Many years ago, Maureen McIntyre and her husband Ian, visited Kenya where they saw a scale of poverty that they had never seen before. They witnessed, first-hand, the poor health of the children and the lack of basic facilities. When they arrived back home in Scotland, Maureen could not forget the hunger in the children’s eyes, or the poverty that children and adults were enduring from day to day.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Maureen felt that she had to do something to help those children. So, in 1998, Maureen and Ian founded the “Educate the Children” charity. Their vision was to ensure that children in Africa had their needs met, their rights upheld, and their dreams fulfilled through education. They set up the charity, and a sponsorship programme, which enabled them to offer the poorest children in Utange, near Mombasa, access to education. As the numbers of children grew, family, friends and sponsors, helped to build a school. Computers and other equipment were included in the new facilities, as was water and electricity.
Maureen named the school Jolaurabi after her three grandchildren, John, Lauren and Abigail. Family has always been important to Maureen and Ian and the children of Africa, have become part of their family.
So far, over 600 children have been given the opportunity to gain an education. Another 100 students are in secondary school education, which became possible through the generosity of many people who sponsored the children.
Maureen and her family are continually working to meet the needs of the children. The ever growing need for funding has become a constant in their lives. Without it, they know the children will be unable to have an education and will be reduced to living a life without hope for the future. The Educate the Children charity is the bridge for the children to walk across to a much larger world that may hold educational opportunities for them.
Maureen formed a singing group in Kenya called “The Singing Children of Africa”. In 2006, she brought the group to the United Kingdom for a twelve week tour. The colourful clothing, the wide beaming smiles, the singing and the wonderful dancing of the children captivated the public. The money raised as a result of the tour, funded the building of an orphanage for those children whose parents had died.
The “Singing Children of Africa” toured again in 2007, 2008, 2015 and in 2016. On tour, the children experience a life much removed from their own in Africa. They make friendships and on occasion, they meet the individuals who sponsor their education. These are special moments for the child and the sponsor.
The money raised on the current tour will help to expand the school giving more children the gift of education. Many of the sponsors and volunteers of the charity are from a variety of church faith groups.
This is a remarkable story of two people who, in a moment of time, decided they had to do something for the children of Africa. The story does not end there, Jean Logan, also a member of the Church, and one of Maureen’s close friends, has travelled to Africa several times with her. On one of those journeys, Jean was prompted to take a copy of The Book of Mormon which she gave to Maureen to use as a missionary tool. The result of Jean’s prompting was the establishment of three branches of the Church.
Maureen remarked following her recent trip to Africa, “I sat in church, not one seat empty. There must have been over a 100 people there and so many Priesthood holders. I thought back to the one Book of Mormon Jean Logan was prompted to take, that was where it all started”.
Maureen was motivated by her strong Christian beliefs to make a difference in the lives of children who live on another continent. This effort has required time and sacrifice and the constant pushing and searching for funding to help these children achieve an education. It took the heart and soul of a husband and wife who motivated their family, friends and many volunteers to change the lives of children on another continent. Time and distance has no relevance when the gospel of Jesus Christ is in action.