Kajiado is a small town lying about 60 miles south east of Nairobi on the flat plains of Kenya's Maasailand. Nairobi, being quite a popular tourist attraction, has all the trappings of prosperity but unfortunately Kajiado doesn't. Like most of Kenya, wealth and poverty sit side by side separated by a few miles of infertile land. A rough airstrip has enabled the town to attract the attention of the Kenyan Flying Doctor Service and the railway is a primitive but nevertheless effective means of communication. In addition to this, the roads to Kajiado are quite passable during the dry season. Capitalizing on the accessibility of the town, the African Inland Church runs a child care centre in Kajiado.

The centre was built in 1978 by two missionaries; Mrs. Betty Alcock and Mrs. Lorna Egland. A low and not very modern building by Western standards, the centre was built to be a focal point for food distribution to hungry children during the droughts and famines of the late 1970's. The droughts and associated famines are still all too prevalent in the area but the emphasis of the centre has subtly changed. As well as ensuring that he nutritional needs of its' charges are not neglected, the centre also provides medical support for the "local" children suffering from a variety of diseases often aggravated by malnutrition. The children are referred to the centre on the recommendation of the flying doctor who patrols a catchment area of many thousands of square miles. A large number of the children suffer from tuberculosis and trachoma and an appalling number are both crippled and disfigured by polio and skin disorders.

It was against this background that UKMAMS and the Kajiado Centre first met in 1980. Supporting a number of Army exercises in the area, UKMAMS were spending a good deal of time at Jomo Kenyatta Airport and were becoming quite well acquainted with the local area, customs and beverages. It was during this time that UKMAMS adopted the Kajiado Centre as "its charity". For the first few years of the association the UKMAMS contribution was confined to collecting food, bicycles, toys, clothing,, garden implements and presents. These were taken by members of UKMAMS to the centre in person during the many visits that were subsequently and are still being made. The centre derived great benefit from these items. A bicycle is a basic yet excellent physiotherapy machine as well as a means of transport to a child who never has and never will walk unaided

Whilst the centre provides medicine and physiotherapy for all those who are sent, not all are cured. Children malnourished and left to squat in their "bomas" (basic Maasai shelters) for long periods of time reach a point beyond which they will never be cured.

The centre itself does not seek to look after its patients until they are fully independent. All children brought into the centre are intended to be returned to their tribe as soon as possible. The return of these aided children to their own has done more than anything else to spread the word to the tribes of Maasai who are indigenous to the area.

The centre is held in high esteem by the parents of the tribes who think nothing of walking upwards of a hundred miles carrying their child to seek aid. It is a little sad that having been cured, the child will be returned to an uncertain future as no after-care exists in the villages to which they return. The staff at the centre try to maintain contact with the ex-patients but with a country so diverse and rugged it is an uphill task often subjugated to the more immediate needs of the present.

In 1998 Flight Sergeant Tony Dunphy of Delta Team was in the area and had visited the centre with the usual batch of supplies. Here he chanced upon the centre's plans to build a school in the area and a number of smaller school houses in the villages from which their children came. The centre was embarking on an ambitious project of education as well as care, so that the children leaving the centre would possess skills that would aid the tribes to which they were returning. Being a gentleman, Tony enquired if there was anything that UKMAMS might do to assist. Five kilometers from the Kajiado centre is a small village which has a few mud huts and a surround of thorn bushes to keep wild animals out. The village is called Eiti and it was here that UKMAMS accepted the task of building the school hut. The construction was to be 36' by 18' and would be made from concrete blocks with a corrugated tin roof supported by wood. As with most British building firms, UKMAMS had no training in the construction business. Where they did succeed above their commercial counterparts was in the high level of enthusiasm they brought to the task.

There would of course be construction costs and Delta team decided to raise the £1,000 necessary for the project. Walking the length of Hadrian's wall to raise money is a tiring business, but Delta team managed to raise in excess of £2,000. The team then deployed to Kenya under the guise of assisting an Army exercise "Grand Prix". This would give the team two weeks in which to build the school house. Of the two weeks anticipated necessary for the project, four days were lost to work on the exercise and two more to bad weather, cutting the building time in half. A local tradesman by the name of Moses was retained to oversee the enthusiastic, but less than gifted, amateur builders. Moses not only supervised the construction, but also made the "chai" - a hot, sweet smoked milky substance that bore little resemblance to tea as we know it.

At the end of the two weeks construction was unfortunately not finished which was a big disappointment to Flying Office Stu Dainton and his team, missing the "Topping Out" ceremony. The school was officially opened in February of 1990. The abiding memory of the team was one of gratitude to the Kenyans who were the model of hospitality and the cheerful hard working attitude of all of the workers on the project, including the children themselves who became labourers for a fortnight and saw the project to completion.

Today the centre still fulfils its two main aims of nourishment and medical care. The centre also provides a highly regarded programme of education that provides vocational training and allows hundreds of children every year to find a place in secondary education. The centre now also has a nursery for its younger children and looks after youngsters from the age of 18 months to 15 years.

The building projects continue with UKMAMS assistance, still visiting the centre during the ongoing autumn exercises in the area. UKMAMS still raise funds which are used in direct support of the Kajiado centre. Every year the squadron renews a sponsored record attempt to fit the most ever number of people into a Hercules aircraft, all profits of which are allocated to the centre.

UKMAMS also has a foreign small change collection scheme which involves passengers returning from abroad depositing their foreign coins into collection boxes where it is aggregated and converted into Sterling. Many civilian organisations send donations to the squadron for Kajiado, and every year RAF Lyneham charities committee donate a substantial sum to the project.

In addition to the funds raised for Kajiado, the squadron also receives medical equipment and welfare goods from a variety of sources which are sent to Kenya on any available airlift travelling to the country. The use of spare RAF capacity in this way is most important to the centre, as without it the resupply of Kajiado would be through highly expensive commercial sources.

UKMAMS are committed to continue their support of the centre and will remain flexible to their requirements as they change. The squadron is proud and gratified to be able to help, and where the suffering of children is involved they are pleased to have the chance to make a difference for the better.

Link to the centre's website: