A Conversation with Long-term Donor and Disability Advocate, Maurizio Beghelli

by Kupenda

Italian philanthropist, Maurizio Beghelli, has given generously to support Kupenda and Kuhenza’s work in Kenya for more than 10 years. Through his company, website and giving, Maurizio advocates with leaders and communities in both Kenya and Italy for improved care for children with disabilities. In this interview, Maurizio talks openly and passionately about why he gives, why he trusts Kuhenza/Kupenda to use his funds responsibly, and how the children themselves have transformed his life. Since 2004, Maurizio and his wife Lucia Pluchino  have improved the lives of more than 1,000 children with disabilities in the Kilifi County of Kenya.

 

How it Began

“I’ve been visiting Kenya for vacation for 15 years. My passion for the children of Kenya began immediately, as I have no children myself but love children. The lives of children here are so much harder than they are in Italy.”

The Soccer Game that Changed it All

“I visited a lot of orphanages and schools. But one day I came to the Gede Primary School for a soccer game. There were about 100 people watching the game but 10 children were very far away. After the game I wanted to visit them. This was the first time I met the children with disabilities at Gede Special School.”

Maurizio and the former head teacher of Gede Special School, Martha Karo (who is now Kuhenza’s Program Director)

Martha’s Oversight Builds Trust

“After a few days I came back to the Gede Special School and I met the Head Teacher Martha Karo. An hour later I came back with half truck full of ugali, flour, sugar, oil – Martha opened the door with the big eyes! I asked Martha about the problems and what the school needed. Martha showed me. I donated a water tank, classrooms, a bakery, a therapy room, pumps, kitchen equipment, wheelchairs, mattresses, uniforms, a laundry machine and more. My role with the Gede was with Martha. She suggested me in these 10 years a lot of different projects – sometimes they were important …sometimes I said no. But 3 times each year I checked the projects. I saw all the projects finished – good, really good. It built respect and belief between us.

Passion Inspired by a Past

“Why disability? I don’t know. When I was 20, my father and brother died. We were a poor family. And so I closed my younger life. I started to work very hard because we needed the money. My job was a very fine job but a part of my heart was on standby. When I met the kids at Gede Special I felt this is my way to be. I played with the kids because there were no kids in my life. To stay with the kids – my child inside is now outside.”

The children in Kenya have lovingly nicknamed Maurizio “kipara” which means “bald” in Kiswahili!

Government Advocacy

“I want to help the poor people — to give them a chance. Number one is to give a chance to other people. If you spend your time speaking and talking the situation remains the same. This was a good example to the government –I put my money here and you government – where?

Maurizio’s Expanding Network

“Donations from others in Italy began about three years ago. I show photos, I present something about the kids. And so people give money at Christmas time — sometimes even people with little money like my coworkers. I come back with pictures and certificates and during friendly business lunches I share. It started a lot of questions. Some we don’t even know. Our friends share the story and more people are giving. We have over 100 donors now.

Classroom constructed by Maurizio that will support 20+ children with severe disabilities in rural Kenya

Helping Children Beyond Gede

“Now Martha has retired and become a Kuhenza staff. I respect Kupenda and Kupenda respects me because we have the same goal. Now I’m old, we are alone – alone is difficult. I like team. I prefer to grow up together with Kuhenza because our hearts lead us to see this smile of the kids. I know the school, I know the organization, I know Martha. It will be easy to put the right energy in the same space and expand now from Gede to Timboni to Marafa… if God wills it, this will be medicine in my heart.”

Maurizio’s Perseverance

“Sometimes there is a problem. Kids become sick. Kids die. If there is one possibility to help we will try. With all the passion we try. We are wrong one time we wrong another time but we try again. We are rich in heart.”


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