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Nanna’s ‘great love’ aids Kenyan children

Main: Barbara Armstrong is about to return to Kenya to help build better lives for children at the Equator Special School in Kenya. She is surrounded by “toys I’ve collected at garage sales”, which are the maximum weight as far as her luggage is concerned. Cash donations can be made at the ANZ Bank. Image: Judy Myers. Inset:
Building a classroom. Image: Contributed.
Barbara Armstrong is not deterred by the civil unrest in Kenya, following the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta: she departs for her sixth visit to the country on August 29. The South Grafton resident says she expects “things to quieten down by the time we get there”, although she recalls one “frightening” incident during a past visit. “People came past and bashed the bus with branches; we were on the floor terrified,” she says. However, she was subsequently told that hitting the bus with branches was more of a celebration than an attack. “It would have been rocks if they were unhappy,” she was told. Her ‘work’ during her trips to the country in 2004, 06, 09, 11 and 13 has helped improve the lives of Kenyan children at the Equator Special School for Children with Hope, at Rang’ala. Barbara is seeking donations from like-minded people, to assist with whatever project can be completed. “Last time there was enough money for two water tanks,” she says. “My idea this time was to get a water tank into the ground so they can pump water from the ground. But I have to wait until we get there to see if it is feasible. “Whatever we have available in funds we use for whatever they need at the home.” A letter of appreciation from the school, following the 2009 visit, says: “On behalf of the Board of Governors, Parents, Teachers and Pupils of Equator Special School, I wish to appreciate very highly your contribution and donation to the pupils of this school during the time that you were part of the Equator family.” The letter itemised Barbara’s contributions, which included funds to help construct a classroom, playthings and learning equipment, a shaving machine for all pupils, home clothes for pupils, etcetera. More pertinently, “great LOVE for the handicapped children” is emphasised. “Long live South Grafton High School, long live Grafton and the Clarence Valley, long live Nanna,” pre-empts the signature of the school’s head teacher. “Clarence Valley has been very good,” Barbara says. “They’ve donated so much previously that we have built a classroom [pictured], supplied a cow and a calf, we’ve built water tanks; we’ve supplied things like hair clippers and knives, forks and spoons.” Barbara laughs when asked about her motivation to travel to the other side of the world to do her charitable work. “I’ve asked myself that question a lot of times,” the 79-year-old says. “It’s something I wanted to do for years and because of family commitments I couldn’t do it. Then I had the chance to go with World Youth International [in 2004] – they were all laughing, world youth and I was 66.” She is donating her time and effort at a personal, non-affiliated level and travels to her destination with “another girl who goes with me; she has her own project in a different part of Kenya”. “She’s an ex nurse from Taree, Sue McKenzie, and we’ve travelled together a couple of times back to Kenya. We’ve met other volunteers and we all do it on our own now.” People who wish to make a donation to assist Barbara in her quest can do so at the ANZ Bank. “I have all the receipts [for how donations have been spent] and I don’t have any administrative costs,” she says. “There is a special account for the Africans. To make a donation people must quote the account number: BSB 012645; account no. 466016354.