Heathfield pair win top award

Roger and Lesley photographed in Kenya
Roger and Lesley photographed in Kenya

A Heathfield couple have been named ‘Most Deserving People in the UK’ in a national competition.

Roger Dann and his wife Lesley from Cuckmere Rise won the top award in a competition run by Damart.

The couple have devoted the last 15 years of their lives to helping the destitute street boys of Kenya, and have been responsible for setting up two safe houses in the country to offer shelter to children as young as five years old who are struggling with life on the streets.

Following nearly ten years of work in the country, the couple set up their own charity, Harambee for Kenya in 2007. The charity depends solely on sponsorship and donations. Harambee is Swahili for ‘all pull together.’

Roger, who is a member of the maintenance team at the Ashdown Park Hotel, commented: “These boys have no identity, and can often be seen scavenging in rubbish tips and live in constant fear of being beaten. Thousands of children live on the streets for many reasons including being orphaned by AIDS or they have had to fend for themselves because there is only one parent who is unable to care for them. Some have even been ill treated by their own parents. They are often seen begging and scavenging on rubbish tips for food.”

Since 1998 Roger and Lesley have worked closely with Kenyan adults who have been supporting these young people in caring for their needs.

Roger explained: “This is not easy as many of the adults are living on the breadline themselves and have their own families to support. We plan to provide safe houses in areas where young people are homeless. We will ensure that each project is working well, with the right support, before moving on to others. These young people have been let down by adults all too often. Harambee for Kenya is not prepared to do them the same injustice.When many people think of Africa, they tend to think about the animals and the beautiful landscapes. Tourists do not generally see all the realities.”

The charity hopes to continue its good work in 2014 by creating drop-in centres for the street boys, so that they have access to medical care, clean clothes and rehabilitation.

The amazing couple were rewarded with a trip of a lifetime to Iceland for their outstanding efforts.

Ben Booker, General Manager at Ashdown Park Hotel, commented: “Roger and his wife are true philanthropists. They work tirelessly to make a difference to young boys’ lives in Kenya and are very worthy winners.”

For more information about Harambee for Kenya, or to make a donation, please visit http://harambeeforkenya.org