Home>Service> Global Love of Lives Award> 18th Fervent Global Love of Lives Award> James Kariuki and Melody Yun-Chung Chien (Mrs. Kariuki), Kenya and Taiwan— Saviors of Poor Children
Spreading Love to Africa

“The children in the slums only had one meal a day. This is what I kept mentioning. If their parents happened to find a job to do, they just left their children on the streets. Since these street children couldn’t afford to go to school, they starved and begged, waiting for their parents to get back from work to have a meal of sort. Sometimes they didn’t even have dinner, in which case they had to starve till the next day.
So we took action right away. With love we brought miracle to the slums; with education we brought change to the status quo; with hope we brought better life to the country.
--Mr. and Mrs. Kariuki
 
Education of Love

23 years ago, Melody Chien Yun-Chung (Mrs. Kariuki), a 28-year-old missionary, departed alone from Southern Taiwan of Pingtung to East Africa. Against her family’s opposition, she set out alone for missionary work in East Africa. There in Uganda she met her future husband James Kariuki, a pastor from Kenya. She also founded Compassion and Mercy Integrated Development Organization (COMIDO school) there to provide education for the starving and idle children in the slums of Nairobi, bringing hope to both children and their parents. At first, there were only 36 kids in kindergarten. Now there are more than 400 junior high and senior high school students. At first the classroom was in a muggy iron sheet house. Now there are New School Buildings equipped with facilities such as a library, a water tower, and toilets. Pastor James Kuriki and Mrs.Melody Kariuki took out their savings, together with public donation, to establish COMIDO school where children in the slums can receive education, be away from starvation, and even fashion brighter future.
Education Beyond Race

With faith, education and love for all children, Mr. and Mrs.Kariuki devoted themselves to raising money and resources to establish a school in the belief that education could pull these children out of poverty. Their deeds turned hatred to love, benefitting people of different race and thus providing a peaceful solution for race issue in Africa. Their love and contribution broke the limit of time and space, making them saviors of those poor children. This is the reason why Mr. and Mrs. Kariuki stood out from 2239 candidates, winning the 17thLove of Lives Medals of Taiwan Chou, Ta-Kuan Foundation.
 
Love Beyond Borders

Kenya is an African country very distant from Taiwan. While most Taiwanese still think of it as an underdeveloped country with wide fields and wild animals, Taiwanese missionary Melody Kariuki has been working to help the children and families in this remote country for 23 years.
Mrs. Kariuki graduated with honors from the Department of Information and Library Science at Tamkang University. As a pious Christian, she gave up her achievement in college and job invitations from three high school libraries. Despite the opposition of her family, she set out for Uganda alone to preach the gospel, and there she met her future husband Pastor James Kariuki from Kenya. After getting married, they served in a church in Nairobi, the capital of Uganda. As they served in the slums in Nairobi, they noticed the needs of the children there. These children couldn’t afford to go to school so they idled away their day in the village without knowing where the next meal was. They waited on the streets until their parents got back from work. The average wage of the residents there was less than 100 NT dollars per day, and they had to feed a family of 5 to 6 with this low wage. Most people from the slums couldn’t afford to go to school, so most kids under 10 were illiterate. They couldn’t even write their own names.
 
Hope is Everywhere

Mr. and Mrs. Kariuki noticed that these children were living in a harsh and helpless condition. Without receiving education, they wouldn’t have the basic knowledge to further develop professional skills. It is then impossible for them to leave the slums. So the couple made up their mind to stop this vicious circle by founding a school, which they believed was the best way to improve the children’s life. In 1998, together with the efforts of more than 20 parents, Mr. and Mrs. Kariuki took out their savings to establish COMIDO school for more than 30 children there. That iron sheet house was the first classroom in the region. The school started from kindergarten, and expanded one grade every year. Now the number of students has reached over 400. The students received 8-year basic education there, and many entered excellent senior high schools, which prepare them for university education.
COMIDO school offered free meals and education in the hope that the children would no longer be left helpless on the streets, or that they could develop the skill to create a better future. However, since most of the parents were jobless or in the danger of losing their jobs, the school had to pay the tuition for most of the students. In order to involve the parents and show them the importance of education so as to push them to work for children’s education, the school required parents to pay 400 Shillings (3 dollars) per month for children’s education.
 
From hardship to love

In retrospect, Mrs. Kariuki realized how harsh the condition had been. The weather in Kenya was either too humid or too dry. The iron sheet classroom could be boiling hot in hot weather. The sound of rain was too loud for the class to proceed because the students couldn’t hear the teacher. Since the budget of the school was limited, three students got to share one textbook instead of having their own. Humble as it was, a few years ago, the school opened at night (6-8 pm) for students who wanted to study after dinner. However, kerosene lamps were the only light at school. Even under such dim light, the students still studied very hard. Their endeavor touched Mr. and Mrs. Kariuki.
To create a better learning environment for students, Mr. and Mrs. Kariuki traveled around to raise money from the church and the public. Some organizations provided meals. Some donated books and helped establish a library which opened the way to knowledge for students. With more and more donations coming in, the school was able to establish facilities such aswater towers, so the condition gradually improved. The couple also invited international medical service groups at least once every year to help these students who couldn’t afford medical care. The couple were grateful for all the resources and care provided, but they also believed that only long term care from the public could really solve the problems of lack of educational resources and malnutrition in the country.
The Power of Education

The outstanding performance of the students from the first four years in COMIDO school showed that every student from the slums is talented and full of potential. In the first year, there were 6 entering public senior high school. The number increased to 10 in the second and the third year, and 8 in the fourth. These students studied hard even after graduating from COMIDO school. One of them was so outstanding that she received a scholarship, so that she had the choice to join one of the best universities in Kenya or study abroad in Germany. Not only was the student’s family excited to see that, the other parents in the slums also witnessed how education could turn the situation for the better. This proved that there was nothing that couldn’t be changed, so parents were more willing to send their children to school.
The presidential election held every four years in Kenya caused racial conflicts and tension among different races. Political turmoil and natural disasters in East Africa also complicated the students’ family backgrounds. For example, in recent years, more and more students were Somali refugees. COMIDO school also offered education to those girls from Muslim family who were originally forbidden to go to school.
 
Learn to be Grateful

Although the students in COMIDO school came from various races, they spent time playing, eating , doing homework every day together, so there were no racial conflicts among them. The students also serve as the bridge for their parents, creating common topics and expectations for them. Since the students learned to behave well, the community became a place of laughter instead of tears and condemn. Some students’ mother even served as volunteers at school.
COMIDO school valued not only students’ academic performance but also their character. The school also encouraged parents to pay a little of their children’s tuition so that the children could learn to be grateful for their parents’ efforts.
Mrs. Kariuki said that if the parents really couldn’t afford the tuition, the school would still unconditionally accept those students.
 
Miracle of Love

During the 23 years in Kenya, Mr. and Mrs. Kariuki saw the light of hope after every predicament, and thus gaining courage to go on. Mrs. Kariuki admitted that before she came, she had never imagined being so deeply connected to Africa, and that she kept learning and growing from her difficult life in Kenya.
Mrs. Kariuki shared an experience of a field trip where every child got one glass of milk, and this enough made them excited because it was the first time they got to drink their own glass of milk. The things that children in Taiwan take for granted are treasures for children in Kenya, so Kenyan children cherish every chance and experience. The biggest obstacle in the course of running the school is that their ability failed to meet their goal. Despite the horrible circumstances, Mr. and Mrs. Kariuki never stopped striving to give more and to create better life for the children there.
Although Mr. and Mrs. Kariuki have successfully used their meager income to provide education to more than 400 students, they still considered their efforts far from enough.
 
Call for Support

Seeing the children studying so hard, Mrs. Kariuki expressed her hope to further develop the school into a more complete and independent institution. Although it takes more time and support to achieve the goal, she will never give up. There is a Catholic school in Nairobi, which is the best educational institution there. Mrs. Kariuki hoped that COMIDO school can learn from it, opening the door to both the rich and the poor so that these children can further pursue their study.
The seeds of peace and education are already growing in COMIDO school and spreading across the slums. It is widely believed that education of love will soon bring peace to Kenya.
While the global economy was still unstable and the number of students enrolled in COMIDO school double every year, Mr. and Mrs. Kariuki still insisted in bringing peace and hope to Kenya and fighting poverty. They encouraged people to support what they were doing, because even little money can mean a lot to these children.
Mr. and Mrs. Kariuki sincerely invited everyone to adopt kids in the slums in Kenya, giving more chance for them to receive education. With love and support from all over the world, they believe that the racial conflicts will soon end, and that the miracle in Kenya will soon come.