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The civil unrest there has not had a direct effect on the Makindu center

By Jennifer Moody

Albany Democrat-Herald

Violence in Kenya following a disputed election hasn't had a direct effect on a mid-valley program established there, but founder Winnie Barron said she's worried about the indirect consequences.

Barron, a paramedic and physician's assistant who lives in Brownsville, helped found a nonprofit program in 1998 in the village of Makindu, Kenya. The Makindu Children's Program helps provide food, clothing and education to children whose lives have been ravaged by poverty and AIDS, and has helped focus energies for farming and medical projects in the community.

The Makindu program has boards of directors in both Kenya and the United States. Barron was last in Kenya in early August and plans to go back in April.

South of Nairobi by about a 21/2-hour drive, the children's school and nutrition center is far enough away from the unrest to keep it safe, she said.

So far, the center hasn't had any problems with goods or supplies, either, although transportation is difficult and prices have skyrocketed. A lot of drivers are having trouble finding or paying for fuel, and supplies for refugee camps beyond Makindu are rotting in storehouses, she said.

Some of the graduates of the children's center work or study in Nairobi, and Barron worries about them. One had recently purchased a truck to go into the distribution business, only to see the vehicle burned just a few days later.

Fighting broke out in Kenya last month following a disputed election in late December. Most recent estimates place the country's death toll at more than 1,000, and the ethnic attacks and battles between police and protesters have sent another 300,000 fleeing as refugees, according to the Associated Press.

The violence will devastate the economy and be a disaster for all of Kenya, Barron predicted, but at the moment, her "kiddos" and their caregivers are safe. Donations would be welcome to help keep things on an even keel, she said.

"The disruption to the families directly is pretty minimal. Indirectly, it's pretty huge," she said. The program "is all about hope and promise. When times are hard, you need to hold onto that even more."

How to help

The Makindu Children's Program, based in Makindu, Kenya, helps support more than 300 children from birth to age 18. The children's center provides a daily meal, medical checkups, education and job training opportunites to children whose lives have been affected by AIDS. The program also is a focal point for community projects in water and farming.

Founder Winnie Barron says so far, the center has not been touched by recent political upheavals and violence, but donations will become critical as the country's economic fallout begins. Donations can be made online at www.makindu.org or contact the program at P.O. Box 51556, Eugene, OR 97327, (541) 729-3707.

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