Librarian books trip to Africa

Storyteller inspired by Nairobi children

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 09:22 14/05/2014
Jane Morrison
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
AFRICAN ADVENTURE: Jane Morrison, who works in the children's section of Elma Turner Library, is travelling to Africa.

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A Nelson grandmother is heading to Kenya to collect local's stories to inspire Nelson children.

Librarian Jane Morrison is off to East Africa for the third time, to check up on the friends she's made in the past, and tell their stories.

Morrison visited Kenya initially in 2007, where as part of a safari she had a quick visit to the New Hope Children's Centre, near Nairobi.

The visit made a lasting impression.

The home is for children whose parents had died or were unable to care for them. Some had suffered abuse and neglect.

"I was very concerned with the way one of the little boys clung to my arm and wouldn't let go."

She made a promise to the children that she would come back, and the following year, she did when the recession hit New Zealand.

"I realised is was just as easy to be poor there as here, and I had promised the kids I would return."

Morrison dedicated two years to volunteering at the New Hope Children's Centre. She was soon known as Bibi Jane (Grandma Jane).

The former teacher also taught at two local schools and after school everyday she would run arts and crafts classes at the children's centre.

Other than dedicating her time and skills she said just being there was good for the children.

"It's good for the kids' self-esteem, that kids know there's someone there who cares about them."

She is set to leave later this month for her third visit. She will spend 9 weeks travelling around visiting old friends and writing down their stories.

She is particularly looking forward to visiting fellow-grandmothers, as once children had left the centre, some would go and live with their grandmothers.

"Every place I would go to, grandmothers were looking after the village grandchildren. There was no pension, and no aid."

She said the grandmothers were "extremely impoverished" trying to raise their orphaned grandchildren.

"They are elderly, many with health issues, yet they make charcoal, grow tree seedlings, and do whatever they can. When I was there before, I came across frequent emergency situations, a child needing treatment for burns or malaria or malnutrition."

Morrison, who works in the children section of the Nelson Library, wanted to collect the children's stories as well as the grandmothers. She would also use photos taken on her trips.

"I want to write the kids' stories for children back here. To get them to really step in the shoes and encourage kids here to increase their understanding, that all kids just want the same things."

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Morrison also hoped to inspire grandparents in Nelson to support the Kenyan grandmothers, through financial, or moral support.

"I want to get their stories and share them with groups around Nelson. Retired people might want a one on one direct connection."

She said if they wanted to donate to the families, they could see where their money would go.

Morrison would also check in on an orphanage which children from Enner Glynn school raised funds to buy a milking goat.

She would also visit some of the children who are sponsored through Nelson's Purple Cake Day charity. Some of the money raised supports the Hilde Back Foundation in Kenya. Morrison will visit the children and teach a class in the secondary school they attend.

Anyone who wanted to donate to the grandmothers' Jane Morrison is off to visit, can contact her on griffnchips@hotmail.com

- Nelson

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