A Brief History of Red Rhino and the Vision Forward
The Early Days
The Red Rhino Orphanage Project was born through founders Greg and Susan Traverso’s rugged travel experience in Africa. The journey began in 1993, when with only a daypack, Greg set out on his own to travel across Africa. Greg was joined for part of the adventure by his friend, Susan Richardson (now Susan Traverso). The trip became a source of great inspiration in their lives. From their adventure, Greg and Susan, both teachers, created the concept of Red Rhino Tours, a small safari business based in Nairobi, Kenya. Susan came up with the name Red Rhino and one of Greg’s students designed the logo.
In 1998 Greg and Susan organized the first Red Rhino tour. It was then that Greg asked his friend and fellow teacher, David Saunders, to join them. Along with the breathtaking sweep of land and animals, however, they also witnessed the harsh devastation and poverty afflicting the children of Nairobi. At the time, there were over 90,000 street kids in Nairobi, many of them orphaned, sniffing glue and dressed in rags. Collectively, they decided they needed to help.
Co-founder David Saunders
After a struggle with cancer, a long convalescence, and a re-envisioned future, David approached Greg and Susan about their idea of building a home for orphaned and abandoned children. In January 2006, with the help of close friends and family, Greg, Susan, and David gathered what funds they could and sent David to Kenya to secure the title deed to the five acres Greg and Susan had purchased with their savings.
The plan was to build the Red Rhino Children’s Center (RRCC) and bring in some of the most vulnerable children in Kenya before they wound up on the streets. The RROP 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation was formed and with it our Board of Directors. Over the next four and a half years we set out to build the Children’s Center which was completed in 2010. During that time period we developed a food distribution program, supported our children at a rescued babies center, put Wilson (our first employee) into Medical School, and worked with our local community.
Peggy Bosworth Traverso
Peggy has been the real backbone of the organization. For the first few years of the project, Peggy was the board secretary and treasurer. Peggy continues to be our secretary and works as hard as ever. Peggy facilitates our sponsorship program: keeping the sponsors and the RRCC kids in touch with each other; she also processes all incoming mail, speaks to groups whenever there is an opportunity, volunteers at every event, proof reads most everything, and so much more. She even sponsors one of our kids! Most importantly, Peggy is known as “Grandma Peggy” to all of our kids in Africa, and they absolutely adore her. She has been on the continent and with the kids on four different occasions, a month or more at a time, and working closely with our kids and staff, taking on special projects, and all the while living in modest conditions often without electricity or other creature comforts. Always with a positive attitude, “Grandma Peggy” is an invaluable resource linking the kids to us and us to the kids and without her we doubt there would have been a Red Rhino Orphanage Project. Peggy plans to return to Africa this coming summer ““ an inspiration to us all.
The Arrival of the kids to the Present
The arrival of the kids at Red Rhino meant finally crossing the Rubicon. Preceding that day came securing all of the mandatory licenses with five agencies, hiring and training staff, achieving certification as an officially registered children’s home with the Kenyan government, and signing the official court documents legally committing the children to us.
Next came introducing the children to Red Rhino and welcoming them to live permanently at their new home. We began with 18 children and grew to 26. Over the years, and thanks to the tremendous efforts of our Child Welfare Expert, Joy, a few of our kids have been reunited with relatives or other kind people willing to take the kids for a weekend or even to live with them permanently after a rigorous vetting process.
While it is not perfect, we know that despite all of the love and nurturing and safe living environment of Red Rhino, it is better for a child to live with a family if at all possible. Those few Red Rhino kids who have moved remain an integral part of our mission; they are still under our care in terms of making sure their circumstances are safe and secure and we continue to put them through school. In addition, they come back to visit their Red Rhino Family.
Our kids are no longer the “˜poorest of the poor’. In fact, their circumstances are much better than many of the kids in our local villages and neighborhood. Our kids save their allowance to help and tutor the poor during the holidays. On Saturdays, some of our Red Rhino kids volunteer at the community center to read to the younger kids in the surrounding area.
The Vision Forward
We find ourselves at an interesting crossroads with our kids getting older and many of them starting to go off to boarding school, some sooner than we expected. It is at the government boarding schools, usually starting in Grade 6, that our kids will receive the best education. Some of our kids will stay with us and stay local because it is best for them.
Unless absolutely necessary, we have decided not to take in any new kids, at least not those younger than our youngest.The long-term plan for the project is to see our current generation of kids through until they are self-sufficient, having obtained the highest level of education they are capable of. Because college or university is not always an option due to rigorous and highly competitive admission processes, many children will finish their education in trade schools.
Simultaneously, we will continue to strategically and patiently build our outreach program. Now that we have had a base in Kenya for over a decade and have developed a highly respected reputation, we see the great work that can be undertaken by educating more and more children in our neighborhood. There is more we can do to move forward such as branching out to others who would not otherwise have any chance of going to school.
Our long-term plan is to carry on with our mission which has always been centered on education and, through it, continue to help create opportunities for children to make their way out of what would otherwise be a life of poverty with very little hope. We hope you will join us on this journey into the future of Red Rhino.
The fact that the Red Rhino Children’s Home exists today and is helping these beautiful children in the most important of ways is a testament to the perseverance, generosity and single-mindedness of many, many people, and to the grace, which, despite every reasonable objection, makes such things possible.