CHILDREN’s author Tony Harris penned his six-part Wombat series hoping to open young eyes to the wonder of Australia’s unique native fauna and unleash imaginations.
Just a few years later the books have taken on another purpose: to help improve the lives of children more than 10,000 kilometres away escaping abuse, neglect and poverty.
Mr Harris has pledged to donate $5 from the sale of each book to Australian Genevieve De la Reux, who is hoping to raise $38,000 to open an acute care safe house outside Kenya’s capital Nairobi for babies, children and pregnant youngsters to receive rehabilitation and safety from sexual violence, sex trafficking, prostitution, female genital mutilation and child marriage.
“What’s happening in Kenya tears at my heart,” said Mr Harris, from Cardiff South.
“We have no idea how good we’ve got it here.
“When I heard there was a way to support Genevieve’s work to bring these kids back to a normal life?
“I said ‘absolutely’.”
Mr Harris visited Kenya in 2012 after a tip from friend Kaylene Korotkich, who runs non government organisation Fealty Community Development Initiatives.
Ms Korotkich mentioned the Baptist Convention of Kenya was looking for someone to teach residents how to use computers.
Mr Harris had started his working life as a fitter and turner at Stewarts and Lloyds, before moving into engineering and writing software.
“I was over there for a month and was staying in Helen and Boaz Omugah’s safe house for 50 children in Chemelil,” he said. “Some of the stories were unbelievable. There was one girl who had to walk for three days in a petticoat and hide in trees from hyenas to escape an abusive uncle.
“Eight-year old twins whose parents had died and they’d been left in the bush with nothing.
“One young guy had injured his leg and there were no hospitals, so he grew up with a mangled leg and had to walk three miles each way to work on crutches.
“We also don’t hear about the acid attacks on children – kids who don’t want to be sold into slavery having battery acid poured on them.”
Mr Harris hopes to raise about $5000 for Ms De la Reux’s 40-place safe house, which she wrote on her Go Fund Me page would “bridge the gap between hospital and school, ensuring the best medical care and stability is given to each child after trauma”. Once well, the children will attend a boarding school funded by Ms De la Reux’s foundation.
“They need more than just a building, they need a buffer zone around the house and room to play,” Mr Harris said.
“If you give kids hope then their hopes and dreams become larger than their reality.
“These children don’t wish for revenge, they want to give back to their community.”