Just be a Child
Just be a Child (JBAC) is an incredible charity that primarily engages with local, Kenyan communities to establish opportunities in providing playgrounds and book filled containers which, with the help of the local community are converted into libraries.
After being put in touch with Lenka, the founder of JBAC, it soon became apparent that we had similar goals behind our projects. When I told Lenka of my Kits 2 Kenya scheme, she immediately wanted to become involved to help the community I met during my time in Mombasa by helping with the shipping of donated football equipment.
With the same inspirations for helping poor but aspirational communities, we realised that our ideas stemmed from our own, personal stays in Kenya which can easily be related to when visiting.
How did JBAC start?
During Lenka’s trip to Kenya in November 2012, she was moved by the happiness of the children she met despite the fact they didn’t have what others would call basics such as books, school resources and play areas. The community was poor and there was no space or money for such facilities and this is what sparked Lenka’s inspiration to set up ‘Just be a Child’ upon her return to the UK. She invested her entire inheritance in February 2013 and since then has benefited multiple Kenyan communities with her work.
What do they do?
Once JBAC establish a good relationship with community leaders from villages that meet their criteria, they move on to the next step where they create a playground and then observe the interaction and engagement by the locals. When satisfied with this, the next stage is to ship over a book filled container which has been packed by volunteers in the UK. With a combined help from volunteers and members of the community, this is then transformed into a library. The charity also brings together both adults and children by hosting arts & crafts, sports days and writing competitions. JBAC believe that with inspiration, knowledge and hope, they can lead themselves out of poverty.
What has been achieved so far?
JBAC have already built three libraries in Ukunda along with playgrounds for the communities of Dzunga, Chidzangoni and Malalani. The success of these have encouraged Lenka and her team to continue with these plans in other parts of Ukunda. The JBAC charity also donates books and learning materials directly to 71 schools which has seen a huge improvement in children’s knowledge and creativeness. Their work has also encouraged the parents of many of the children to return to adult education and has taught and improved their English language in reading, writing, spelling and speaking. JBAC’s work has clearly stimulated the learning and teaching of children, adults and teachers as well as creating a growing network of volunteers that love getting together to help pack up the containers and come up with ways of improving their future plans.
Current projects and future plans?
The year 2018 has been another busy year for JBAC where they have seen their 3rdlibrary be shipped, transformed and painted in Malalani. They even got to break some of their own personal records! Not bad eh? Here’s a closer look at what they managed to do:
- Got the largest number of volunteers to help on the loading day
- Sent 30,000 books
- Cleared the container from customs in 11 working days
- Offloaded the container from the lorry in less than an hour
- Painted it inside and out in 1 day
- Completed the entire conversion in 16 days
If you think that isn’t enough, they’ve already started with the preparation of their 4thlibrary which is in the process of getting ready to go out in 2019. In fact, they aim to build 10 libraries just in Ukunda before moving on to different locations and maybe different countries!
In the time I have gotten to know more about Lenka and her charity, I have learnt a tremendous amount from making a difference to children’s lives to the complications of setting up such schemes. Delivery delays, container releases, import taxes, shipping complications and weather are just a few obstacles that Lenka and her charity have hit during the processes of creating libraries. However, to know that you are responsible for making such a positive influence on so many is enough to remind you to keep going.
How can you volunteer/donate?
There are so many different ways to get involved with Just be a Child, whether you want to donate books, toys or stationary for the libraries, invest your time in helping in the UK or Kenya, volunteer to listen to children read in Kenya or maybe fundraise to help reach their £15,000 target! To inspire children, expand their imagination or to read more about JBAC, please visit: http://justbeachild.com/help-inspire-kenyan-children/
Like myself, I’m sure you can connect to the vision and goals of Just be a Child and help share Lenka’s story. She is very open minded in listening to other people’s ideas and plans and I couldn’t think of a better charity to work alongside with in my own project, Kits 2 Kenya.
Just be a Child: www.justbeachild.com