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A mountain trek in aid of Kenyan orphans

The home looks after 180 children

Supporters of the Sophia Foundation for Children are continuing their long tradition of helping the foundation’s orphanage in Kenya with a rather more strenuous event than usual.

With the motto ‘Journey of Hope: From Cyprus to Kenya’ seven volunteers will embark on a two-week visit to Kenya on February 11.

During their time, the volunteers will visit the shanty town of Kibera where the foundation’s activities started and the Nakuru juvenile prison where many of the orphanage’s 180 children come from. Under the guidance of trained personnel they will then help out at the orphanage, the Makarios Children’s Home

But the culmination of the trip is a six-day ascent of Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa which is visible from the orphanage.

Actor Andreas Phylactou had the idea for the journey in 2013 but due to personal reasons the project only got off the ground in 2015 when a group of volunteers started some serious planning.

“Our journey has already begun because for some time now we have been training,” Andreas Phylactou told the Sunday Mail.

The preparation for climbing the mountain involves physical training which is provided for free by one of the group, experienced mountaineer Marios Hadjipetris. But, according to Phylactou, most of the training is mental.

“When your body gets tired, you need to have the support of others,” he explained, adding that past group climbs have shown that people who don’t bond well in the group they travel with tend not to make it.

No training is possible though for meeting with the children who have been abandoned and often abused.

Marina Shacola, president of the foundation, doesn’t expect any problems though. “Once you work there you get a lot out of it,” she said, adding that seeing the children’s progress gives people enormous amounts of energy.

Phylactou is also optimistic. “It is important to enjoy the journey,” he commented, “and I have seen videos with the kids who are so hopeful so it can only be a positive experience.”

The volunteers aim to find out on the spot what the best ways to help are. They also finance the trip themselves, three of them totally pay their own way while Qatar Airways has offered four free air tickets for the others.

“No money donated to the foundation will be used to finance the trip,” was the first thing both Shacola and Phylactou said when talking about the project.

Two members of the group are from media company GeekOtopos which has undertaken to film the whole trip and produce a documentary which is going to be screened at special events in cinemas and schools. This is, according to Shacola, a great new way to motivate people to give much needed donations to support the Kenyan children.

Another participant who has an extensive experience in building aims to assess the situation of the facilities at the orphanage in order to go back with a Cypriot team of builders later on to do some work on the buildings.

It is also an opportunity for some of the group who sponsor children in Kenya to get to know them. Phylactou for one has sponsored a child since 2009.

The 180 children need all the support they get and the foundation aims to provide as much as possible.

“The aim is not just to keep them alive,” Shacola explained, “but to give them tools to change the vicious circle of poverty and violence. They have been abused in the streets and abandoned, many have HIV or were in prison. We put them all in schools, at some stage they all go to boarding schools so they mix with children from different backgrounds.”

They are then encouraged to go to college, have a technical education and attend universities. Currently four of the orphans attend universities, something that is very encouraging for the foundation. It is a huge step those children have taken but it is also a challenge because a lot of money is needed to finance the studies.

Contributions can be made through the website of the Sophia Foundation at the link https://sophia-foundation.com/donations/ or via https://www.facebook.com/cyprustokenya/

The wording ‘”journey” or “journeyofhope” should be included as reference.

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