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Pendo runs to meet Elizabeth when she arrives at the Happy House in Watamu, Kenya and (below) Pendo with Elizabeth.
Pendo runs to meet Elizabeth when she arrives at the Happy House in Watamu, Kenya and (below) Pendo with Elizabeth.
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All this week The Gazette will be highlighting the life-saving work of Blackpool woman Sue Hayward who, with your help, opened a children’s home in Kenya.

Here former Gazette Women’s Editor Elizabeth Gomm explains why she quit journalism to help.

Elizabeth with sponsor child Pendo

Elizabeth with sponsor child Pendo

THE little girl runs towards me, her arms flailing like a windmill, until she gets close enough to jump into my arms.

She is Pendo, my Kenyan sponsor child.

Pendo is five and lives with her 57 “brothers and sisters” at the Happy House Children’s Home in Watamu, Kenya.

I was there on the day she arrived, shy and withdrawn, in March 2010.

Happy House

Happy House

Her elderly grandmother, unable to work and in failing health, couldn’t support her three orphaned grandchildren.

Pendo’s older brother and sister Samson and Lily had arrived at the Happy House two weeks earlier and seemed to have settled in. But there was something missing in their lives. Their baby sister.

Red tape and difficulties in establishing Pendo’s legal identity had enforced their separation.

It wasn’t until they were reunited with their sister we could see true happiness shine out. In their smiles and in their eyes.

To witness such a wonderful moment, at first hand, was a privilege and a joy.

Since then all my travels have had only one destination – Watamu.

It’s an expensive resort on the Indian Ocean, but it isn’t luxury that lures me back.

It is Pendo and the Happy House kids who have stolen my heart. They hold it safe and, like a magnet, it draws me back, time and time again.

Kenya is a country of stark contrasts. Some people prosper, but many, many more live in the worst kind of poverty. The hardship and resignation is etched on the faces of mothers who face daily the impossible task of feeding their families.

Undernourished themselves, even nature’s source of food dries up when breast milk refuses to flow and their babies go hungry.

So many succumb to illness and disease. Resigned to death, they can only hope that someone will step in to care for those they leave behind.

Samson, Lily and my Pendo are among the lucky ones. Thanks to Sue Hayward, they have found a home at the Happy House where they are loved, respected and valued. Here they grow up with family, education and opportunity.

I was Women’s Editor at The Gazette when five years ago, almost to this day, I went to interview Sue about her Happy House dream. She had no land, nor plans, and very little money but today her Happy House is just as she described that day – and better.

Something about this inspirational woman, her work, and the children she was dedicating her life to, struck a chord deep within me.

I started to help in a small way and in 2010 gave up my job to become full time UK coordinator for the charity – working for love, not money. Apart from having my own two sons, this is the best thing I have ever done. Mine is a “job” that brings countless rewards.

Of these, my friendship with Sue, the kindness of others, my ever-strengthening bond with all our kids, and the certain knowledge that I am, in my own small way, helping to secure their future, are the greatest.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The Happy House has launched a ‘Find a Friend Appeal’.

It costs £20 a month to sponsor a Happy House child through Blackpool based charity, Children of Watamu (UK reg: 1098731)

You can download a sponsor form from the website: www.childrenofwatamu.net or please email sue@childrenofwatamu.net or elizabethgomm@childrenofwatamu.net.

You can also help by fund-raising or making a donation.

Please call Elizabeth Gomm on 07905 130589 (10am-6pm).