Meet… Nancy Hunt

Born in Kenya, the 13th child of the tribal chief of Musanda Nancy Hunt (Mudenyo) has devoted her life to meeting the needs of vulnerable children. msafiri listened to the remarkable story of the recently acclaimed ‘UK’s most inspirational woman’

HR-HUNTTell us about yourself
I was born in Musanda, a small village in western Kenya, the 13th child of the tribal chief. Although my father valued boys more than girls my mother was determined that her daughters be educated. I was sent away to school and went to university in Kenya. I moved to England, where I met and married Jonathan. I am now the Director of a charity called the Nasio Trust, which works with the local communities in western Kenya providing education, meals, medical care and supporting children affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The trust is currently helping around 430 children to achieve their full potential and break the cycle of poverty.

How did Nasio Trust begin?
In 2001 my 79-year-old mother heard a baby’s cry in her sugar cane plantation – it is not unusual for mothers to carry their babies whilst working. On the third day she searched the field and found an abandoned three-month-old baby. She cared for him. My sister Lorna, who eked out a living from a roadside kiosk, was inspired by the baby’s discovery and started feeding orphans. On the first day sixty orphans turned up to be fed. When Lorna died in 2005 of a stroke, aged only 45, the orphans lost their carer. I contacted all the established charities in Kenya asking them to take on the project to discover that they only work within two hours’ drive from Nairobi airport. Mumias is eight hours away. Jonathan and I then set up the Trust.

What is the Nasio Trust?
The plight of orphaned and vulnerable children across Africa is well documented. Our strapline ‘Changing Lives for Good’ reflects not only the impact we have in Africa but also on the volunteers who work for us from all over the world. We empower communities to identify and meet their highest priority needs such as setting up medical camps, building mud houses, improving farming techniques and setting up income-generating schemes. We encourage self-sufficiency so that there is less reliance on funding from the West.  My own childhood was tough, but when life was difficult there were always adults in the extended family who were there for me. In the UK, when families become dysfunctional after parents split up or one or both become an addict, many children have to cope alone as they have no extended family support. It affects how they see themselves. With this in mind we set up a young people’s programme in England, called Nasio Exit 7, to help young people on the verge of getting into anti-social behaviour to build new lives. Our volunteering programmes prove life-changing for both sides, with the experience shaping futures positively.

How has the Nasio Trust changed your life?
In 2007 my mother died – I needed time to reflect. I decided to climb Kilimanjaro to raise money for Nasio and give myself time to think. Upon reaching the summit all my emotions came out and I decided to run the charity. My life had changed forever. The trust now organises regular Kilimanjaro climbs and other fundraising challenges

What does the Trust mean to you?
The Nasio Trust is the only charity providing support to this isolated part of Western Kenya. I would love to see a world in which all children experience love. That is Nasio’s ethos.

What are your long term hopes for the Trust?
We want to take more children out of poverty through education in Africa and transform lives of young people in the West by expanding their horizons. The demand in the wider area far exceeds our capacity and we are always seeking to improve, expand and help more communities. With more funding we can build additional centres at a cost of £50,000 each. To run our current centres we need £150,000 a year, which we try to raise through child sponsorship and various events.

The Nat West Venus Awards – The UK’s Most Inspirational Woman
The Venus Awards recognise and celebrate working women in business in the UK. In January 2015 Nancy was recognised as the UK’s Most Inspirational Woman by the NatWest Venus Awards. “I would like to encourage others that anything is possible. It does not matter where you come from or how you started. It’s how you finish!” said Nancy on receiving the award.
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