The International Humanity Foundation (IHF)
Trip Start Mar 18, 2009
11Trip End May 14, 2009
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We are writing you this letter to share a set of facts about the International Humanity Foundation (IHF) with you, a set that especially concerns their Nakuru Center in Kenya. However, we must admit that we will concentrate on the dominant negative aspects, rather than the positive ones, which have been outlined on various websites in detail. The professional design of the IHF website (www.ihfonline.org) and the fact that there are insufficient amounts of critical commentary on the web caused every single one of us to be deceived. All of us had the best intentions in joining IHF. Helping the poor, donating our time and money for a good cause, learning about the poor... We are certain that you do too. Just like yours, our major problem was the lack of information. Please review the list of issues below carefully. We do not want you to suffer the intense disappointment that every one of us and many before us have had.
GENERAL ISSUES REGARDING IHF:
IHF has collected money for projects that do not exist. Although there are 6 sponsored classes on the website, there had been no class taught at the Nakuru Center, at least for the past 4 months. An externality of this dire fact is that volunteers could not do what they came here for, to teach that is. The Survival program (animal donations) has been sharing the same fate as the classes, at least for the past 3 months. Since December '08, more than USD 8,000 has been donated for the purchase of 200 goats, 180 chickens, 6 camels and 5 cows, of which none were bought, at least until the end of April.
IHF has redundant policies, which officers defend zealously. We emailed the head of Donated Hours stating that it did not make sense for us to do 4 international hours (fund-raising through generic emails) every day, since we did not have internet access at the center and since there were so many fundamental issues that had to be tackled on-sight. In return, we were offered no explanation and were told that we would be asked to leave if we did not complete them. Moreover, an officer was complaining about the Blackberry bill. We told her that kids were caught playing games on it. We added that it made more sense to buy a broadband modem and cancel the Blackberry, as it would be easier to monitor the kids and as volunteers needed to do their international hours. In an excessively imperative tone, we were told that the Blackberry was to stay. The officer felt that an explanation was not necessary.
The lack of organization and the lack of professionalism is mind-blowing. Nobody seems to know anything and it is a grand puzzle to figure out who has the more reliable information, if any actually do. For instance, the Sponsor Letters Team kept asking for letters from kids who had not been at the Center for some months. We received an email from one of the officers asking us to go to Pokot (where most of our kids are from) and buy hundreds of animals, yet nobody could tell us whom was to receive the animals and when the necessary funds would be wired etc.
GENERAL ISSUES REGARDING THE CENTER:
The Nakuru Center does not even have a government license, because it does not meet the "Kenyan" requirements. The Children's Department was planning to shut down the Center until renovations took place, the land was properly fenced and there was a 1:1 bed to child ratio. Instead of undertaking these vital projects, IHF responded by asking a high-ranking local government contact to intervene. The Children's Department changed its mind instantaneously.
The Center neither has a mailbox nor a phone number. Many government officials carry the suspicion that this is a con organization. This is precisely why the post office has told us that they will not hand over the next donation parcel that we receive, until we become the owner of our own mailbox. Moreover, we never had phone numbers for IHF officers.
The Center is dangerous. Last week, a drunk man with a machete paid us a visit and bullied us. After we had no choice but to give him the money, he trespassed through our land and out of the main gate. The guard just watched. Both the volunteers'/staff's and the kids' lives are in danger.
Even when there is a slight disagreement with a volunteer or staff, the respective person is automatically threatened with being kicked out. When top management is serious about a person's leaving, they do not even give the person 24 hours to leave. Threats to send the police over follow.
The Center is under-funded. Current fencing could not prevent anyone from entering the premises. It is difficult to distinguish the buildings from ruins; half of the kitchen building has been taken over by rats; one of the four buildings is in such bad shape that it is impossible to use it without a thorough renovation. Windows are broken; toilets leak; many locks are missing. Kids eat the same food every day; most of the week they only get tea for breakfast. There is not enough personnel to take care of the younger kids; hence they play in dirt all day long, like street children. Younger children always wear torn up clothes and do not even have a ball to play with etc.
The insufficient amount of money that officers sent for the month of April, came in late. There were days when there was no money to feed the kids.
When the Director asked for monthly funds, first an officer made various excuses, including asking for all the sponsor letters when all have already been sent and stating that her month starts on the 10th although she had sent money on the 4th the previous month. Then, the officer demanded a 13-year-old to approve the director's budget. It is bogus as to who supervises whom. The kids or the staff/volunteers?
Due to irregular dates of payment, the staff could not pay their expenses for April on time. Hence, volunteers had to loan them money so that they could pay their rents.
IHF is not the legal guardian of all of the kids living at the Center. Most of these kids are not orphans.
When we first came, there was not even a list of all the kids living here. IHF neither knew the exact number of children, nor their exact names.
Child pregnancy is a major issue at the Nakuru Center. Due to insufficient supervision, there have been at least 2 child pregnancies in the past 2 years. In both cases, the mother and the father have been residents of the Center. Baby Caro's mother was 13 when she gave birth.
The older kids are disrespectful, because an officer encourages them to report on the staff whenever a staff member does something that the children do not like. For example, if a staff member attempts to enforce some disciplinary rules her punishment may be getting fired. Consequently, the children experience a free-fall, which makes them not only disrespectful but also spoiled.
Exit strategies do not exist. Once the kids reach the age of 18 they need to leave the Center, as mandated by the government. However, when they reach this stage, their only options are returning to their families in one of the least-developed districts of Kenya, namely Pokot, or pacing the streets of a larger city.
We wish you better luck than what we have had,
Anonymous ex-Director, Nakuru Center
Anonymous ex-Sponsor and ex-Volunteer, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Murat Bilgincan, ex-Volunteer, email@example.com.
Janika Tamm, ex-Volunteer, firstname.lastname@example.org.