Magazine article New African

The Girl from Flamingo Comes to Nairobi. (Feature/Kenya)

Magazine article New African

The Girl from Flamingo Comes to Nairobi. (Feature/Kenya)

Article excerpt

Clayton Goodwin meets Joan Hooley, and did they talk dinner? No, they talked about her project in Nairobi. The photos here show Joan Hooley having fun with her little friends in Nairobi

Joan Hooley came to Kenya, saw and was captivated. The Jamaica-born actress is used to breaking new ground and enjoying new experiences. She was one of the first recognised black pin-up models in Britain (in the landmark magazine, Flamingo) and made British television history by sharing the first inter-racial kiss in Emergency Ward 10, the pioneer soap opera. That was in the mid-1960s. Now, almost 40 years later and known more for her writing for the small-screen and for her recent role as Josie McFarlane in Eastenders (BBC-l TV), in many ways the successor of Emergency Ward 10, Joan continues to make news.

The actress has been working with ChildHope, a London-based charity which aims to improve the lives of street children and to defend their rights. Joan has been working particularly to raise funds for an estimated 50,000 children in Nairobi, Kenya, and has recently visited the project "Pendekezo Letu" (Kiswahili: "Our Project"). The initiative emphasises reuniting the street girls with their families and offers them the opportunity to obtain an education and relocation with relatives away from the harsh social conditions of the streets.

While in Nairobi, Joan met a class of girls who impressed her with the transformation they had made from street girls to young teenagers with a sense of purpose and self-esteem. Says Joan: "I am very pleased to be associated with this charity which is successfully addressing the immediate and long-terms needs of these street children. The reception from the children in Nairobi was touching: I was close to tears."

Joan had been approached by ChildHope because the charity recognised the important role which celebrity entertainers could play in raising the profile of the charitable activities on account of their public relations experience and contacts in the media. Joan has gone further by harnessing the world of entertainment to generate funds to help those in very different circumstances many miles away.

When we met at her home in West London -- the torrential rain and early winter cold was altogether out of keeping with the climate she had experienced in Nairobi -- Joan provided a complete set of photographs of her visit, information on both ChildHope generally and "Pendekezo Letu" in particular.

This was no transient star flitting in and fluttering out on the whim of a fancy. Her experience in Nairobi has fired her ambition to found a similar half-way house for the street children of her Jamaican homeland.

The problems in Kenya, which ChildHope seeks to counter, have arisen from the effects of rapid urbanisation, poverty and the subsequent breakdown of traditional culture and regular family patterns -- not, of course, that such problems apply solely to Kenya, or even to East Africa, but to much of this post-industrial world. Indeed, ChildHope is working with similar projects in Johannesburg (South Africa), the Philippines, Central and Eastern Europe. It is the practice of ChildHope to work with local partner organisations.

Nevertheless it is Nairobi that caught Joan's attention and affection. …

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