Posted by Erik Jorgensen
Long-time Freeport Rotarians Kathy and Tom Wilbur opened a candy store in 1983, called Wilbur's of Maine, and in 2016 sold the business to their son, Andy and his wife. They are still involved in the business, which is celebrating its 36th year. At our Club on Friday they were speaking less about chocolate and more about a project overseas, which has been the focus of their efforts in recent years.
Kakamega is in the Eastern part of Kenya, and the Kakamega child care center was established informally in 2001 to care for AIDS orphans. Soon they were feeding 500 kids per week and as the program became developed, Rotarians teamed up with local residents with the goal of building an orphanage. Today that orphanage is complete, and houses just 48 kids, as the AIDS epidemic has waned. The program, however, has evolved and is now more vital than ever, serving more than 500 children in other ways, mostly through home-based services and different programming.
The Friends of Kakamega (photo at right: Erik Greven viewing exhibit of the featured strong Kenya women) is a group spearheaded by Rotarians from Freeport and Bethel Maine. They have collaborated with the orphanage for several years, developing programs that serve early childhood through high school and young adults, all with the aim of helping the youth of Kakamega develop resiliency, education and skills. Their current program focus is an initiative to sponsor the training of farmers, especially young women, who are provided with micro-grants, materials and training to establish small agricultural businesses, which might start with chickens and evolve into larger scale farming, such as having a cow.
Women are ideally suited for this work – men need to travel to find any chance of employment, so women are often in their home communities with time on their hands. The opportunity for meaningful entrepreneurial work has been warmly received and many of the trainees have gone on to show success.
The Wilburs are hoping that other Rotary Clubs might become involved. Clubs and individuals can participate financially as donors with one-time contributions or as on-going sponsors of students, helping see kids through the costs of high school and college. More information is available at: