HISTORY: The beginning

In 2003 Sarah Hillman, a resident of Frome in England, received a telephone call from her sister Elizabeth in Kitui, Kenya, that was to have a profound effect on her and her family.

Her elder sister, Elizabeth, studied Education in Kenya and enjoyed a very successful career settling in Kitui, which is where both Sarah’s parents had originated. In 2003 her daughter Beatrice saw four children rummaging through rubbish bins looking for food. The eldest was a girl of seven, the others ranged from one and a half to five. After observing them several times she told her mother. Elizabeth and Beatrice then got to know the children and asked who was looking after them. They found out that their father had died of HIV/AIDS and the mother was very sick also with AIDS. She was unable to cook or look after her children. Elizabeth contacted Sarah who immediately said that she would provide for them as long as Elizabeth could find suitable accommodation. Elizabeth then went to see the mother and told her what Sarah had said. The mother, although very ill, lifted her spirits as she was so grateful for this news. She must have felt an enormous sense of relief as she turned to Elizabeth and said, “I can now die peacefully knowing that my children will be looked after”. Unfortunately she died shortly after the visit.

Soon the news spread and other children turned up and Sarah just kept saying ‘yes I will provide’ with no thought of how! Her motto being something will turn up, providence will provide.

Now there were seven staying in the house that her sister had found. When another six needed to be rescued Sarah asked her sister to find a bigger property to rent and the current orphanage was established. It was named Mama Upendo Children’s Home. Sarah took the first two letters of both her Father and Mothers name Maingey and Masilingi spelling Mama which could not be better as it means Mother and Upendo which means love. The orphanage is located in Kitui 180 Kilometres East of Nairobi.

When Sarah became aware of how the children’s vulnerability had been taken advantage of it made more her determined to find a place where they could be safe. She talked with the children about their experiences and paid for medical expenses and counselling. Now thanks to the orphanage she would have a home and a safe environment for them. The orphanage now had a total of thirteen children.

This was the peak time for AIDS and the other moving story adding to Sarah’s determination to help the orphaned children was when she learned of a boy whose mother had died and he had slept in the same room with his dead mother for three days. When he arrived, at the orphanage, he did not speak at all. Gradually through the love and care of the helpers at the orphanage he has blossomed into a bright and hard working boy with lots to say!

Sarah has set up a nursery school at the orphanage which plays an important part in their development. Sarah’s generosity extends beyond the children themselves. She helps the widows by providing materials such as beads for them to make craft items to sell. She also helps the grandparents. She then helps her children go on to secondary school providing the fees and uniforms and all other expenses.

The orphanage opened in 2004 and in 2005 Sarah went out for the first time.  This was an extremely moving encounter. The children were all so delighted to see her, calling her Mama and wanting to hold a piece of her and carry her belongings! Sarah was in floods of tears as they sang her a special song, asking God to bless her and to bless her sister. They also sang a song helped by the matron about HIV/AIDS in the Kamba language. Sarah wanted to take them on an outing for a special treat. Off they went to the local shop, all the children clinging on to a part of Sarah. She assumed they would all ask for sweets. Not a bit of it, instead they asked if they could have bread and margarine and as much as they could eat. At breakfast the next day placed on the table was a goodly quantity of bread and margarine and true to their word the children ate and ate until they could eat no more!

Sarah has an enormous energy and a big heart and as well as looking after her family with five children she is working to realise her ambition to achieve as much as she can for her country of birth and its children. She also wants to do as much as she can for her adopted country and finds time to help local charities and good causes in the Frome area. In 2000 she started a business in Frome called the African Safari Kitchen with the sole aim of raising money for her charitable work. In 2005 she was elected a Town Councillor and actively promotes the interests of Frome and uses every opportunity to do all she can for local good causes. Sarah received the Remember Africa Award in 2008, for her contribution in making poverty history in Africa through her orphanage.