by Raymond Janis
Village Beacon Record
Attendees of the gala made contact with the children at the Jerusha Mwiraria Hope Children’s Home in Meru, Kenya, via Skype. Photo by Stacey Young.
The Rocky Point Rotary Club hosted the 5th annual Douglas J. McDonough Hope Children’s Fund Gala on Saturday, March 11, at the Inn and Spa at East Wind in Wading River.
This annual event benefits the Jerusha Mwiraria Hope Children’s Home in Meru, Kenya. Douglas McDonough was a former secretary of HCF who accomplished much for the orphanage despite being paralyzed.
Rocky Point Rotary Club president Kevin Mann detailed McDonough’s perseverance and drive in the face of his physical condition.
“Nothing ever stopped him,” Mann said. “No one ever even asked about his injury because he did everything,” adding, “He taught at BOCES in the middle school level for kids who got thrown out of their schools — in a wheelchair. He was just an amazing guy.”
Mann also outlined the central motivations for the gala, affirming that the annual event has been perennially instrumental in enabling educational opportunities for the children at Hope Children’s Home.
“The premise of the gala is to raise funds and provide educational opportunities for orphans in Kenya,” he said. “This event will supply enough funds to send 45 children with secondary and postsecondary education for a trimester,” adding, “We raise a tremendous amount of money for that cause.”
Mann chronicled the orphanage’s history, stating the earliest organizers first laid plans for the home in 2000. In 2003, the organization became a 501(c)(3) charity, and in 2005 the organizers opened the orphanage.
Children entering the home come from varied and often difficult backgrounds, according to Mann. “There’s a wide range of how they arrive at the door,” he said.
Moreover, membership has grown considerably during its nearly two decades in operation. “The goal was 18 children,” Mann said. “We have [over] 90 today.”
One of the unique characteristics of HCF is its organizational structure. The U.S.-based operation is entirely volunteer driven, with salaries paid out exclusively to employees in Kenya supervising the care of the children.
“In this particular case, everybody can say that 100% [of the proceeds go] to the cause,” Mann said.
One such HCF employee is Veronica Ntinyari, who runs the orphanage. In a series of text exchanges via WhatsApp, Ntinyari explained how the funds from the gala would assist the children under her care.
“The funds raised help to support the orphanage in paying their school fees, food, clothing, medical care and other necessities in the home,” she said.
Sonia Saleh is district governor for Rotary District 7255, which covers 62 Rotary Clubs throughout Long Island, including Brooklyn and Queens. She praised the Rocky Point Rotary for its initiative concerning HCF.
“The Rotary Club of Rocky Point has taken this cause on,” she said, adding, “This Rotary Club is all about peace and internationalism, which is so wonderful.”
Mann maintained that the HCF gala closely corresponds to the stated purpose and vision of Rotary International. “It fits very much under the concerns of Rotary, and literacy is one of the major components of Rotary as well,” he said.
Saleh added to this sentiment. “Rotary is about two things — it’s about service and community,” the district governor said. “The point is we come together for service first, and then there are the community and friendships, which is beautiful.”
Through HCF and Rocky Point Rotary, Ntinyari said she feels associated to the people of Rocky Point and the greater Long Island community.
“Me and the children feel connected to Long Island community members, especially during their visits in Meru,” she said.
To learn more about Hope Children’s Fund or to make a donation, visit hopechildrensfund.org.