Friday, 1 March 2013

Two birthdays for this boy

Musyoka. Picture by Marco Narrizzano
Musyoka was one of the very first children to arrive at the Happy House when it opened in 2010
A fragile and frightened little boy, his younger brother Francis and baby sister, Mwende, clung to him as though he were their safety belt.
According to the scant information provided then, he should just have celebrated his ninth birthday.
But when his grandfather arrived, ironically on the birthday provided then , bringing with him the children's birth certificates, it turned out that he is actually 11, and that his birthday is in December. So this year, Musyoka will have two birthdays... just so that we can get back on  the official track!
The serious side to this is, as we have this week explained to sponsors in an email, birthdays are not far from an exact science in Kenya.
Postcard for Francis
Many of our children have come to the Happy House without birth certificates and family members may not be sure of a child's birth date or age.
Mama decided right at the outset that those without a birth certificate or definite birthday should be given an "official birthday", so that they would not miss out on a card, a gift or the family limelight. Birthday celebrations give good childhood memories but are something they will not have experienced.
We always hope members of our family of sponsors, now worldwide, will understand that working in the developing world is very different from elsewhere.
Before coming to us our kids have been living in the most terrible circumstances where birth dates count for nothing and, indeed, they may not even have been registered at birth.
Although it is a legal requirement , there are many parents living in abject poverty or addicted to drink or drugs, who don't give their child a thought, never mind the law.
It can takes months, or years, to get the certificates.
Uncle Billly spends a great deal of his time trying to source birth certificates from relatives, and with registration authorities. It is exhausting and frustrating. 
Those of us who are familiar with the way things work (or don't) in Kenya are never surprised or shocked by the complete disregard shown for matters which are so meticulously complied with here.
But that is what it is like in the impoverished world. If you cannot afford a matatu ride to the nearest town to register a baby born in a remote village, then you are not going to go. Feeding your family is your first priority. In the case of our children, parent/parents  have been defeated in even this and can only live in with the pain of seeing their kids go hungry. They live from, hand to mouth, day in and day out ,survival is their prime concern.
If a single mum has died, the extended family probably won't know if a child has been registered or not. It certainly won't be a priority.
Of course we want to provide you with accurate information, but in certain circumstances things can change and we ask our sponsors to be understanding when they do.
One thing is certain, every child will have a birthday each year - and we always make sure they have a gift.
 Cards and letters from sponsors are welcomed whenever they arrive and cause great excitement.