The Kitchen Table Charity

Judith Gibbons is a new friend – I haven’t met her in the flesh, but her grit and determination are evident. I’ll let you speak for yourself, Judith!

You can’t tell anybody about this Mrs Gibbons

Those word were spoken by a 6ft tall 15 year old youth who had ALMOST been banned from coming with me, on my second ever trip to Kenya in 1995. He did not mean “don’t tell them I was holding hands with two Pokot toddlers” but “There is no way to describe this ….you can’t tell anybody, you have to feel it! “

And that was practically the start of “Friends From Marich Pass”.

A school trip with 53 participants, living without electricity, with long drop loos, with open air cold showers, and the bites of mosquitoes; this resulted, on our return to England, in the students wanting to do something to help. They all got the message….WE HAVE SO MUCH….they have nothing. And a year later when I returned with the next trip, I took the money they had raised and bought mattresses for a dormitory in the village primary school.

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I have rummaged….and come up with some photos….to set the scene…. me grinding corn: me and students treading mud to make bricks;  some of the area in which we work; some of the people…traditionally dressed and otherwise; the” classroom” at the top of the mountain which took me four hours to climb and which the headmaster did 4 times a day, and the view from the top….to show where the school is situated ( we contributed about half  the cost of building 2 classrooms  as at the time they had only one, so lessons were in good old fashioned African style…under the trees) My knees were worse when my staff and students climbed the next year to see and open the finished classrooms.

Then in 2000, hampered by the fact that cash was being handed over or cheques paid to me personally, we had to do something about safeguarding the money…we formed Friends FROM Marich Pass. We chose “from”, not “of”, because the simple things that we were doing were helping not just the local school but schools in the wider district…we were spreading out FROM Marich Pass….and we were “from” Marich!

And then like Topsy…it grew.  With the unstinting help of Dr David Roden, (now deceased) the founder and owner of the centre where we stayed, we progressed to helping with Education fees. We vet applicants, successful ones HAVE to make some contribution themselves; we check progress and we pay fees directly to the appropriate establishment. Priority now is given to tertiary education students.

AT TIMES humanitarian needs dominate. A house is destroyed; we buy immediate necessities; medical bills to pay before patient  release; transport costs to a funeral; a coffin  is needed; a school runs out of maize this week; a school needs pencils. These are just a few of the hundreds of small things we have helped with, but our main aim is to help with educational opportunities. It all started because of English students, we want to continue with Kenyan students.

We are a MICRO sized Kitchen Table Charity, working from one computer. NO ADMINISTRATION costs are deducted, with the exception, sometimes, of buying jam jars, paying for one airline ticket per year (if funds allow) and occasionally paying for excess luggage so that free  goods collected in England can get to Kenya safely. We have no assets, we employ no one and ALL of the fundraising is organised by me and my family. We have no website (long story…and cost) but we do have a Facebook Page. EVERY penny that we have to spend is spent directly in Kenya; we never give money, we pay bills! We have no sponsors or rich patrons and we have only ever once managed to “win” a grant.

Everything we do today, needs doing again tomorrow, the story is MUCH longer than this brief introduction allows, but we can’t let go!

You can find more about the Friends from Marich Pass HERE.


Thank you so much, Judith, for sharing this with us. Your story has brought back many fond memories of when I stayed in that very same place about fifteen years ago, with a group of Kenya Museum Society Guides on our way to Koobi Fora!

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Can It Be True


“I’m calling myself Ruth to hide my identity. I’m 39 years old and I live in Kabubbu, Uganda and I’m from a family of nine brothers and sisters. Many years ago I lost my Mum and Dad from AIDS, it was awful watching them suffer and moan in pain without any pain killers or palliative care.  I always knew that my parents would probably die before me, but I wasn’t prepared for this! 

Soon after this my sister died of AIDS, then one by one I watched the  others die and each time they asked me for help, so that was when I bought a mobile phone. You may think that’s a waste of money but it was cheaper for me to phone them than to take a bus journey to visit them because transport is expensive here. I phone them to see if I really need to visit, or if I can organise others living nearby to help them, because my kids and I are living on just £5 a week.

When I visited my sick sisters I tried to help them, but I couldn’t afford the drugs they need. Later when the ARVS treatment were free in Uganda, I couldn’t afford to improve their nutrition to ensure the drugs were effective, so over the next few years I lost all six sisters and one brother. Now I have one surviving brother, but he and his children all have AIDS, and I’m helpless! You see I can’t help because I’ve eight children after, some are mine, some are my orphaned nieces and nephews and grandchildren.

Two years ago a visitor from England came to my home with Resty my neighbour. Of course all my neighbours knew who she was, but she hadn’t visited me before so I was shocked and speechless! I didn’t know why she came but I answered her questions and Resty translated. I soon realised she cared about me and my son Simon. She saw we slept on the ground in 1 room, so a donor bought beds  and bedding, and she organised to pay my rent and buy food.


Later I thought life was improving when my other son Jake got a labourer’s job. But a month later he was on the back of a lorry as it sped along at high speed, and he fell off and broke his neck. Then 2 months ago my oldest daughter Caroline died of AIDS, and I’m numb! All my money goes on burying my family and now I have her 1 year old son Ben to look after and he’s also AIDS positive.

I cried for the first time yesterday when I heard that my charity friends in the UK were fundraising to build us a house, they already have £800 of the £5,000 needed.”

Quicken Trust founders didn’t plan to devote 18 years in developing a village, but God led them there, and he has miraculously provided for the charity through amazing circumstances. Here, we know and care about individuals but also keep an eye on the big picture. We do things differently:

  • We ensure 100% of our donated funds go to the people and projects in Kabubbu.
  • We ensure donated funds aren’t used in marketing or advertising or to pay staff salaries.
  • We partner with the Kabubbu Development project (NGO) located actually in the village.
  • When we learn that a mum had died in childbirth and her oldest child may leave school to care for the siblings, we start a maternal health programme.
  • When many guardians were found dying of AIDS, we built an AIDS clinic
  • When a child starts primary school we know he or she won’t ever find paid work unless we later support them in University or college.
  • When a child is bereaved, homeless and without relatives we build a foster home and provide a loving caring foster mum so they can finish their education
  • Each relationship with a sponsor, volunteer or donors and a Kabubbu family is very special!


Further information can be found on

It is a real honour to host this story by Geraldine Booker, co-founder with her husband Geoff, of Quicken Trust, a charity that most certainly does work in Africa. I’m proud to say that I did a fair amount of research at Kabbubu for my latest book – GRASS SHOOTS – which is sponsoring school lunches for a boy there. Perhaps you may be inspired to help too?

Charities Already Featured in this Fortnightly blog Series: St. Peter’s Lifeline

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Throwing a Lifeline…

… And taking ownership.

A Small Charity is born

I met David Baldwin – founder of St. Peter’s Lifeline – on Facebook in 2015. I had spent two years trying to find a charity to support with my book, Breath of Africa, but it should not have taken me so long.

This is the first of a blog series, which I hope will provide exposure for small charities round the world, which focus on Africa. And of course, the series will become a source for countless prospective donors and volunteers in the wider world who are looking for a worthy cause to support.

Welcome, David! Over to you…

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“C’mon, Dad, I’m sure we can do better than that – let’s start a charity!” My daughter’s response to the ad hoc way in which I was sending sums of money to rescue a primary school in Kenya that was about to go under.

Without giving it a second thought, I said “Oh… OK…!” in due deference to not only what seemed a very good idea, but probably mainly in agreement with a very bossy daughter.

Why Kenya? Well, I’m ‘third generation’ Kenyan born and educated – it’s in my blood, and having left when I was quite young, and refusing to go back as a tourist, this seemed a heaven-sent opportunity to re-engage in a very meaningful way with a country that I love so much.

Why that particular school?


I met Fr Joe, a young, newly ordained Kenyan priest, quite providentially when he was in UK on a short sabbatical in 2004. We kept in touch when he returned to Kenya. Soon after he was sent to his first parish – St Peter’s in Kajuki – in a harsh, remote, very conservative tribal area of Kenya, where many priests dreaded to be sent – but one which he wholly embraced. He soon realised a burning need to provide a primary education to orphan and impoverished children who would not otherwise have this precious opportunity. So, in 2006 he started, completely off his own bat, a small day/boarding primary school to provide mainly for these children – St Peter’s primary school.


In late 2008, I received messages of distress that he was going to have to close his nascent school, as he was unable to afford to feed his 180 children, owing to soaring food prices brought on by a severe drought – hence the initial money sending.

We started our charity straight away – going through all the necessary but bureaucratic rigmarole, and putting out our name and needs in the rather small public space that we inhabited. The name came quickly and clearly – ‘St Peter’s Life-Line’ – as we had literally thrown a life-line to save that school from drowning.

Our charity is Christian based – albeit very firmly accepting children from every faith or none – the main criteria being orphaned or impoverished. So, very early on, we formed a prayer support chain, mostly of our friends, fellow parishioners, and some religious communities – our faithful prayer warriors. We believe in the power of prayer, and our warriors pray for our needs on a regular basis – and we have seen those needs being met, and the miracles being worked!

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Because now, in 2017, that one small school is four schools, with over 700 children. Apart from funding capital works and other projects, we are taking many orphans and impoverished children through primary, secondary, tertiary and university education – all fulfilling Fr Joe’s vision, and knowing that they will give something back to their community.

Initially our vision was to support the primary schools and the children. But other desperate needs of the community reared up – to which we willingly and in faith responded, and are successfully meeting. Currently we are:

  • waging a very successful campaign against the cruel scourge of Female Genital Mutilation, very prevalent in this area;
  • starting up and running a burgeoning micro finance and savings scheme for women, which is lifting their families out of poverty;
  • and, in a separate feeding scheme, providing a hot, wholesome daily lunch to over 1,000 children in six local government primary schools to ‘entice’ them to come in to school every day.

Yes, many, many miracles for a small charity that does not charge a single penny in overheads – it all goes to our projects.

We have, through our people, been continually humbled and inspired. We share their many tragedies and hardships – as well as the joyful and rewarding occasions – and these we will recall in future blogs.

Thank you for coming by, David. It’s been great having you, and I look forward to more of your recollections.


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A Seed is Dropped…

Charity…? Volunteering – ?

“I can’t afford to do something for nothing!”

How often have you been faced with those words? I’ve even used them myself, privately, in my own thoughts. Especially when desperately looking for a way to earn an income when we arrived in the UK from Africa at the turn of the century.

Roy (my husband) and I came because he needed better health care in the aftermath of his cancer. And although our NHS has its problems, there is still nothing to compare with its services.

We spent our savings on buying a flat at the foot of the beautiful South Downs. And I needed to find a job. But I was too old. “You wouldn’t fit it,” were the euphemistic words they used. I eventually found a part-time admin job, but the pace nearly killed me. “They” were right; I was too old.


The one thing I could still do – after two attempts at qualifying to British standards – was judge dressage. I’ve been horse-mad all my life, and involved the family in every conceivable branch of equestrian activities in Kenya. Judging dressage was a way to keep in with the horsey world, and it was no problem to volunteer my services as a means of giving something back. I have discovered that the standard mileage expenses I earn cover the annual cost of running my car. How cool is that!

One day, I read an advertisement in the local paper. Age Concern was looking for volunteer Advocates, and they were offering a six-week training course to successful candidates. My mind went into overdrive. It would be a way of learning how the system works in this country. And there was another factor: Roy’s numerous medical conditions were not going to go away; he had already aged fifteen years over the course of twenty-four hours after his first operation. Being an Advocate for Age Concern might teach me how to cope with him in old age.

The work was interesting and rewarding. It is amazing how the smallest of interventions can bring blessed relief. Like the couple who were being hounded by the Gas company for a colossal bill. It was obviously an error in the computing system. But the company wouldn’t take their word for it. I only had to call the Gas company from the clients’ home, introduce myself as their Advocate for Age Concern, then go to the meter and confirm the reading. And the matter was settled.

Another couple, new to the area, were deadlocked against their former County Council over the relocation of their severely disabled daughter. I waded through the extensive correspondence, and could feel the intense frustration from both sides, coming at the problem from different perspectives. I shrugged my shoulders.

“You’re digging yourselves into an impossible mire,” I said. “You are fed up with the County Council, and no doubt they are fed up with you.” They nodded. “You want to have your daughter nearby, and you’ve found a place for her. Why don’t you just do it? Stop arguing, and bring her down?”

The enlightenment and relief on their faces as the possibility dawned was a wonder to behold.

Of course, some things don’t work.

·         Like becoming involved with a desperate widow who had a black cat and indulged in the occult. She wanted to go into sheltered housing, and needed to sell her home. But she had a jealous, adopted son, who wanted to inherit the cottage. She secretly cut him out of her will; but could not bring herself to break free from his clutches.

·         Or trying to help an elderly lady escape from her bullying husband. She had found herself another place to live, yet had told her husband where she was. I was there when she let him in, and he wouldn’t let me go… There was nothing for it, but to sit patiently and empathise, while he went into a tirade. Finally, I asked the lady, “Can I go now?” My supervisor closed the case.

Charity has the amazing capacity to turn everything on its head and reward the giver in the most unexpected ways. We all know the pleasant warm feeling when someone thanks us from the bottom of their heart. But there are so many other ways. A seed is dropped, takes root, and grows into something out of all proportion.

It was through Age Concern that we discovered the means to make ends meet. I learned about Attendance Allowance, and helped clients complete the complicated forms. Then my supervisor suggested that Roy might qualify for the benefit, and why didn’t we try? He did! And I became his carer.

My caring activities have expanded, now that Roy is becoming increasingly frail. And our NHS keeps a professional eye and gives regular support as needed.

Never again will I undervalue the concept of giving something for nothing. You just never know what might happen.

I found another volunteering opportunity, more in keeping with my expertise in business mentoring, which I talked about in another blog:


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No Clapping

There was no clapping at the end of my “Afternoon with Jane” talk on Monday at St. Wilfrid’s Church, Broad Road. Was that a bad thing – or a good thing? I noticed – but didn’t mind, really.

I talked about how my life experiences were revealed in my three novels, and I interspersed the story with readings.

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My Amazon Author Link

While I answered questions afterwards, the tea ladies got up to put the kettle on, and the room hummed with warm conversation. People drifted towards the table bearing my books, and friends came up to enthuse, saying it was good to learn new things about me.

“I could have listened to you all day!” said one.

“You should do an audio of your books,” said another.

“I agree with what you said about the dangers of Government-to-Government Aid in Africa,” said yet another.

She was one of three or four people in the room who had been to Africa. I had done a quick poll during my talk. Her comment was a relief. I’d somewhat put my foot in it during a previous talk to Rotary. I was too emphatic and generalistic. Of course, there is much to be said in favour of that sort of aid, and when I talked afterwards with the ex-Colonial Project Officer whose toes I was purported to have stepped on, I affirmed I had great respect for the people in the field. It was the politics and the corruption at the other end of the spectrum I was thinking of. One lives and learns…

I wrote Grass Shoots in an attempt to discover for myself a more modest, but perhaps better way to help the developing world, and have found a few examples. Apart from those acknowledged in the book, an Australian project was brought to my notice only this week. You might like to check it out: Nakuru Hope. Nakuru is my home town.

But, to get back to Monday – my books were a sell-out, and I left with several orders to fulfil.

Why was there no clapping? Perhaps it was something to do with my final reading, from Grass Shoots:

“Emily went out by herself to savour the magic of their special place. She’d followed (her new husband) often enough along the game path from the dry river bed bordering their plot. Reaching a bend, she looked to her left.

There was a loud snort of concern. A wildebeest stood poised for flight. They eyed each other, frozen with tension. He was big; he tossed his horns and stamped a foot, then snorted again. Emily stood her ground and so did he. Only a few yards separated them, and a feeling of unease spread through her. (Help) was out of reach in the house on the other side of the dam. If she retreated, the animal would chase her down. She held her breath, and eyed the surrounding long grass, looking for an escape route – and the wildebeest lowered its head. To her great relief, it continued sedately on its way across her path. She had broken the confrontation, and it no longer saw her as a threat.

For one long moment she had been a mere creature out there facing danger, tasting the fear experienced by wild animals every moment of their vulnerable lives. It was a humbling experience.”


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Sitting Pretty

It may seem so to some people.

Here I am on my swivel computer chair in my bedroom/office, (I use a cushion, which saves my ailing back a little) while hubby reclines on his NHS riser/recliner chair in the sitting room. This morning he’s reading a book. Most times he’s having a snooze, or watching cricket or snooker on the telly. When I come in for a break, he knows it’s time to switch to the tennis.

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It’s cloudy outside, and some days I never even go out the front door, it’s not very inviting. But if I crick my neck out the window, and it isn’t misty, I can see the downs. I remember the walks I used to take, suddenly deciding to up and go. I could climb to the top of Butt’s Brow in ten minutes. Great exercise! Then I would wander along the grassy pathways and forest glades communing with nature. Even singing out loud – after making sure nobody was within hearing distance. I stopped taking my binoculars with me years ago. The birds in this country conceal themselves cunningly behind a leaf or a branch the instant you raise your binos.

I learned where the stiles and benches were, and paced myself between them, stopping to sit and admire the view, and get my breath back. Sometimes I even took a notebook with me to continue a work in progress. I never got very far, as there were always passers-by to acknowledge, and dogs to greet. Dogs would come running to say hello, and stay for a brief pat and a tickle round the ears, or on the belly. We were kindred spirits, even though we were complete strangers. I do miss having animals at home. It’s not practical in a tiny flat.

Now, however, I have achieved greatly if I manage to complete the five-minute walk down the road to the Triangle – our local shops – and back. I make myself do it because the exercise is good for me, but it’s a relief when I return home to collapse into my armchair.



Chilham Castle


One thing I can still do, sitting comfortably in my car – and sometimes perching not so comfortably on a stool in a cold and dusty judges’ box – is judge dressage. I don’t need to tell you I love horses, and this is a way of keeping in touch with these wonderful animals. I go to some exotic places, and once or twice even Olympians have come before me on beautiful young horses.

Sitting is not always comfortable. The chairs at my bridge club play havoc with my back, and I now have to use a cushion. The older you get, the more sedentary you become, and the more important is the seat in your scheme of things. Along with most of our congregation, I am looking forward to delivery of new chairs in our church.

And now it’s time to get up again and prepare for lunch. While slicing onions last night, the ceramic knife slipped, and chomped off a piece of nail from my finger. I was sitting at the time on a hydraulic, padded bar stool with 360 degree swivel, which I found on the internet. One of my better buys.

My finger is getting better already, so perhaps I won’t lose the whole nail; but that’s another story in the making…

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Tea and Cakes

And a Book-signing to be fondly remembered.

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It’s almost like deja vu. Only this time I was a little bit wiser, and laid on home made cup cakes, duly decorated with African animals, made by my daughter. The chocolates, too, (a birthday gift from the day before) were useful. And the girls in the Christian Resource Centre, Eastbourne, kept us well lubricated with countless cups of tea.

My guests were almost the same as four years ago when my first novel, Breath of Africa, was launched. A dear couple whom I’d not known in Kenya, and who didn’t look a day older, David Lockwood, ex-white hunter / conservationist, and Reinhild Maxtone-Mailer, author. We sat and chatted comfortably, before Stephen Lloyd walked in. Given that a general election has only just been called, I would have forgiven him if he’d forgotten his promise to come and say “jambo”. (He was born in Kenya).

Stephen is launching into a full-blooded campaign to regain the seat he narrowly lost to the Conservatives two years ago. I wish him good fortune to go with his hard work. He devoured two cup cakes, before organising us for a photo, posing for a selfie with one of the girls, buying my book, then disappearing with a cheery wave. Were those two cakes his lunch, I wondered…

One or two others wandered in, and joined me for a cuppa and a chat, which resulted in more book sales than expected. Before I knew it, I had overstayed my two hour slot by almost 50%. A very pleasant and peaceful experience, befitting my advancing years.

Thankyou everyone… not least my long-term People Matter colleague and friend, Ray Dadswell, whose prayerful column, Pause for Thought, in the Eastbourne Herald’s Advertiser in days gone by, I remember well.  He arrived with a bunch of birthday flowers, seen in the picture below, bottom left. They are blossoming nicely now, in our sitting-room, turning their heads to the sun. On the right of the picture you can see the plate of cup cakes, and the chocolates.

book and Ray

Grass Shoots is the sequel to Breath of Africa. As well as being a unique love story, it touches on the problem of charity, and how it works – or doesn’t – in Africa. It can be read as a stand alone, although you’d benefit from reading Breath of Africa first!

You can buy all my books at the Christian Resource Centre, Eastbourne.

Here are the amazon links:

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And if you fancy a novella set in Sussex which will only take you a couple of hours to read:

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