‘We’re in a desperate situation’ – Stevenage woman’s urgent funding plea to help needy Kenyan children

Just Be A Child founder Lenka McAlinden, pictured with trustee Alex Lang, needs to raise up to £5,00

Just Be A Child founder Lenka McAlinden, pictured with trustee Alex Lang, needs to raise up to £5,000 after a donor withdrew his funding. - Credit: Archant

A children’s charity which is in a ‘desperate situation’ is appealing for help after promised funding to help needy youngsters in Africa was withdrawn.

Lenka McAlinden – who lives and works in Stevenage – founded Just Be A Child in 2013, following a trip to Kenya.

The charity aims to support children living in the country through various projects, including building playgrounds, providing toys and sports equipment, and building libraries.

Lenka who lives in The Lindens, said: “Both my parents died three years ago and I just needed solace and to go somewhere, so I went to Kenya for two weeks.

“I never expected it to have such an impact on me, but by the time I left I new I was going to do something to help.

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“I had asked some children what they wanted to be when they grew up and what their dreams were.

“They just looked at me with blank faces and it was so sad. They had never even held a book.”

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The 39-year-old had the idea of sending a shipping container full of books and other resources to Ukunda, and using the container as a library once it reaches the town.

Children in Stevenage have helped to collect more than 7,500 books, as well as hundreds of toys and thousands of arts and crafts and sports-related items.

Efforts to raise the £10,000 needed to complete the project were well under way when a generous individual came forward and offered to fund the project.

Lenka said: “It is our first major project, so we were a little naive and put the brakes on fundraising – but he has now withdrawn his support.

“By then we were in partnership with other charities, and for us it was the point of no return.

“We had already raised about £5,000 and paid for the container and the transport to Kenya, but we are about £4,000 to £5,000 short of what we need.

“We need money to cover the transport in Kenya, pay any additional duty once at port, and pay to transform the container into a library.

“Nobody there has ever seen a library, with 80 per cent of adults illiterate. We need to make it a place where people want to go. It will be like a community centre where children can do their homework.”

The charity’s trustees are approaching schools and businesses in the area, asking for help in raising the funds needed. Lenka said: “The container is en route and there’s nothing we can do about it. We are in a desperate situation really.”

For more information about the charity, or if you can offer financial help, visit www.justbeachild.com or call the Comet newsdesk on 01438 866200.

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