The Whistler Story...
Allow me to begin by introducing myself. My name is Caroline Cullen. I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 2 and ‘big sister’ to 10 brothers and sisters.
I am going to tell you a bit about what I do and what I have done over the past 10 years and how it all came about.
Firstly I will tell you how it all came about.
I lost my dad at the age of 59 to heart disease in 2000, as a family we were devastated as are any family at a time of loss. Different people handle different situations in different ways and I have to say I didn’t handle it very well, not very well at all. There were times I didn’t think I would ever ’move on’ after our loss. Grief can filter through every aspect of a person’s life and I felt I had to do something positive to help me move forward. I had 4 young children at the time, who has the time to grieve with 4 beautiful children one would ask? I asked myself the same question….many times. They say that people come into your life at certain times for a reason and that certainly happened when I bumped into my old friend Pamela. We chatted and were catching up on old times when Pamela said herself and another friend of ours Barbara were planning to trek Vietnam in a few months to help raise much needed funds for Barrettstown. Following our chat it was decided that I too would trek Vietnam with the girls for Barrettstown, before I knew it I was making plans to train for the trek and making plans to organise fundraisers. This was all totally new to me and it felt great. I was making plans. Things seemed so much brighter.
Pamela didn’t go to Vietnam nor did Barbara but I did. I met strangers who are now friends. I trekked, I had never trekked before and boy were those treks long and tough too but I loved it…every minute of it. I met children in the deep forests of Vietnam, beautiful children. I wondered what life had in store for these beautiful children. I didn’t like to think about it too long as their future outlook I feared was not a good one. I held fundraisers; I visited Barrettstown many weekends to help out and I was very happy that I was doing something good for others. I kept busy. I remained with Barrettstown for 3 years. We visited Lesotho the following year returning a year later to build an orphanage as we had seen the need on our first visit.
In 2009 I became involved with a charity called ‘Childaid’. I had done some investigating and I wanted to be involved in a charity where little or no overheads were part of the funds I was raising. I had become involved in the ‘industry’ so as with newfound knowledge comes newfound questions. I found what I was looking for with Childaid and they too were great. All they did was done by volunteers …happy days, no wages, no admin, no overheads…. Wonderful, just what I was looking for. My first visit to Nairobi, Kenya was 2009. I was going to climb Kilimanjaro. There were numerous projects that Childaid supported in Nairobi so on their trips they always brought their trekkers to see where the funds they had raised were going.
What we seen in the slums was very distressing, we visited schools, we visited orphanages, and we visited many projects. The one that broke my heart more than anything was a project called Songa Mbele Na Masoma. It was 4 containers filled with disabled children in conditions I cannot even begin to describe. We were but paying a quick visit and moving on.
Who can move on from this, is it possible to witness babies and young children in containers, in high temperatures, in filthy clothes, lying in their own excrement, without food, without water and walk away…. I think not.
I decided there and then I was going to come back, I had to go back. I felt an instant bonding with these children. I could not walk away and not go back…… and so it begins, my love for these babies, my love for these children, my love for these people.
I did go back; I have been back now many, many times.
Mukuru Slums, Nairobi is now my home from home. I visit these children now twice annually sometimes three times annually (if my work & family allow it). I go to them with whatever my baggage allowance allows me but more importantly I bring all of me over to them. I am not a teacher, I am not a nurse, I am not a therapist but I have two hands to hold and to hug. A piece of my heart belongs to these kids. I feel their sorrow and I am forever overwhelmed at their happiness. I do all I can and I give all I can to these children.
My love for the children has grown over the years. From the orphaned and displaced children of St Marions, the street boys of Mary Immaculate and the disabled babies and children of Songa Mbele. I have in the past few years taken to spending a lot of time on the streets and in rubbish dumps too. This is where I find some very young children and teenagers to bring into Mary Immaculate. There are the very many who just cannot be ‘saved’ but who we can feed if even for just one day.
I have gained the love and trust of the children over the years. Their stories are very harrowing and so sad; most of the kids I work with have been raped and abused.
Over the years I have went out alone under the umbrella of Childaid and all funds I raised went where Childaid felt they were needed.
I feel now it’s time to spread my wings. I would like to decide myself with the help of future volunteers and with a voice from the children where the money I raise goes.
It makes sense as I am on the ground and I feel I could really do so much more for the children while I am with them.
The children require the basic human needs to survive. I want to make their days better. I don’t want to build buildings; I want to lay foundations to brighter days for these children. These children may not be here tomorrow so I want to help them today. Food, water, clothes, a day trip, a movie night….. Whatever it takes to bring a smile to their faces. Their burden is heavy; I want to lighten their load. Their daily burden is their struggle to survive. Can I help that burden…in the words of Barack Obama…’Yes I can’ but only with your help.
I decided to name my charity in memory of my dad as it was through his loss that I find myself where I am today.
My dad was nicknamed ‘Whistler’ as he was always whistling away to himself whilst walking, working etc. My dad was a wonderful father and loved all children so it is apt what I am doing in his memory.
I am enormously proud of this charity, I pinch myself sometimes that I am actually doing it but I am and I can only do it as long as I have the support of my family, friends, colleagues and you.
FROM OUR EVENTS GALLERY
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