Kiwi's big vision for slum kids

Last updated 05:00 04/02/2013
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Life's essentials: Marcus Gregar-Rive's charity provides food and education for 150 children.

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Flat whites and Kiwi accents are what Marcus Gregar-Rive misses most.

The founder of Kitendo Children's Charity (KCC) – a food programme and school – was working in sales in Wellington before heading to Kenya for a volunteering stint in 2009.

It was on a trip to slums on the outskirts of Naivasha, northwest of Nairobi, where he was volunteering at an orphanage, that he found his reason to stay.

"KCC was a ripe opportunity to do something tangible in a slum where there had been minimal development," he said.

Education, food and nutrition, health and sanitation, and HIV and Aids awareness are some of the many essentials the charity provides to the 150 children.

"My intention when I went was to start a new career in international development," he said.

"I wanted to make a fresh start and needed some in-the-field work experience."

In his first 12 months at KCC, the progress was rapid.

"I basically decided to stay because I had a big vision for sustainability."

Volunteers are an important lifeline in Kenya – most recently Olympic rowing bronze medallists Rebecca Scown and Juliette Haigh spent time working at the school and teaching the children about life in New Zealand and about competing at the Olympics.

New Zealand will always be home for Mr Gregar-Rive, but he has no regrets about his lifestyle change – except that he really misses the capital's coffee.

He does, however, admit Kenya has its challenges as a developing country.

"I've found being a white in a country that segregates on a regular basis, and corruption that filters down from the highest levels, two challenges that have made living here difficult."

But the good moments make it worthwhile and the case of a boy called Merroni is his proudest moment.

"Merroni was in a serious roadside accident 12 months before we started at KCC," he said. "He needed an amputation, prosthetic leg and rehab.

"He was in a critical condition and we managed to save his life."

Merroni is now one of KCC's highest achieving pupils and dreams of one day becoming a doctor so he can help others.

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- The Dominion Post


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