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Helping Abused Children Heal in Kenya

When Ansally Kuria (Kenya, UWC of the Adriatic, Middlebury College) did an internship working with a Nairobi nonprofit that strives to prevent sexual violence and assist survivors, she found herself wanting to do more. The Gender Violence Recovery Center (GVRC), where she interned, had worked the with 2,847 abuse survivors the previous year — 45 percent of them children, most of them girls. “Sexual violence is a terrible thing to happen to anyone, irrespective of age,” Ansally wrote. “I feel I must take a step beyond empathy or sympathy, and do something to help these children heal.”

Back at Middlebury, Ansally developed a project proposal that would brighten, refurbish, and equip with toys the drab counseling rooms GVRC was using to work with child-abuse victims. The goal, she wrote, was to “provide a conducive environment where survivors of violence can really ‘just be kids,’ free to express themselves and, as such, begin their journey to healing.” She would also bring an awareness-raising education project about sexual violence to several Nairobi grade schools.

To raise money for paint, decorations, and play-therapy materials, Ansally turned to MiddStart, a new Middlebury College initiative that helps students raise money online for worthy projects. Ansally set a $2,000 goal in posting her proposal — and in 14 days, 80 people donated $2,070. The college’s Alliance for Civic Engagement gave $1,000 to fund the school-visit component, and the college president’s office added $1,600.

In Nairobi last summer, Ansally recruited students from three city high schools to help her paint and equip the counseling spaces in three sites where GVRC works with young abuse survivors. Her visits to three primary schools reached over 300 children, and her blog kept supporters updated at every stage.

“Ansally made such a great contribution to our work,” wrote Grace Wangechi, GVRC’s executive director, from Nairobi. “She mobilized other young persons to work with her, and the school activities equipped children with informationon child rights, forms of abuse, and how to play an active role in protecting themselves. “We are proud,” Wangechi concluded, “that she is a part of us.”