I first met Sue Hayward on a June day in 2007.
Elizabeth Gomm I was women's editor on The Gazette in Blackpool, and had heard about how Sue and Dave were planning to sell their small hotel because they wanted to build a children's home in Kenya.
I thought it would be an interesting story, not realising the journey would take me on.
At the time Sue had no land, no formal plans and no money. But she did have a vision, her Happy House.
She wanted to build a real family home for children like those she had encountered during her seven years of charity work with a school in Watamu, children who had been abandoned, neglected or who suffering from abuse.
It was when Sue showed me a video of the kids that I knew I was destined to help- it was as if those children spoke to my heart.
Anyone who has met Sue, or who knows about her work, will know she's an inspirational, determined and dedicated woman. I had no doubt that Sue, and the charity she'd founded, would turn her vision into a reality.
I wanted to do what I could to make that happen.
I went back to the office wrote my story and badgered the editor into letting me start a reader appeal to help. I was on a roll.
Sue and I became firm friends, I did what I could to help and to publicise her work from then on and sponsored a child, beautiful Barke, on the sponsorship scheme Sue had started for at the school she was supporting.
By 2008, Sue had been given some land and there was a bit of money in the bank. When troubled times in Kenya led to a halt in tourism and put many villagers out of work, Sue thought by starting then she could get some people into work, and food on their tables, even if the build had to stop when the money ran out. It didn't. Together we kept the ball rolling, Sue working every hour trying to raise funds, me pushing her story, and the money kept coming.
In Blackpool, our Gazette readers were hooked on Sue's extraordinary story - raising money, donating goods, and joining our sponsorship scheme for our Happy House kids - before we even had any. By becoming sponsors they were helping to finish the build knowing they would be allocated a children as they started to come to us.
In 2009, I went out to Kenya for the first time and I met my beautiful Barke. I'll never forget the feeling of seeing her for the first time. My heart overflowed with love.
The Happy House was well on the way by then and it was just as Sue had told me it would be in 2007!
My next visit was at the start of 2010, the Happy House build was almost complete and I was due to report on the arrival of a container full of furniture and other essential items, many donated by Gazette readers. I travelled out with Sue and Dave who had packed up their lives in Blackpool and moving to Watamu for good to run the Happy House.
We arrived on time. The container didn't. That was one of my first lessons in telling the time - Kenya style. Never expect anything to happen on time as we know it!
I was there for two weeks that time, coming home well before the container arrived. And for Sue and Dave getting it safely had involved a great deal of wrangling with docks officials, worry and money.
With Sue in Kenya, she needed someone to look after things here in the UK and as we worked so well together I volunteered to take on the role of coordinator. That meant publicity, helping with fundraising, giving talks (something entirely new to me) and anything that cropped up.
In March 2010 I went out to Kenya for the second time that year, for the official opening.
It was a joyous occasion, there were 28 children in our care by then. Some are still there now.
There home was just what Sue had promised, a happy, loving, family home - full of sunshine and smiles.
Three weeks later on my first back at the office, I couldn't settle. For the first time in 44 years as a journalist, I wanted to do something different.
I knew, deep in my heart, that I couldn't do my job and look after things for the charity without compromising one or the other. I don't do compromise.
Later that year, to the shock of my family, friends and colleagues, I quit life in the newsroom. Now I could put the charity first, raising awareness and money.
Over the years I have carried on doing what I can to help the Happy House and to relieve Sue of some of the workload where I can and will continue to do so for as long as I am able.
I didn't volunteer for rewards but for what I could give but, even so, the rewards are immense.
They come in the form of love, love of a family where I am happy and grateful to be their "Auntie Libz".
BRENDA & RED SPONSOR TO CHARITY
To sponsor at Happy House is very special. The children become part of your family and you love them as your own, Sue , Dave and staff do a wonderful job. Everything given they make sure the children receive. Sponsoring was the best thing i ever did.
CHLOE GROVES SPONSOR TO SAIDI
I have been supporting the Happy House for a number of years now, my first visit to Watamu was in 2008 where i first met Sue and Dave the founders of the charity. I returned to Watamu in 2009 and I always remember visiting the Happy House where at that time building work had only started and foundations were being laid. The journey that I have seen throughout the years and archievements that the charity have made has been unbelievable and it has been a great pleasure supporting the charity through fundraising and sposnoring. I jumped at the chance to start sponsoring when I was ready to do so and have now been a sposnor of Saidi who I have been sponsoring since 2013 when he was just 3 years old and I have visited on many occasions over the years - I've lost count. I have been able to see Saidi advance in to a polite, hardworking and confident character and watching him grow up has been the most rewarding feeling and one which makes me proud as a sponsor and a charity which is very close to my heart.
Rotary Club of South Ribble, Lancashire, England, UK
Rotary Worldwide has 1.2 million members and is present in over 200 countries. Most towns and cities throughtout the world will have at least one Rotary Club and often more than one. In the preston area for example, where we are, we have seven clubs. Malindi has a Rotary club as does Watamu.
Rotary members are volunteers who share a passion for supporting their local communities as weel as throughout their country and throughout the world.
"Peace the world over" is one of our aims.
In Rotary we prefer to support charities with minimal overheads where all, or nearly all, the money goes towards the provision of services. Happy House is very much one of those.
Our Rotary Club of South Ribble first became aware of a local Blackpool lady setting up a Kenya orphanage in 2012 when Sue came to speak to our conference. It was a coincidence, as my wife and I had visited Watamu in 2004 and was supporting a young man - Salim - with his boarding school education in 2012. He is now a doctor a clinical officer working in a remote clinic in Kenya. Since that time we have been very friendly with Salim's uncle, Sulubu who we meet in 2004 and became friendly with and he and we have done various projects in the Malindi area together since.
In 2018 I stayed with Sulubu in Watamu and visited Happy House orphanage and the school on two occasions and was most impressed with what I saw, and saw was Sulubu.
Sulubu tells me that most orphanages in Kenya are money making ventures. They send their childrens to the local towns to beg each day and look after them but provide little or no education. Just exploitation.
It's very different at Happy House where the children living in the orphanage are loved and educated and cared for very well. Like a big family but without the rows! Between the school and the orphanage each child is nurtured to be a whole person with range of essential personal qualities and skills such as growing vegetables and friuts and the school is amongst the best in Kenya.
Sue and husband Dave set the highest standards in all they do and make every shilling work hard. Sue is an etremely loving person but she will not stand for any nonsense espicially someone trying to get one over on her. So, we that all donations we make will make a huge difference since, in most cases, money goes alot further in Watamu than here in England.
From 2012 to 2018 we sponsored two children - Baraka and Victoria and now we sponsor one child - Esther - who is aged 8 , was a foundling and is delightful.
We also help with Sue's projects from time to time. Just recently we have paid for 3 smart TVs for the school for example. Happy House is a high priority for our club members.
AMANDA & MARK BARRON WITH THEIR DAUGHTERS OLIVIA & PHOEBE
We have felt so privileged to be a part of the Happy House family over the years. It has brought us all great joy to watch the children grow and see their smiling faces on the blog. To know that we are in a small way able to help these well deserving children receive a brilliant education and the love and safely of their HH family is wonderful. I firmly believe education will help the next generation escape poverty and knowing they are safe and loved means they will help their future communities and families.
Our trip to Kenya during the summer of 2019 is one that we will never forget. To see first hand that the Happy House has chosen the perfect name! It is truly ahappy place. I can’t wait to see the future those kids make for themselves. No doubt the confidence and care they receive will make them great change makers.