When an orphanage full of babies and volunteer caregivers found itself facing eviction, one former WNBA basketball player called “foul.”
Five years ago, St. Ann’s Orphanage in Kekopey, Kenya was full of dozens of infants— and the volunteers who cared for them—when they were told they’d have to shutter their doors. Fortunately, athlete Lindsey Pluimer, who had met these children on a volunteer trip while playing abroad in Spain and Australia, caught wind of the news and decided she was going to help pull them out of a dire situation.
She returned to the U.S. determined to help not only those children, but other kids in need by founding With My Own Two Hands, a California-based nonprofit that works to combat poverty and improve the lives of children by providing the basics: water, shelter, health care, agriculture, education…and, of course, love.
For Pluimer, meeting the children moved her in a way that made her want to do more than just write a check—she wanted to know that they would be cared for after she left.
“I’ve really connected with the kids,” says Pluimer. “I know those kids really well. I know their stories. We visit them every year we go out, so it’s been a long-lasting relationship with that project. And they love their home, they love their playground.”
Pluimer and her team raised $40,000 for a new home and a playground that the children of St. Ann’s can call their own—this year, they also received a brand new addition: a greenhouse that will help provide daily meals for the orphans, plus a sustainable solution to their nutritional and financial needs. The greenhouse, funded by partners J.Crew’s Garments for Good and EDUN, a fashion brand devoted to providing jobs in Africa, will grow much-needed vegetables and greens to supplement the children’s protein and iron-deficient diet.
“It’s so great to see how loved and appreciated they feel with our volunteers and our birthday program,” says Pluimer. “They’re a special group of kids and we’re so thrilled to be working with them and seeing them thrive and grow.”
Most of the children currently range in age from 5-8 years old, and, as they enter their teen years, plans are in the works to expand housing to include individual, family-type homes, with volunteers serving as house mom or dad. Selling surplus produce from the greenhouse will serve as a source of income to help support future expansions as the children grow up—something that they get to celebrate year by year through the project’s Birthday Program, which provides the birthday boy or girl with a new outfit, shoes and small toy.
Pluimer says as the kids ‘age out’ of St. Ann’s, future projects will include an exit strategy to provide the kids with opportunities for trade schools and other continuing education to foster their independence.
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