Over the past eight years, Liu Yimenghan has been dedicated to helping poor children in Nairobi, Kenya. DONG JIANGHUI XINHUA NAIROBI Liu Yimenghan, a Chinese youth, said his affinity for the sprawling Mathare slums began when he began a journey in his college years in the area by acting as a volunteer math teacher for a year and later feeling the urge to continue and upscale his charity work there.
I had a community service lesson at college and had a community service lesson in Mathare. It was my first time in Mathare and I felt that maybe there was something I could do through my abilities, says Liu, 27.
At the age of 13 and studying in the East African nation, Liu moved with his family to Kenya, and equipped him with an in-depth grasp of local communities' culture, beliefs and value systems. His charity work has nourished the dreams of children in Mathare, an area Liu prefers to call the Dream Building Service Association, the co-founder of the Dream Building Service Association, now regards Mathare Nairobi's second-largest urban slum area as his second home despite its rampant poverty, crime and environmental pollution.
After converting classrooms made of iron sheets into ones made of bricks in Mathare, his work moved to focus on food, scholarships, mentorship and talent development for the children.
Liu says scholarships are provided every semester and aim to motivate children from poor backgrounds and their parents to value education because it is the gateway to success.
Three schools in Mathare have been renovated because of the efforts of the DBSA in the past eight years, where children have had free meals and received scholarships.
Liu said he has been involved in a partnership with Chinese charities and online fundraising that has ensured the sustainability of the charity work, for example, a feeding program, during an interview at Mathare Light Center, one of the renovated schools.
A child studies at a renovated school in Nairobi, part of the charity work Liu has been involved in. DONG JIANGHUI XINHUA The implementation of the school feeding program involved contracting local suppliers of staple foods who deliver them to schools for preparation into dishes by hired chefs. The chefs prepare two meals a day of breakfast consisting of porridge and lunch made of local staple foods like rice and beans.
Liu says meat, eggs and fruits are provided once a week to the children, thus improving their nutritional status while discouraging absenteeism from school.
During the lunch break at Mathare Light Center, children line up at the kitchen door to receive their free meals ugali, a local cuisine, and some vegetables and beef.
Kevin Oluoch, the deputy head teacher at Mathare Light Center, said the DBSA has provided free meals at the school since 2017, and that the feeding program has helped the children grow because they come from vulnerable families, which can't afford lunch and breakfast.
Oluoch says free meals have been a draw for pupils from poor households. The school has seen an increase in the number of students.
Oluoch says that the children get the energy to learn once they get food here in school, and that parents are happy to have their children fed in school, easing pressure on their meager daily wages.
Since 2016, DBSA has started to hold talent shows, soccer matches, art exhibitions, youth training and other projects in Mathare to help children pursue their dreams.
Some of these activities have been suspended because of the COVID 19 flu and the feeding program is the main charity work that is still operating now.
Liu says that DBSA's charity projects cover six countries in Africa, namely Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi and Nigeria, and the feeding program has covered more than 40 schools in the six countries.