Drew inspiring students at a school in the village of Kakili, Kenya.
Drew Barrymore wanted to see it with her own eyes; she wanted to come back to the country she grew to love and see how she could help change the lives of the women and children.
Kenya is now being hit by a devastating drought and Drew saw firsthand that people struggle to feed their children, to keep their cattle alive, to survive. WFP is feeding more than 3 million people in Kenya alone and Drew is appealing to the rest of world to join her: “We really need to step up our help. There is a catastrophe happening right now”.
Drew recently went back to Kenya with the US-based Magazine "Condé Nast Traveler", on whose cover she will be featured this month. (Click here to see the article).
Drew is an actor, director, and producer with decades of experience in Hollywood (after all, she started at the age of two!) and is used to making big decisions. But the decision three years ago to give 1 million US Dollars to help end hunger and boost education in Kenya was the most important she ever made, Drew says. The challenge was daunting.
“I thought with almost 1 billion hungry people, what on earth could I possibly do as an individual? It sounded just impossible.” But the WFP Ambassador against Hunger learned what works. She keeps giving to WFP’s School Meals Programme in Kenya, which she first visited in 2005.
“A simple, healthy meal in a school is so important. I saw how it changes a girl’s life forever. And right now it is such a crucial safety net for the families during this drought crisis”.
In the last few years, the projects she has funded have helped refurbish some 25 schools around Nairobi, with brand-new kitchens, food storage, energy-efficient stoves, and latrines for boys and girls. This summer Drew Barrymore used a second tranche of funds to build wells so that the children didn’t have to walk miles to get water for their school lunches. In the past wild animals sometimes attacked the vulnerable children on the road to the muddy river.
Recently she visited Kiltimany, a village about four hours drive north of the capital Nairobi. Her funds helped build a borehole, a well, with a solar-powered tower where the villagers buy water for a few cents which pays for the upkeep of the well.
For the first time ever, the women of the village don’t have to walk 4 hours each way to get water; instead, they can get water right in the middle of their village. One very pregnant woman, hugging her belly, thanked Drew that she no longer has to make that long trek to the water.
“This is so exciting. It is so tangible - I really can see results of what I have done with WFP,” a smiling Drew said.
The village gave Drew a rousing welcome. They presented Drew with an honorary cape, painted her face with traditional colors, and marched from the village meeting place to the borehole. It was a magic moment when people from two different walks of life came together for an occasion that will change the future of the next generation of that village.
In another village, Kakili near the town of Isiolo, her “Drew Barymore Education Fund” will build a brand-new primary school. The whole village turned out to see Drew. She visited the classrooms in the existing decrepit school, which was actually more sticks and mud than real walls. She asked the students what they wanted to become when they are older and they answered, “doctors, teachers, farmers”. They have big hopes which are now much more possible with new investments into the winning combination of schools, education and food provided by WFP.
WFP and Drew are working closely with the community and a hush fell over the crowd when the blueprints for the new building were shown. You could just sense the excitement. The parents know that this means their children can learn in a safe, dry place with new desks and with good food at least once a day to ensure their children can concentrate.
And her work doesn’t stop in Kakili and Kiltamany: 10,000 kids in about 25 schools will receive nutritious school lunches for a year. Drew is also asking her friends and fans to join her and donate to help increase the number of kids she can feed: 5 US dollars will feed one child in school for one month.