Kenyan couple in New York share their hearts, experience in Kenya
Since 2005, Kenyan-born Anne and George Mungai, who live in Baldwin, have volunteered annually for one month in an orphanage and school they founded in Wangige, a suburb about 16 miles from Nairobi. The Caroline Wambui Mungai Children’s Home pays tribute to their daughter, who died nine years ago of lupus. Caroline, then 25, was pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood education and had envisioned starting a school for Kenyan children in need.
“We lost our daughter and gained 40 children,” said Anne Mungai, 60. “We are carrying on her dream.” Both parents have doctorates. She is chairwoman of the Curriculum and Instruction Department and director of the Special Education Graduate Program at Adelphi’s Ruth S. Ammon School of Education. George, who is 63, teaches math at a Brooklyn high school.
They started the children’s home by donating a four-bedroom house and 31/2 acres they inherited. The site now encompasses nine buildings, including classrooms, dormitories and a dining hall. George designs the classrooms and supervises the construction, keeping track of their progress through photos that are emailed to him.
“We are rescuing these children from poverty to destiny, which is our motto, and we want them to be independent and stand on their own,” said George. “And that’s what the kids want, too.”
With three daughters, all in their 30s, accompanying them to the orphanage, the Mungais work in the kitchen, read to the children and take them to the doctor, pitching in wherever they are needed.
“If they need a hug, I give them a hug,” Anne said.
“I feel so gratified and so fulfilled that we are living my daughter’s legacy, multiplied many times over,” George said. “It’s not just what we are doing for one generation, but I believe the children will give back.”
Along with organizing fundraisers, receiving financial support from Adelphi students, alumni and her colleagues, many of whom have volunteered at the home, the Mungais contribute part of their salaries to the Caroline Wambui Mungai Foundation, which sustains the facility.
“When I go to the orphanage, I think I am going to help, but the children help balance me to see what’s important in life,” said Anne. “When we see the children in good health and the love they feel, it gives us joy.”