homes are basic, rudimentary constructions, made from flimsy sheets of tin. The neighborhood lacks basic sanitation, electricity, and running water.
Poverty in the region is extreme, with many children sharing a single bed, and whole families sharing a toilet. For 30 years, AmericaShare has strived to support Mukuru’s resilient residents, who are struggling against adversity to secure a better future for themselves and their families.
Mukuru kwa Njenga is home to an estimated 500,000 people. With a 30 percent unemployment rate, the average daily wage is just $4. AmericaShare’s mission is to reach out to the local community, improve the lives of disadvantaged children through outreach and educational programs, and deliver the basic learning resources necessary to drive sustainable change.
Before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Micato Safari guests visited Mukuru, witnessing firsthand the lifechanging work underway at Harambee Community Center. Through the generosity of Micato patrons, vital funding was delivered, enabling thousands of local students to attend school.
Driving through Mukuru, guests experienced authentic day-to-day life in Kenya. They watched the community improve against daunting odds, visited the local computer center and library, and met staff and students sponsored by the AmericaShare program.
Unfortunately, for many people worldwide, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic put global travel on hold.
The Impact of COVID-19
The global pandemic has created significant challenges for organizations like AmericaShare, forcing them to adapt to new working practices at an exponential pace as part of efforts to stem transmission of the virus.
In Mukuru, the continued generosity of its patrons enabled AmericaShare to deliver reusable face masks to children and families across the village. In doing so, AmericaShare representatives learned that, due to spiraling unemployment, many families had fallen critically short of food. In response, AmericaShare quickly mobilized a food parcel distribution initiative via a local grocery store. The organization sent food packages containing a variety of non-perishable Kenyan staple foods, such as wheat flour, maize flour, beans, rice, and cooking oil.
Once AmericaShare had met the urgent basic needs of local people, the organization pivoted its focus back to its main mission: education. With Kenyan schools closed for much of 2020, the need had never been greater, or more challenging.
AmericaShare distributed smartphones to local students enrolled in its school sponsorship program. The phones were loaded with data and learning resources, keeping students connected from home.
AmericaShare delivered a variety of easy-to-navigate resources and information for students, including online classes and study groups, to keep students engaged and in touch with each other, facilitating learning throughout the school year.
In response to COVID-19, AmericaShare delivered:
- 3,500 cloth face masks
- 297 study guides for students
- 370 smartphones
- Monthly food supplies for 1,600 people
AmericaShare South Africa
South of Cape Town, past Simon’s Town and the Steenberg Mountains, lies the community of Red Hill, where 652 makeshift homes enjoy a bright community spirit and breathtaking views, albeit without much in the way of community services.
With a 43 percent unemployment rate, Red Hill has just one part-time clinic. There is no school. The 2,000+ school-age children face prohibitively long journeys to attend the nearest state school.
Partnering with the Red Hill Literacy Project and the Red Hill Development Forum, AmericaShare has helped build a bright new library in Red Hill, equipped with a computer center and community meeting place, staffed by trained librarians.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, AmericaShare distributed snoods (aka gaiters) throughout the Red Hill community, offering a warmer, more comfortable alternative to the face mask for the South African winter.
Education remains at the heart of all AmericaShare operations. Despite significant challenges presented by the global pandemic, AmericaShare remains focused on connecting local children with learning resources. In South Africa, the organization has strived to achieve this by keeping the AmericaShare team continually connected with the local community, delivering homework via WhatsApp and distributing books and study guides.