Utugi means grace in Kikuyu and it is through grace that, after visiting the area in 1998, a small group in Haddenham set up a charity, now called “The Utugi Street Children Kenya Project”, to build and fund a home for street children in the Kirinyaga Diocese. Following this the diocese set up the ”Utugi Children’s Centre” in 2000, to work with street children, and build a centre with a home, workshop and classrooms. In 2003 the Government allocated land to the project at Wang’uru, and plans were drawn up.
They started with a feeding programme and projects, including carpentry training, schooling and small businesses, set up and funded by church groups in Hampshire and the USA. Meantime people in the Haddenham Benefice were raising money for building the home. By January 2004 £34,000 had been raised and construction began. In April 2005 the first children were admitted and at last they had somewhere permanent to live in a safe, loving, Christian environment. The co-ordinator for Welfare for the diocese, Rev’d Phyllis Kibira, still travels to different towns organising the feeding programmes, assisted by the local churches, forming good relationships with the children and gaining their trust.
After extensive fund raising in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 mainly in Hampshire, Lancashire, Haddenham, and Essex, plus several generous grants, there is now a fully equipped kitchen, a two storey dormitory with washrooms, to accommodate 96 boys, multipurpose hall and manager’s house.
Two staff flats have been built, with two more under construction. The diocese is building a Christian school on site, housing nursery to Class 6 so far. Of the 58 boys in the home, the younger boys are educated on site, along with fee paying children from the local community. The rest attend local schools or colleges, with 17 at secondary boarding schools, 7 at college or university. 3 are employed following training. Electricity and water have been connected. Goats, rabbits, fish and chickens are farmed and maize, fruit and vegetables grown on the land. Carpentry training is provided for needy young men and boys. Working parties went out in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and the final one in 2016, with a celebratory outing for staff and boys. Those involved praise God that through his grace a real difference is being made for these children and young people.