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Byron Bay resident Ed Ahearn believes that every child, no matter their race, religion or background, deserves an opportunity.

A successful local business owner, Ed is one of the founders of local charity group African LEAF Incorporated (Love, Educate, Acknowledge and Feed) – founded in Byron in 2004. The story behind the group's establishment is quite profound.

“It all began when a dear friend of mine took a world trip back in early 2004,” says Ed, retrospectively. “She went to all the major destinations – New York, Paris, London - and then she ended up taking an unplanned sojourn to Kenya.

“She’d been invited to the opening of a rescue centre in the Kawangware Slum, on the outskirts of Nairobi… there were all these children, they were homeless and had been abandoned - all three and four years old.

“She stayed on there for a quite a while, assisting as a volunteer and when she eventually returned to Byron, she showed us the photos from her trip. They were just dreadful – images of these large extended families living in ‘cube’ houses with no ventilation. It’s bloody hot over there and the families all share one bed, they cook on these tiny coal barbeques and wash themselves in one communal space with buckets of sewerage-contaminated water from rivers,” Ed says.

“You can imagine the poverty – there’s no decent food, they travel long distances to buy water and the photos we saw of these really ill, starving children just spoke volumes about how unsanitary the living conditions are.” HIV/AIDS is also very prominent in Kawangware Slum.

“I couldn’t get the images out of my mind, all I wanted to do was go there, see it for myself. Life is so good here in Byron, we take it for granted. We wanted to share it with them, to provide somewhere beautiful for these vulnerable and abused children to grow up,” he said.

He sent a thousand bucks over for them to purchase a new water tank for the rescue centre but it didn’t feel like enough, so three months later, he and Paul travelled over there. “The rest is history,” said Ed.

African LEAF Incorporated was established and the small group of locals began sending money to the rescue centre. “People heard about what we were doing and the community were really receptive – the donations came flooding in,” he says. “We combined the donations of locals with ours and over the last four years, we’ve implemented a sustainable food program and regular nurse visits for the children in the slum, medications, clothing and emergency housing for the children, as well as basic educational tools such as paper and books,” says Ed.

“Through the amazing generosity of people from Byron Bay, we’re currently paying for the education of 17 kids and African LEAF benefactors have now bought land in Africa, on the edge of the Nairobi National Park, on which to create a Children’s Village to one day house not only the 17 kids we’re already sponsoring but the goals is around 60 local kids, and that was our long term focus when we first started this organisation.”

The Environmental Children’s Village will be built to resemble an African village, as opposed to an orphanage or institution. “Our group owns the bore on the land, which will not only supply water for the Village but will also provide revenue to the Village through the sale of water.

“It’ll be environmentally conscious and self sustaining; producing its own food, generating its own power, having its own water, cows for milk and other food source animals,” explains Ed. It’ll support the local community through employment, money for small businesses creating traditional crafts, as well as workshops, health and hygiene support and education.

The children’s housing will be grouped so that there’ll be a range of ages together, to mirror a traditional African family, and will also offer accommodation for volunteers wishing to experience the project first hand.

“A list of required items for the Village will be available at the Green Garage (Ed’s business) and people from Byron will be encouraged to fill a container which will be on site at the Green Garage, before it is sent to Nairobi.”

On a local level, The Green Garage currently supplies food for the Byron Homeless Breakfast every Wednesday.

Ed encourages anyone interested to contact him. www.africanleaf.org.au

“There are many ways that people can support African LEAF,” he says. The charity group is planning their next trip to Nairobi at the beginning of next year.

See the movie! http://www.africanleaf.org.au/movie.html

Posted: Thursday September 4, 2008

Published: Sep 4, 2008 3:13pm by philippa.

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1 comment

Comments

  • great project

    My partner and i each donated 10 dollars for this a couple of years ago apparently that helped to buy 1square metre of land for the village. this is a really special project, it’s really good to hear they’ve purchased the land!

    Published Sep 4, 2008 7:03pm by lucy_byron

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