The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as a fundamental right for every child due to its importance for optimal child development. Malindi Education and Development Association (MEDA), a local NGO in Kenya’s coastal town of Malindi knows this too well.
Through research, MEDA established that one of the reasons why the children from the region performed poorly was because they lacked a strong foundation in basic education at the early childhood development stage of between 0 -8 years. Due to the limited spaces available in the town as a result of massive construction of tourist resorts, no recreational facility in the entire Malindi area existed to cater for the children’s extra- curricular development. This meant that the only place children could spend their leisure time was the on the beaches which had its own negative traits such as child prostitution, child trafficking and perpetual begging.
Concerned by this trend, MEDA decided to address this challenge head on by looking for partners who were willing to support them implement the “Right to Play Project” to cater for the 11,000 children in Malindi, Kilifi County. The group approached different stakeholders and was finally allocated a piece of land belonging to a renowned philanthropist.
After acquiring the piece of land, MEDA had to contend with the challenge of raising resources to purchase playing materials such as carousels, jumping castles among many other play materials all valued at KES 4 Million.
“We looked for different partners to raise the money but most of them shied away due to the enormity of the project. We finally went back to our long term partner Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) to assist us with raising the funds which they gladly accepted but gave us a challenge; a challenge to raise half the amount to implement the project through a project dubbed Pamoja for change which loosely translated means Together for change.” Said Attas Ali, MEDA’s Chief Executive Officer.
This being a new concept of raising resources for the group from the conventional 100 percent grant development grant, MEDA had to have many consultative meetings with its stakeholders as well as the community at large who supported the play-ground project. Fortunately for the group, they had demonstrated financial prudence and integrity in all their projects and the community came on board fairly quickly. MEDA developed a fund raising strategy after several trainings by KCDF to guide them in raising their 50 percent match.
The organization embarked on a fundraising initiative by raising money from its existing income generating activities as well as targeting corporates and individuals from the expansive town. Another strategy that the group has also continued to use with considerable success was a fundraiser targeting the Muslim community who constitute close to 80% of the population in Malindi Sub-County during the Holy Month of Ramadhan.
“We had raised slightly over KES 1 Million in the previous year and though we were confident we could repeat the same feat, KES 2 Million was an overstretch for us. We planned the fundraiser dinner inviting as many community leaders, business people and the locals that we had networks with as we could. Close to 800 people graced the occasion raising a staggering KES 4.2 Million in three hours,” adds Attas.
This was a highlight not only for MEDA but also for the community at larger who developed the confidence of solving their own development needs without necessarily looking for “outside help”. The group deposited their KES 1 Million contribution which was matched by KCDF and within a year or so, the play-ground was operational attracting over 200 hundred children a day. This number doubles during holidays and festive seasons. The children pay a highly subsidized fee to access some of the games in a bid to generate revenue to keep the playground operational.
“Parents who used to lock in their children now allow their children to go to the playground to interact with other children as they learn other motor and life skills. There has also been a steady decline of societal vices that come with the tourist industry such as child labour or early prostitution as there is very little contact between the children and the perpetrators of this vices,” says Attas.
Encouraged by the response to the “Right to Play” project, MEDA initiated another project on constructing an Early Childhood Development (ECD) Resource Centre in the area, the first of its kind in the Sub-County, after realizing that poor performance of pupils in Primary School level was as a result of limited access to Early Childhood Development schooling as well as lack of ECD related resource materials.
The community was able to raise another KES 1 million the next year through the matching model to support an ECD project. The project entailed construction of a two-roomed facility with accompanying ECD learning materials as well as well as conducting refresher courses for the many untrained teachers. ECD teachers in Malindi who cannot access ECD books also find the center useful as they can access reference material.
With the two project complete, the performance of the over 14,000 children in Malindi Sub-County has improved tremendously but a bigger victory has been the community’s ability and confidence in addressing their development needs through community philanthropy.