A year ago, Sudbury native Jacqueline Villeneuve achieved her dream — she opened a home for orphaned and abandoned children in Donholm, Kenya.
Zawadi la Tumaini Children’s Home, located about 40 minutes outside of Nairobi, the country's capital, is now home to 20 children between the ages of two and 14, and employs five Kenyans.
Twenty-year-old Jacqueline, a graduate of Confederation Secondary School, was inspired to open the home after visiting an orphanage in Kenya in 2010, when she was still a teen.
Her dad, Guy Villeneuve, said he's extremely proud of his daughter.
“When you're a parent, you always want the best for your kid,” he said. “You hope they can find something they can be passionate about, that when they get up in the morning, they say 'This is something I really want to do with my life.'
“We're very proud of her because we feel she's found something that she's excited about, that she can put all her energy towards. She's doing something that is empowering not only herself, but other people.”
Villeneuve said the home has made a world of difference to the children who live there, mostly by providing them with a stable, caring place to live.
“Jacqueline doesn't want this to be an orphanage,” he said. “She wants it to be a loving home for these kids who don't have a loving home.”
Although the children don't have luxuries such as big-screen televisions and video game systems, they eat well and attend school, Villeneuve said.
Jacqueline actually sends the 16 school-age kids who live at the home to private school, as publicly-funded schools in Kenya often have 60 to 80 students per class.
But paying for the kids' schooling — which costs about $60 each per month — as well as the rest of costs associated with Zawadi la Tumaini definitely adds up, Villeneuve said.
The home has an annual operating budget of $65,000, and doesn't receive any funding from the Kenyan government.
Because the kids living at Zawadi la Tumaini come from various religious backgrounds, Jacqueline has also made the decision not to associate the home with any particular religion, which might have brought in extra funds.
That's why Zawadi la Tumaini's second annual gala fundraiser, which takes place starting at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Cambrian College Student Centre, is so crucial to the organization's success, Villeneuve said.
Jacqueline hopes to raise $50,000 through the fundraiser, which has been dubbed A Night in Africa.
The evening features traditional African cuisine prepared by the Afro-Heritage Association of Sudbury, a silent auction of authentic African artifacts, and live African entertainment.
Those who attend the fundraiser will also have the opportunity to have their faces painted in a traditional African style.
Tickets, which cost $100 each, are available by emailing [email protected] or [email protected] or by phone at 705-929-1246 or 705-561-1440.
Those unable to attend the fundraiser can still learn more about Zawadi la Tumaini or donate to the cause by visiting zawadilatumaini.com.