State Representative Kurt Daudt co-founds nonprofit to build orphan rescue centers in Kenya
By Rachel Kytonen
Even though the kids have lost their parents, are struggling to survive and barely have any material possessions, one thing they do have is hope—thanks to the hard work of those behind Project 24.
Project 24 is a nonproject organization founded five years ago behind the leadership of Rev. Bernhard Seter.
Together with Rev. Seter, five men founded the organization whose goal is to build 24 orphan rescue centers in Kenya, located in east Africa, near Kenyan Lutheran churches or schools, and provide scholarships for orphans.
Kurt Daudt of Crown, who is also State Representative for District 17A, was one of those who founded Project 24. Daudt recently returned from a 12-day trip to Kenya to see the results of the efforts that began in late 2006.
Daudt explained that in the last four-and-a-half years, Project 24 has raised over $1 million to build orphan rescue centers in Kenya. Currently six rescue centers are open with students in them; four are under construction; and two are in the planning stages.
“Project 24 really prides itself on the fact that 100 percent of funds raised goes toward bricks and mortar in Kenya,” Daudt explained. “There is not one penny for overhead. All we do is build orphan rescue centers.”
Project 24 has partnered with 1001 Orphans for their vision. 1001 Orphans, through The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, has a special emphasis on orphans and disadvantaged children living in Kenya. They hope the Kenya program is so successful that 1001 Orphans can expand into other regions of the world.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) owns and operates the rescue centers in Kenya, and do it with funding provided through 1001 Orphans.
Daudt explained the orphan rescue centers are built with a school, or they are built near an already up and running school. The smaller rescue centers hold approximately 22 children, with the larger ones holding 60 to 65.
“It was very neat to return to Kenya and see the progress that has been made since launching Project 24,” Daudt said. “It has gone beyond what we thought we could accomplish. People have been really responsive to what we are doing and it’s neat to be a part of it.”
According to 1001 Orphans, about 1.4 million children in Kenya are orphaned by AIDS, and an estimated 8 percent of Kenyan adults are living with HIV. Poverty (65 percent live on less than $1 per day), drought (three years) and negative attitudes among communities exacerbate the orphans’ situations. Most drop out of school because they cannot pay the country’s mandatory tuition and are forced into child labor or sexual exploitation.
Although a majority of the children in the orphan rescue centers have lost their parents to AIDS or malaria, Daudt explained, they still have family in the country.
“The children in the rescue centers still have extended family, and brothers and sisters, but the families can’t afford to raise the children,” Daudt said. “The children will go home and visit with them on weekends and holidays. But during the week the rescue centers provide them with a roof over their head, three meals per day and access to school and education.”
While in Kenya, Daudt and his travel partners stayed in guest homes, tents, hotels, and more. Most of their time was spent visiting and touring the orphan rescue centers.
“When you go to Kenya and see how these people live, you really see that these kids live with nothing,” Daudt said. “We get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives and we often take things for granted. But it’s amazing because even though the kids don’t have much, they are always smiling and happy. When they get things like a new pair of shoes or a new school book, their faces just light up.”
The group also managed to spend one day on a safari through the Samburu National Reserve and saw a plethora of animals such as lions, gazelles, ostriches, jackals, wart hogs and hippos.
Daudt explained the road conditions in Kenya are not very good, and most of the roads are dirt roads. He said the group flew when they could around Kenya, but also had to travel by vehicle. One day they spent six hours in a vehicle. During an excursion, it took them over two hours to travel 50 kilometers.
“The road conditions are so bad, and mostly dirt,” Daudt said. “During one excursion, we took a shortcut through the Samburu National Reserve and got stuck seven times.”
Daudt first met Rev. Seter when he was asked to serve on a national board for the Missouri Synod. He met Rev. Seter in 2005 during a conference in St. Louis.
“Rev. Seter and I shared a cab to the convention center, and our cab driver was from Kenya,” Daudt said. “The next 20 minutes I listened to Rev. Seter and the cab driver talk about Kenya. Rev. Seter and I became fast friends and stayed in touch. We started talking about what we could do for Kenya and learned we shared the same visions.”
Daudt mentioned a new facility for 50 children can be built in Kenya for about $40,000. A sponsorship of $400 a year covers the needs (food, clothing, medicine, schooling) of one child at the orphanage. Sponsorship information can be found at www.lcms.org/1001.
“Serving in our state Legislature is fun and rewarding and we can make a difference, but it’s not much compared to what we can do for the children of Kenya,” Daudt said. “We really make a difference in the lives of hundreds of children in Kenya, and through Project 24 we are able to provide them with some of their basic needs like a roof over their head and education.”
For more information on Project 24 visit www.childrenwithnoone.org.