"I felt that as young as I am, I could do something about this."
In Kenya, where abortion is permitted only under certain circumstances, many women undergo unsafe, "back street" procedures, which often lead to life-endangering complications. In the capital city of Nairobi, Manoah Chengeah, 23, is trying to decrease the number of unsafe abortions and abandoned infants by educating young women about their reproductive choices.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Manoah: We help young people by educating them about the risks involved in abortion. We also counsel and educate people in educational institutions, mostly young girls. We also take charge of burying fetuses that are found on the streets and on the garbage sites, mostly in the slum areas. In one area alone, we were able to collect 60 fetuses in one day!
What is the name and location of the organization?
Manoah: The name is Youths Against Abortion (YAA). It is located in Nairobi, Kenya.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Manoah: The beneficiaries here are the community as a whole, and particularly young women.
What inspired you to get involved?
Manoah: My inspiration came about when every Monday morning when I was going about my business, I sometimes would find live babies in the garbage bins. I felt that as young as I am, I could do something about this.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Manoah: I first talked to my pastor, who agreed to help me in praying for the fetuses before burial, and he also agreed to pay the city commission for the graves. I started to mobilize some of my friends and neighbors, who started to help. Then I started to think about how we can decrease the number of these deaths rather than just burying them. We found that educating the youth would be the best thing.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Manoah: The community recognized my efforts, and they started involving me and other members in functions at schools within the area.
What is/was the hardest part?
Manoah: The hardest part of all is mostly convincing the girl’s parent to allow her daughter to give birth and not to have an abortion. Sometimes people will ignore us on the streets whenever you try to educate them. Above all, the government does not recognize our efforts.
What was the biggest surprise?
Manoah: There was a time when we were able to counsel six young girls who snuck out of their schools to have abortions. We went to their institutions, talked to the administrators and their parents, and they decided to give birth. They went back and did their exams, and now they are some of the counselors in our organization.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Manoah: I have learned mostly about the effects and trauma that people go through after abortion, and through thorough counseling, many have come to live with it.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Manoah: First, have a positive vision. Know about what you are doing, be an achiever, and never be brought down even if there are no funds.
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