Special feature and picture gallery: Meet Ursula - the woman who dared to care for three Kenyan street children

Ursula Atkinson, from Syderstone, is working to help under-privileged children in Kenya. Picture: Matthew Usher. Ursula Atkinson, from Syderstone, is working to help under-privileged children in Kenya. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Thursday, January 30, 2014
2:41 PM

Retired nurse Ursula Atkinson has dedicated the last eight years towards helping to transform the lives of three Kenyan street children, with remarkable results.

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How you can help

• Praying for the Weseka family.

• Donating money to Count Your Blessings, account number: 23190145, sort code: 20-30-81.

• Booking Mrs Atkinson for a talk at your organisation.

• Donating secondhand laptops, musical instruments or any items that can be sold at table top sales.

For more information, contact Mrs Atkinson on 01485 578357.

A text message from Africa to Norfolk led to the lives of three young Kenyan street children being changed forever.

It was sent by Albert Masoni, a former employee of a children’s home in Kakamega, western Kenya, to Ursula Atkinson, a German woman who has been living in Syderstone, near Fakenham, for 34 years.

Benson’s letter

Benson wrote this letter in November last year to The Inbetweeners Quilting Group, based in Fakenham, which raises money for Mrs Atkinson’s charity.

Hi quilters,

It’s amazing to be calling all of you my mamas and I am really proud that you have replaced the love that I missed from my mother.

You have made me walk with wide open arms because I know I have parents close to me despite the miles away from me.

You mamas have done a lot in changing my life. I would like to encourage you to keep the fire burning.

Momas, the hand that gives has been more blessed than the hand that receives.

It is unbelievable to see people like you from very far and we have got no relation but you deny yourself good times to save my bad times.

I know that the blessings of God will reign on you. I am now living the life that God had made a decision for it.

I am really getting on well with education and I think as the time moves on I will achieve something from my dream of becoming a

lawyer.

I would like to meet all of you one day by God’s will.

Thank you so much for uniting with mama Ursula to make sure we have comfortable life with no stress.

I want you to live long enough to enjoy the future that we are going in.

Love from Benson Asila.

Love u so much.

It told how three boys, Job, Benson and Franklin, aged between eight and 11 at the time, had run away from the children’s home and travelled to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, to make money begging, stealing and working.

Mrs Atkinson, 78, a member of the Fakenham Salvation Army, had met the boys the previous year, in 2006, when she visited Kakamega.

She accepted an invitation from Chloe and Stuart Glassborrow, who ran keep fit classes in Fakenham which Mrs Atkinson attended, to support the charity work they were doing there.

Mrs Atkinson spent a total 13 months between 2006 and 2007 helping children at the home, using her nursing experience to provide medical support and improve hygiene.

She learned how Job’s family had died and Benson and Franklin had been abandoned by their families.

Mrs Atkinson said: “The local reverend, who was a director of the children’s home, had written them off as bad boys and didn’t want them back. Even if they were found they had nowhere to go.

“But they were smart and I could see their potential.

“When I received the text message I prayed all night for them and thought long and hard about what I could do.

“I realised I could not give up on them and had to support them through the long-term.”

Mrs Atkinson sent money to help Mr Masoni find the boys and get them into school.

Job tracked Mr Masoni down in rural Kenya, after travelling hundreds of miles clinging to an axel on the underneath of a lorry. Benson and Franklin were found in Nairobi.

Mrs Atkinson paid £500 for a house to be built for them and bought them beds, blankets, toiletries, clothes and footballs.

She went back to Kenya to see the boys in 2008, 2009, 2011 and in November last year.

It was in 2011 that she felt they were being neglected, dismissed Mr Masoni and looked for help elsewhere.

She got in touch with majors Miriam and Richard Wekesa, Salvation Army ministers in Gisambi, western Kenya, who agreed to take the boys in as part of their own family.

Mrs Atkinson now runs a small charity, called Hesabu Baraka, a name chosen by the three boys which means Count Your Blessings.

She uses her own money and receives support from fund-raising activities and donations from friends in Norfolk.

The charity continues to fund the boys’ education, medical care and other basic needs and helps others who Mrs Atkinson has met in Kenya.

All three boys are still in school.

Benson, 18, wants to become a lawyer, Job, 17, wants to be a journalist. Franklin, 15, is still to decide on his career path.

Mrs Atkinson said: “I’m so proud of them.

“They are all smart boys, they had to be to survive on the streets, and they are ambitious. I believe they can achieve everything they want to.

“They have become part of a wonderful family and send me letters that bring tears to my eyes.

“I’m going to keep supporting them and there is so much more I can do for them - I want to give them the same opportunities that people have in this country.”

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