In 2003, Dana Feminová visited Rusinga Island. At the very beginning of the Island of Hope project there was a dream that she shared with the local volunteers from the Humanist Movement and a small mud cottage, provided by the community. In this very cottage, thanks to the work of volunteers which has been absolutely essential and invaluable throughout the whole project, the first humanist nursery school for about 20 children was established. Subsequently, in 2005, the local community donated to the project a piece of land in the south-west part of the island (in the area of Kamasengre).
The first money for the Island of Hope project came from small private donors (contributors to the Adoption of African children program – project of distant support) and they were used to buy necessary material. The first construction was made by self-help. An educational centre with a canteen and two sleeping wards for the children and staff were built first.
The educational centre came to existence at the beginning of May 2006, when the nursery school moved there from the cottage. In autumn 2006 the centre was successfully electrified by barrier-layer photocells thanks to the project „Electricity from the Sun for schools in Kenya“, which was financed within official developmental co-operation with the Czech Republic. This action also brought computers and a printer. A very important step for the health of the community was the construction of a water clarifying plant, a septic tank, showers and toilets. The orphanage accommodated the first 21 orphans in January 2008. Another 12 children found their new home there in January 2009.
The next building to construct should have been a medical centre, but after excellent experience with the nursery school teacher using Montessori methods, the community agreed on giving priority to a primary school construction- as a follow-up high-quality education with a non-violent approach. The primary school was opened in January 2009.
In 2009 the Czech government approved a grant, within the official humanitarian aid, for constructing and equipping a health centre. This part of the project had to be finished by the end of year 2009, and so in January 2010, a clinic with a laboratory, an outpatients´ department, and a sleeping ward was inaugurated. Two months later, the health centre started to work fully. The Slovak government approved a grant for the initiatory operation of the health centre (especially for purchasing medicine, medical material, and salaries for the local personnel). The help of Slovakian government have continued through the SlovakAid agency; it has been approved until November 2015.
In 2011, a new nursery school building was built and three classes of the youngest children moved to the new premises with a terrace, where the children could rest in the afternoon. The emptied rooms started to be used by an extended elementary school. Within the project of the health centre, another building was finished – a house for accommodating doctors, volunteers and foreign visiting students (interns). The Kenyan government rewarded our project as the best developing project in the area and provided us with money, which was used to establish a new breeding pond with Tilapia fish (1, 000 pieces) and to buy feed for them. Thus our farm expanded by fish breeding. In 2012, the Kenyan ministry of fishery donated another fish breeding pond.
Thanks to financial means provided by SlovakAid, a new sleeping ward for orphan girls was built, with the capacity of 40 beds. After the girls moved there, the orphanage was able to take on new needy children.
In 2013, the quality of education with emphasis on new methods of experiential education and especially non-violent approach towards children continued to improve – non-violent communication, removal of punishments and an extreme emphasis on results and their comparison. A seminar for teachers took place, and the focus was put on the preparation of 8th graders for their final exams. All students were able to pass their exams and were accepted to high-quality boarding high schools. The non-violent approach celebrated success. Another goal was an expansion of the farm in effort to make the community centre sustainable and self-reliant; to provide high-quality and cheap food for the canteen so that the children would get higher-quality food while at the same time it would be possible to gain income by selling the surplus. In this way, the project would eventually be able to cover all its operating costs while ensuring high quality of the services offered and to become independent of the donations and grants from abroad. Thus the irrigation system for the vegetable garden plots was finished and thanks to a donation from the Czech Republic a tractor was bought and 8 hectares of fields were leased for growing corn and beans.
In 2014, the farm expanded by a poultry farm. At first 200 hens were purchased and later, when the hens started to lay eggs, another 200 were bought. Thus, the diet of the orphan children enriched with favourite fresh eggs for breakfast and the means obtained from selling the surplus eggs contributed to a greater variety of food in general. An adjoining plot was bought for the purpose of building a volleyball and a basketball court, and thanks to a private donor, the centre was able to get a new sports ground. After having discovered, that the canteen was statically damaged – severe cracks in the walls that could not be repaired- the whole building was dismantled and a part of the kitchen was repaired. Preparations for building a new computer lab and a library continued and the plans for a new canteen began.
Island of Hope – development of the project from 2003 to 2015
- 2003 The idea and the common dream of the founders of the centre are born, a nursery school for 20 children, run by volunteers, is established in a mud cottage provided by the local community
- 2005 construction work is launched on a donated piece of land
- 2006 nursery school moves into a new building of the educational centre
- 2008 first 28 children are accommodated in the orphanage
- 2009 primary school starts its education in a new building, another 12 children find their home in the orphanage
- 2010 new health centre is opened
- 2011 a new nursery school building and a house for accommodating doctors and volunteers are finished, first fish breeding pond is established
- 2012 a new girls´ sleeping ward in the orphanage with the capacity of 40 beds is finished, the second fish breeding pond is established
- 2013 another 32 children are accommodated in the orphanage, an irrigation system for vegetable garden plots is constructed, a tractor is purchased and 8 hectares or land outside the premises are leased, first seminar for teachers takes place, and 17 8th grade students pass their final exams and leave for boarding high schools
- 2014 8 new children are accommodated in the orphanage, 60 fruit trees are planted, poultry farm with 400 hens is established, and an adjoining plot is purchased for the construction of a volleyball and a basketball court, the damaged canteen building is dismantled and the construction of a new computer lab and library is launched
- 2015 the maximum capacity of the orphanage is filled – currently, there are 70 orphans living here (40 girls and 30 boys), on the adjoining plot starts the construction of a boarding high school, a specialized seminar for teachers takes place, cage fish farming is launched and a craft workshop for making soapstone products is constructed
The Island of Hope in numbers
- Permanent staff of Island of Hope: 36 (management and administration: 2, watchmen of the premises: 3, canteen: 2, orphanage: 3, nursery: 3, school: 10, hospital: 9, farm: 4)
- Children in the orphanage: 70
- Children attending the nursery school: 100
- Children attending the primary school: 300
- Children eating in the canteen daily: 400
- Hens on the farm: 400
- The average number of eggs per day: 150
- The average number of fish from the farm: quarterly about 1, 000
- Fruit trees in the area: 120
- Registered patients of the clinic: 10, 700
- Patients treated per month: 900
- Births per year: 60
- Registered HIV patients: 300
- Vaccinated children per month: 30
- Patients with malaria per month: 400
- Patients with pulmonary tuberculosis per month: 8
- Pregnant women attending prenatal clinic per month: 15