Annie Copley of Adelaide, Australia first journeyed to Kenya as a GVN volunteer in 2006. Little did she know, the three months spent counseling HIV/AIDS patients in Nairobi’s slum areas would completely change the direction of her life. “This work has not only changed my life, it has become my life,” says Annie, ” I have a deep sense of gratitude today for the people of Kenya who, with their quiet strength and hope, teach me about real love, patience and tolerance.”
Not long after her return to Australia Annie and her dear friend, Lauro Martire, hosted their first fundraising dinner at Lauro’s restaurant, East Terrace Continental. Held in November of 2007, that first dinner raised $11,000 – funds that were sent to VICDA at a time of great need, following the election violence of December 2007. With the money raised by Annie and Lauro’s dinner, VICDA was able to purchase mattresses, blankets, food and cooking supplies for recently displaced Kenyans in the Rift Valley.
Lauro on a visit to Kenya in 2011.
This successful dinner was the start of Caring for the Children of Africa
, a registered non-profit run by Annie and directly benefited by several of VICDA’s projects. Annie credits much of the organization’s success to the many donors and supporters who have assisted along the way but it was her collaboration with Lauro that started the wheel in motion. “Lauro has generously supported the work that I began in 2006 when he agreed to hold our first dinner in 2007. Like me he has fallen in love with the people of Kenya and I am sure he will return one day when his busy schedule allows.” Annie’s 2011 trip to Kenya was especially memorable as Lauro was able to come along and see first hand all of the good work the organization has been able to do.
Since its inception, Annie and her donors have raised about $110,000. With these funds, Annie’s organization has helped tens of thousands of people in Kenya. They’ve funded mobile medical camps, major food drops, ongoing porridge programs in several IDP Camps, renovated classrooms, purchased desks and books and have supplied two orphanages (Shelter in Nairobi and Haven of Hope in Nakuru) with ongoing food and school supplies.
Annie visits a family with AMKA.
Each dinner fundraiser is carefully thought out and planned by Annie and Lauro. She presents photos and stories of real Kenyans whom she’s met and discusses with her guests about the specific ways in which the funds will be allocated. “At our dinner last month, I presented one of the many recent stories where we were able to relocate a beautiful family, HIV patient Evelyn, with her 3 small children, from an extremely dire living situation in the Nairobi slums of Ngando.” Annie is full of emotion when discussing Evelyn. “They were living in a torn, leaking, muddy tent literally on the side of a railway track – so dangerous for the toddler who could have easily have fallen onto the tracks. We rented a one bedroom ‘shack’ for her near St Josephs, run by the AMKA project. It’s a clean, safe, and secure abode for her and her children.” Caring for the Children of Africa continues to support Evelyn and her children, along with other families Annie has grown to know and love over the years.
A food drop for the 7,000 residents at Manjani Mingi IDP Camp.
The $13,000 raised at their most recent dinner held last month will go toward to construction of Lemolo Nursery School
for the IDP children at Manjani Mingi Camp as well as continue a daily porridge program. “A lot of these kids in the camps still go hungry,” Annie explains, “the porridge program ensures that they at least get one nourishing meal a day.”
Annie works with Irene, VICDA’s founder and executive director, to determine the greatest need and personally distributes the funds and supplies on the ground – all the while keeping detailed notes to share with her donors. With her seven trips to Kenya Annie has been able to forge close relationships with many of the IDP residents and patients at AMKA, an HIV/AIDS counseling center where Annie first worked in 2006. Her obvious love for the people of Kenya is reflected in her ongoing dedication and commitment to the cause. “I know I’m going to die in Kenya someday with a big smile on my face,” says Annie, “because this is the work that makes my heart sing!”
Annie with Irene, donating desks for a classroom at Manjani Mingi IDP Camp.