Geoffrey Kiiru and his dream for the Big Rhino Children’s Community
Geoffrey Kiiru is a young man with a big heart. His passion and dedication to improving the welfare of vulnerable children in slums is captivating. In 2008, he was compelled to start the Big Rhino Children’s Community, to provide a safe and enabling environment for orphaned and vulnerable children from slums in Nairobi, to realize their potential through education and sports.
Geoffrey was born and brought up in the slums of Mathare, an informal settlement in the City of Nairobi. His mother, a single parent, was jobless and struggled to provide for him, his two brothers and two sisters. They would occasionally be locked out of their house due to lack of rent. One of their neighbors, a hardworking charcoal seller, would often assist in paying the rent and buying food, while still taking care of his family. Two other neighbors decided to pay school fees for Geoffrey and one of his brothers. They completed their primary school education and started high school. Unfortunately the sponsors could not continue paying school fees for them due to family constraints. The brothers dropped out.
He had friends who worked as golf caddies at the Muthaiga Golf Club. They coached him and his brother how to play golf and be a caddy. This earned them a little money which they used to finance and complete their high school education. They also funded their two sister’s high school education and also helped them complete a catering course after high school. Back at the Golf Club, the brothers signed up for club competitions, won a few trophies and prizes. Geoffrey was outstanding as a leader. Fellow golf caddies elected him to be their Captain and National Coordinator.
Whenever he would go back home he would meet several hungry kids from the slums. He would take them to a nearby food kiosk and buy them meals. To afford the daily meals he spoke to the owner of the food kiosk who agreed to feed the children daily, on credit to be paid at the end of every month. The kids gradually trusted him as their brother and told him their challenges in the slums. Some of the kids were orphans, some homeless and others had single parents. He gave a few of the kids some of the t-shirts he won as prizes in the golf competitions. Within a short while, more children came to him for help, including street children who got money from begging in town. Many more would converge at the local playground to play soccer and other games. Others were idle, sniffing glue.
Geoffrey and his fellow caddies would get the children together, play and interact with them, to better understand their individual lives. He was burdened by the need to take action. He introduced the kids to the game of golf, using his networks and goodwill to have the kids play at various clubs. He also encouraged those with parents to insist on being taken to school. Some of his friends: John Kilonzo, Rooney Fahim and Sarah Wambui joined him. John too was born in the slums. Rooney had grown up at an orphanage. Sarah lived in the slums and had hosted a few underprivileged children. They formed the Mathare Slums Foundation, later changing the name to Big Rhino Children’s Community (BRCC), a non-profit organization which aims to build solid foundations of life for marginalized children in the city. They got 68 orphans and vulnerable children (girls and boys ages 4-22) out of the slums and off the streets and are providing them with a nurturing “family style” environment, which offers the basics, housing, food, clothes, education, sport and social skills. After just two years these kids have achieved miracles … many are in the top 5 per cent in their school classes and, collectively, they’ve won dozens of trophies for their newly acquired skills in golf, soccer and sportsmanship/social teamwork. Three local universities, including the internationally prestigious United States International University have included BRUC in community service programs for their own students … thus involving university students assisting with studies, international social and daily living skills, mentoring and other skills. Three girls have won scholarships to universities and two children are boarding at a secondary school on bursary funds, due to their scholastic performance.
The Nancy Ellen Crooks Foundation has “adopted” the BRCC as a project, with the intention of helping Geoffrey secure resources to provide education support, develop talent and life skills through sports, and build a permanent home for 60-80 children. His dream is underprivileged children will receive the building blocks to establish a solid foundation to their future success in life… as successful farmers, doctors, corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, professors, electricians, aeronautical engineers, community leaders, professional sportsmen, or whatever else they aspire to; and all with the “heart” of a Big Rhino.
Big Rhino Children’s Community
P.O Box 41651, Muthaiga, Nairobi
T: +254 721 987 958