Our story begins in Kenya.
2.6 million children are homeless.
Everyday they beg and steal to stay alive in the face of hunger, violence, disease, rape, forced prostitution and worse. Girls shave their heads and wear baggy clothes to look like boys because it’s safer.
Kenya has had only three Presidents since independence and leaders come from the same families far removed from the struggles of most people. They live well while 60% of their country lives on under $1 a day. At best many leaders are apathetic and ineffective, at worst they know only corruption and abuse their power to exploit the poor. They keep their people illiterate so they can stay in power for as long as they want. Those who do want to govern fairly feel isolated and helpless.
She Has Brought Us To Where We Are
Gift was six years old when her mother died from AIDS. She never knew her father and was left to raise her infant brother alone. While begging for food on the streets of Mombasa her brother died as she carried him on her back. She didn’t know he was dead and continued begging for several hours until some street boys found her and told her.
Not knowing what to do, the boys contacted Anthony Mulongo, a journalist who had befriended and fed them on the dumpsites where they lived.
The Journalist & The Streetboys
Anthony Rescues Gift
Anthony Mulongo was born into a well-off Kenyan family and was on the fast track to becoming one of the top journalists on the continent of Africa. He gave it all up.
While reporting stories in the coastal city of Mombasa, Anthony began to be followed by boys living on the street who were fascinated by his video camera. He became friends with them; they trusted him and took him to places where they wouldn’t take anyone else. The brutality of street life changed his view of these boys from being ‘rogue children’ who had ran away from home to being the victims of a broken system who were abused and exploited for being very poor.
He started to feed them, fight for them through his reporting, and advocate for them with his network of friends who were lawyers and doctors and other professionals.
When the streetboys told him of Gift, he took her into his house, hired a lady to look after her, and paid for her to attend school. She effectively became his daughter.
An Unlikely Victory and an Idea
“Three of Us Did This. Imagine if there were 300.”
Anthony saw that street children were being denied national ID cards because they had no address and were then arrested for not having them. They were put in prison, and their friends would steal and then bribe the underpaid police to let them out. This had become a miserable cycle. So Anthony and two lawyer friends – Victor and James – took one streetboy’s case and sued the government. They won. The victory was widely reported, and in the last decade, tens of thousands of street children have been granted ID cards.
This planted the foundational idea of Many Hopes: “Three of us did this – a journalist and two lawyers. Imagine what we could do if there were 30 of us, or 60, or 300.” Anthony gave up his career to pursue that vision.
An Irishman Abroad
Many Hopes Is Born
Thomas Keown, a Northern Irish newspaper columnist living in Boston, met Anthony and Gift while traveling around Kenya on safari for a month in late 2007. Struck by the vision of how smart, long-term development could be done by raising up a network of children like Gift to be adults like Anthony, Victor and James, he had two thoughts:
1. “My cynical, charity-weary friends in the US and UK would buy into that. They don’t want to keep building orphanages, but they do care deeply about justice.”
2. “I can’t do what Anthony can do. But he can’t pay for it. My friends talk a good game about living lives of impact; let’s see if they want to play it.”
He wrote a newspaper column on the subject of sacrifice, using Anthony as an example, and readers in Boston, New York and Philadelphia wrote letters wanting to help.
Since then Many Hopes has planted volunteer chapters in Boston, New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, London, Bristol, Belfast and Mourne.
By rescuing, loving and educating children who have suffered the worst in life, Many Hopes is raising the generation of adults that will lead with justice and fairness and will defeat the causes of extreme poverty in Kenya.