A BUNDABERG school teacher's vision of a sustainable orphanage in Kenya started to take a tangible form yesterday when the first building got under way.
The Umoja Orphanage comes after a two-year extensive planning phase and will be built on newly purchased land, which already has a water hole, electricity and more than 50 fruit trees including mangos and coconuts.
Umoja is Swahili for unity and togetherness.
Coral Cove's Cathy Booth, who bought land one hour south of the Kenyan port of Mombassa this year, said the first dwelling was being built this week for a caretaker to watch over her precious water hole and fruit trees while the rest of the buildings were being built.
The 54-year-old mother of three and grandmother, who teaches at Walkervale State School, said her passion for the orphanage was sparked when she holidayed in Kenya back in 2010.
"The poverty was horrific. I've lived in Papua New Guinea, but I've seen nothing like this. I could not walk away without doing something about it," Mrs Booth said.
"I came back and started raising money. Slowly the word got out."
Since that fateful sunny Kenyan day in October 2010, when the non-government organisation started, a Bundaberg board of directors has been established and money raised.
After extensive and careful research and several trips back to Kenya, plans were drawn up and the land was carefully chosen and bought.
"We purchased 17 acres of fertile land only 10 minutes drive from Diani Beach - a very popular European holiday spot," Mrs Booth said.
"So many European tourists go there. They love to visit orphanages.
"No one will see this without being touched. Often they return to their countries and raise money. They are an asset," Mrs Booth said.
Mrs Booth said the orphanage was being planned to house up to 60 children.
"It will have agricultural gardens and a school," Mrs Booth said.
"We want to set it up as a village.
"We are going to hire ladies, mostly widows including disabled mothers, so they can all support their children with the money they earn from the project.
Mrs Booth said the initiative was already changing lives.
"All the locals call me Mama," she said.
"We have a local project manager. He has been a wonderful asset."
Mrs Booth said she would return to Kenya twice a year for about three weeks each time.
"We are now desperate to raise $20,000 to buy a van to collect building materials and to eventually collect the orphans," she said.
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