Muhidin and Abdisalan are ambitious pupils at an orphanage in Garissa, Kenya – a county that hosts over 648,000 refugees and is home to Dadaab, one of the oldest and largest refugee complexes in the world.

Muhidin is the eldest of his four brothers and two sisters. He lost his father at the age of three and when his mother re-married three years later, her husband could not provide for all of the children and so two of her sons joined the children’s home.

Abdisalan’s story is similar. His father died when he was eight, and his mother struggled to earn enough to provide for the four children still living at home.

“We are nine in our family,” he says. “My three sisters are married and two of my elder brothers have finished high school and looking for jobs. My two young brothers and sister live with my mother.”

“My three younger siblings attend a duksi (religious) school as my mother cannot afford to take them to a primary school, while I am a pupil at Alnajah Children’s Home.”

Looking to the future

For vulnerable children like Muhidin and Abdisalan, a place at one of Garissa’s orphanages – some of which, like Alnajah orphanage, were set up directly by local communities – means a chance to build a brighter future.

“I will study hard and ensure I join a university and get a good paying job. I want to help my siblings and family to have a better life,” says Abdisalan.

“I like Alnajah because I get both religious and secular education and this will help me achieve my dreams of becoming a pilot, God-willing.”

“It is a nice place,” adds Muhidin. “Being in this centre; I am assured that I will have food, shelter and education.”

“My favourite subjects are Maths and Science. I want to work hard and join a good high school, and later further my studies in pursuing a degree in Medicine. When I get a job God-willing I will help other orphans like me to access education.”

Improving education and living conditions

The boys are two of around 2,300 children benefitting from an Islamic Relief project to improve living and educational standards at the orphanage – as well as IKIPs day care centre.

The orphanage’s classrooms were overcrowded and its dormitories – where the children sleep – in poor condition, with worn out doors and floors, and a wall in danger of collapsing.

In our six-month project, Islamic Relief refurbished and made safe one of the centre’s boarding wings – which currently houses 450 children. Kitchen facilities were also installed.

Six pit latrines were constructed, improving hygiene and sanitation facilities, and a ten acre compound was made into a secure area in which children can play. The centre received 300 three-seater desks, and a dining hall and kitchen was built for the day care centre. Committees at both establishments were trained in maintenance and management.

“With the rehabilitation of the home, we will have a better place to rest and also to study at night as our current dormitory is in bad condition,” says Abdisalan.

Islamic Relief has been working in Kenya for twenty years, and opened its office at the height of the 2006 of the Horn of Africa drought.