The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

November 26, 2012

Enid residents help children at Kenyan orphanage

STILLWATER — The sounds of angelic children’s voices echoed into the deep Kenya valley.

Harmony so beautiful filling the air in rural Africa intrigued Christian missionary Mark Dawson so much, he followed the joyful noise over the hills to find an orphanage struggling to survive near Thika, a few hours north of Nairobi.

The home for orphaned and vulnerable children was created five years ago by pastor John Kameru Muhika, who felt the church should do more for at-risk youths. Known as Agape Mercy Children’s Center (AMCC), the home is a secure environment supporting 45 children, with more than 450 others on the waiting list.

AIDS and poverty have taken a severe toll throughout Africa, leaving many children without parents or guardians, creating overwhelming needs for assistance. Muhika and Dawson soon enlisted the help of their friends, Oklahoma State University graduates and Enid residents Nick and Maggie Jackson.

“In Kenya, people celebrate and cry with songs. Singing is a part of their daily life, and sometimes, that is the only way to express their happiness and sorrow,” said Nick Jackson, who works at Jacksons of Enid. “The fact that so many people have died of AIDS in Kenya is just as sad as the lives of adults infected with HIV and the families affected by the pandemic.”  

Children are no exception, and their lives have been negatively impacted by HIV. According to UNICEF, 15 percent of all child deaths in Africa are related to HIV. Being a child should be associated with happiness, laughter and no worries about tomorrow, but unfortunately, that does not apply to children affected by the HIV pandemic, Nick said.

“Kenya has the largest percentage of orphans due to AIDS than any other country on the continent of Africa,” said Maggie Jackson, who works for the Garfield County Health Department. “If the students at AMCC were not there, they would be working to support their families, no matter how young. They probably would be picking tea or sold into the widespread child trafficking in Kenya.

“Due to prolonged drought, poverty and unemployment, the responsibility of providing to the HIV/AIDS infected and affected orphans, at-risk children and other siblings have become a burden to many single parents and guardians,” she said.

Nick and Maggie met as Freshman Follies directors at Oklahoma State University, where both graduated. Nick also is a 2003 Enid High School graduate.

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