Nancy Hunt’s Nasio Trust charity helps orphans and children in Kenya. Jaine Blackman meets this year’s Venus UK’s Inspirational Woman of the Year

Charity co-founder Nancy Hunt recently picked up a national award for inspirational woman of the year... something that would come as no surprise to the young people’s lives she has touched over the years both at home and overseas.

In Kenya, Nancy’s Nasio Trust provides a literal lifeline to orphans and children living in poverty, and in Oxfordshire it offers youngsters a life-changing chance to help others.

“If I was to describe the charity in three words, I would say: changing lives positively,” says Nancy, who was honoured for her charity work in the Venus Awards last month.

“The Nasio Trust’s projects concentrate not only on the day-to-day care of those who have lost parents or who suffer through extreme poverty, but also on the education, self-awareness and mentoring of the children.”

Through supporting the children into adulthood “they are enabled to reach their full potential and give something back to the community”, she says.

Nancy fully understands the value of education to the youngsters.

Coming from rural Kenya (see panel right), when she was 12, her mother arranged for her to go to boarding school in Migori close to the Tanzanian border. “It took almost 24-hours to get there,” she recalls. “At school I experienced the luxury of having a bed to myself. The downside was that I had no visits and no contact with my family and was lonely.”

Nancy was able academically and she won a place at a Kenyan University to study education. After graduating she worked for a while in a boys’ school, teaching geography and economics.

Then her sisters Betty, who was working for British Airways, and Alice, who was with the Kenyan consulate in England, suggested Nancy join them with the aim of getting an MA before returning to Kenya.

While living with her sister Alice in Reading Nancy was introduced to Jonathan, who was to become her husband in 1996.

“When we became an item we bought a house in Southmoor, near Abingdon,” says Nancy, who took a job with Thames Valley Police as a domestic violence co-ordinator.

The experience proved invaluable when Nancy was involved in setting up an initiative to help young people on the verge of getting into anti-social behaviour build new lives. “It allowed me to see how issues interlink and how complex family life can be,” she says.

“My childhood was tough but when life was difficult there were always adults in the extended family who were there for me.

“I saw how different it was for children here if their family became dysfunctional after parents split up or one or both became an addict.

“The children have to cope alone without extended family support. It affects how they see themselves, often not valuing themselves.”

By this time Nancy and Jonathan had two children. Nigel and Chantelle. Nigel, 21, who has just finished his degree and Chantelle, 15, who is studying for her GCSEs.

And in Kenya, in 2000, something happened which would change Nancy’s life.

Her mother, working in a sugar cane field, found a baby lying on a blanket with a bundle of clothes next to him.

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The first children the Nasio Trust helped, as they were then and photographed again in 2014, below

“When the little boy, whom she named Moses, was not claimed by anyone, she took him home and became attached to him. She was 79 and was struggling to look after a six-month-old baby,” says Nancy, who arranged for Catholic nuns to take care of him.

Orphaned children began to play a larger part in Nancy’s life in 2003. Her sister Lorna was eking out a living selling from a kiosk shop at the side of the road. She started feeding orphans and, one day, 60 children turned up to be fed.

“With some other local women, she started the Nasio Women’s Group. Nasio was the name of my grandmother,” explains Nancy. “It was a hard decision but they chose to support 15 of the younger orphans by pooling food and organising volunteer teachers.”

But then Lorna then died suddenly of a stroke, aged just 45.

“Everyone was concerned about what would happen to the orphans,” Nancy recalls. “They were distraught – they had lost the person who cared about them. I knew I could not walk away.”

That year she and husband Jonathan asked everyone who usually gave them Christmas presents to instead give money to feed the orphans.

“Before long, we had raised more than £1,000. We registered the Nasio Trust as a UK charity.”

The organisation has grown rapidly and there are now six trustees with Jonathan as chairman, – Nancy is the full-time director.

She said: “I had not intended dropping my career. Initially I contacted Save the Children and Oxfam and all the big charities I could think of to see if they would take on the project. But ultimately I had no choice but to take it on myself.”

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And Nancy’s work in Kenya had an impact back home in Oxfordshire in 2003.

She explains: “A police officer in Berinsfield was concerned by the lifestyle of some young people there. I suggested showing them a video of the conditions the orphans had to cope with, including a leaking roof in the old kiosk’s kitchen.

“When we arrived at Berinsfield Youth Club some of the teenagers were drunk – and most of them were complaining, effing and blinding about having to watch a boring video. “After it finished one of the girls said ‘What are we going to do to fundraise to repair the roof' ‘?” Helped by the youngsters, the trust raised £30,000 to create a purpose-built centre. Four of the Berinsfield teenagers went to Kenya to help paint and decorate it.

Since then, more than 100 Oxfordshire youngsters from all walks of life have been to Kenya to help on Nasio Trust projects.

The trust provides a support centre but its policy is not to build orphanages.

“Once you put a child in an orphanage away from his community you handicap him,” says Nancy. “Where there is extended family, often elderly, the orphan sleeps at home. “They come to the support centre in the morning to be fed. If he/she is HIV positive we give them their medication. We provide pre-school education. When they reach primary school age, we buy their uniform (a condition for admission). Our centres are close to the schools so they can have lunch at the centre. We find a family, sometimes staff members, to take on those children with no extended family.”

The charity is always looking for sponsors for the children. Take a look at the website to see how you can donate from £5 to £30 a month to help.

For more about The Nasio Trust see or call 01235 856290