We at Bread and Water for Africa® began to get to know him as a 2-year-old toddler when he was brought to the Lewa Children’s Home in Eldoret, Kenya, and into the loving arms of Lewa founder and executive director Phyllis Keino after being abandoned by his mother.
Even at that tender age, Phyllis, who has become known as “mother” to hundreds of orphaned and abandoned children and who all have a special place in her heart could tell there was something exceptional about Emmanuel.
15 years ago, Emmanuel arrived at Lewa with his older brother and sister, and it didn’t take long for them to become a part of the Lewa family, and for Phyllis to become the only mother he has ever known.
While most children in Kenya, and throughout the African continent for that matter, want nothing more than to be able to go to school in the knowledge that getting an education is their only chance out of a life of dire poverty, for Emmanuel, it was not just attending school – but excelling the classroom – that was his passion.
Emmanuel attended Kip Keino Primary School from Nursery to Jr. High, and in 2015, as an eighth grader, Emmanuel tackled his biggest challenge yet by scoring among the best and brightest throughout the entire country in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations (similar to the SAT for high school students in the United States).
It is especially tragic for those who have the ability and determination but lack the money for school supplies and uniforms and have no choice but to take menial low-wage jobs to help support their families and themselves.
While of course we cannot say what was going through Emmanuel’s mind as he filled out his application for Kapsabet High School, we must assume it was with hopeful optimism. Kapsabet is one of the most prestigious high schools in the country whose alumni include Daniel Arap Moi, the second president of Kenya.
The odds against him being accepted to Kapsabet – (where only 300 new students are accepted each year – out of an application pool of 60,000!) – were long, but as his acceptance to the class of 2019 illustrates, not insurmountable.
For Emmanuel, beating those seemingly overwhelming odds was not a matter of luck, but a testament to his ability, and his steady belief that he can do whatever he sets his mind to.
Four years later, we have just received word from Phyllis that Emmanuel is headed to Taita Taveta University in Mariwenyi, Kenya – on a full scholarship!
Taita Taveta University, a non-profit public higher education institution accredited by the Commission for University Education of Kenya, is described as “A Premier Institution in Education, Training, Research, Innovation And Community Outreach.”
Beginning in August, Emmanuel will begin his studies, majoring in agribusiness; a vital field on the African continent as noted by a recent report by the World Bank on “Agribusiness Indicators: Kenya” which states:
“The importance of agriculture in the economies of sub-Saharan African countries cannot be overemphasized.
“With agriculture accounting for about 65 percent of the region’s employment and 75 percent of its domestic trade, significant progress in reducing hunger and poverty across the region depends on the development and transformation of the agricultural sector.
“Transforming agriculture from largely a subsistence enterprise to a profitable commercial venture is the prerequisite and driving force for accelerated development and sustainable economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
We have no doubt that one day in the not-too-distant future, Emmanuel – the same 2-year-old helpless child abandoned by his mother – will be leading the way as a driving force in helping to reduce hunger and poverty, perhaps even at the Baraka Farm right next to the Lewa Children’s Home where he grew up.
Despite all Emmanuel has accomplished, we know he will never forget those who helped him attain the success he has achieved today – namely Phyllis, and the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa®. Without them, he would not have had a home, much less an education.
Upon his acceptance to Kapsabet in 2015, he expressed his sincere gratitude in a letter to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® writing:
“I write this letter to really appreciate for sponsoring me – for if it wouldn’t have been for you, I wouldn’t be where I am.
“This comes from the bottom of my heart. I promise to work hard at school and post good results as hard work pays.
“Moreover, I promise to not let you down.”
The town of Mariwenyi is 400 miles, a 12-hour bus ride on the rutted Kenyan roads, from Lewa where he grew up, but a world away from how his life began and how we are certain it will evolve.
At Bread and Water for Africa® we know a good investment when we see it – and so does our partner in Zambia, Angela Miyanda, founder and executive director of the Kabwata Orphanage & Transit Centre. As with all our partners such as Lewa Children’s Home in Kenya, which receives food and revenue from its Baraka Farm, we strive to help them develop revenue generating operations so that they can ultimately become financially self-sufficient. Several years ago, Angela developed a banana plantation to both provide food to feed the children and also raise money to support the orphanage and make it less reliant on outside donations. The banana plantation has been a success, and over the years she has been able to double its size. But she also realized that revenue from the sales bananas is not going to make enough money to make Kabwata fully self-sufficient so about two years ago she came up with a novel idea – to raise fish in man-made ponds. We at Bread and Water for Africa® agreed with Angela’s vision that raising fish – fast-growing tilapia, which is a staple in Zambia – had great potential. And boy, was she right! More than 5,000 tilapia were harvested in the very batch which grew to maturity in about four months in two ponds, and thousands and thousands more were raised in subsequent harvests. With that proven success, Angela came back to Bread and Water for Africa® with a request for capital funding to construct two more fish ponds in order to be able to double the fish harvest within less than year. Thanks to our supporters, we have now embarked on the construction of two more fish farm ponds, which will double the harvest within the next year and for many years to come as Kabwata continues its process towards self-sufficiency.
On December 9, 1988, the board of directors of Christian Relief Services agreed to provide support to a fledgling orphanage in the town of Eldoret, Kenya.
And with that, Christian Relief Services, the umbrella organization of Bread and Water for Africa®, took the first step in a nearly 30-year mission of providing loving homes for thousands of Africa’s most vulnerable, its orphaned and abandoned children.
Bread and Water for Africa® soon developed close ties with Phyllis Keino, founder of the Lewa Children’s Home, who today remains director of the children’s home and is the longtime international spokesperson for Bread and Water for Africa.®
Phyllis and her former husband, Olympic gold medalist Kip Keino, began their journey of caring for others by taking in a few parentless children in their community who had nowhere else to turn but the streets. Over the years those “few” became “many” as Phyllis could not turn away any child in need who showed up at her doorstep from her home.
By 1990, they had nearly 50 children they were caring for and raising as part of the family – and they realized they could not do it alone.
During the next decade, Bread and Water for Africa® stepped up its support for the children’s home to include funding for paying for all the children’s school fees and building a dormitory.
In the meantime, Bread and Water for Africa® also provided substantial assistance in the construction of a primary school which would serve the children in the surrounding community whose school fees would make it possible for children living at Lewa to attend the new school free of charge.
Bread and Water for Africa® also provided significant resources towards the development of Baraka Farm which would not only provide food for the children at Lewa, but sell the surplus produce on the way to making the children’s home self-sufficient.
By the year 2000, the primary school had been constructed and there were 80 children living in the children’s home, which had grown to 96 children by 2002.
With the realization of the life-altering results being made at the Lewa Children’s Home, in 1999 Bread and Water for Africa® expanded our orphan care program to the Kabwata Orphanage and Transit Centre in Zambia, founded by Angela Miyanda, the wife of the county’s vice president.
The need for such an orphanage in Zambia was dire as the AIDS/HIV crisis was leaving tens of thousands of young children orphans to struggle to survive alone on the streets. Tragically, many of the young children she took in were born with the virus itself.
In 2000, there were reports of 100 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses each day in the capital city of Lusaka alone, and Angela had made a home for 50 children at Kabwata who were “indeed blessed to be in Mrs. Miyanda’s care,” a Bread and Water for Africa® staff person reported at the time after a field visit to the country.
It was also reported that month that Angela had been able to take a $5,000 grant from Bread and Water for Africa® “and turn an old, shell of a building into a beautiful new dormitory for more than 80 children she currently has in her program.”
By 2003, Bread and Water for Africa® was providing life-saving assistance to more than 400 AIDS orphans in Zambia, and today, Bread and Water for Africa® and Kabwata remain as stronger partners than ever.
Around the same time, Bread and Water for Africa® joined forces with Emmanuel Ministries (later to become Shinga Development Trust) in Zimbabwe by Margaret Makambira providing assistance to orphans in that country as well. Like Kabwata, Shinga remains a partner of Bread and Water for Africa® today, and is looking forward to opening its own children’s home this year.
In 2010, Christian Relief Services founder Gene Krizek described Phyllis as the “Mother Teresa of Africa,” but we believe in 2017 it’s appropriate to name them all the “Mothers Teresa of Africa” as they truly have been, and will always be, the “mothers to thousands.”
Ever since mankind made the transition from hunter-gatherer to agrarian society about 10,000 years ago, most of the world’s population relies on farming and other agricultural activities for food.
In many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Zambia many millions are reliant not just on farms for food, but must rely on themselves to grow enough food for themselves and their families, and hopefully have surplus crops to be able to sell at local markets.
The challenges for these small-holder farmers, a large percentage of them women, are many and great – especially regarding having adequate rainfall during the growing season in these times of climate change which cause extensive drought leaving farmers with nothing as all they can do is watch the crops wither and die.
But in these countries Bread and Water for Africa® has been working for two decades to support agricultural programs leading to food self-sufficiency and economic independence on both large and small scale projects.
For example, in Kenya, working with our longtime international spokesperson Phyllis Keino and Jos Creemers, manager of the Baraka Farm, over more than 20 years we have been witness to their efforts in transforming 500 barren acres into a thriving agricultural and dairy producing operation which supports Phyllis’ mission as director of the adjacent Lewa Children’s Home.
In Sierra Leone, after years of a brutal civil war and the tragic, deadly Ebola outbreak in 2014/15, Bread and Water for Africa® longtime partner there, Rev. Francis Mambu, director of the Faith Healing Development Organization, is not daunted – in fact he is more determined than ever to restore agricultural production to his country.
Bread and Water for Africa® supports FHDO’s own large-scale rice farming operations through the purchase of farming equipment including tractors and more recently following the Ebola outbreak when farming activities all but ceased in the country, thanks to our supporters, we were able to provide Rev. Mambu with a rice planter/harvester which allowed him to greatly increase production on his land.
In addition, through FHDO programs, Bread and Water for Africa® has provided support to hundreds of small holder farmers – again almost all women struggling to raise their children – by providing seeds and seedlings for plants such as groundnuts (peanuts) at the start of the growing season.
Most recently we are working on a program to provide women with cassava (yucca) plants which, when mature, they sell to a processing plant owned by FHDO which converts the cassava into flour. The women then buy the flour at wholesale prices which they sell at their local markets – in effect making two profits on the same product.
In Zambia, Bread and Water for Africa® supports the efforts of our partner there the Kabwata Orphanage and Transit Centre to have a banana plantation to support the orphanage, similar to the model created by Phyllis for Baraka Farm and Lewa Children’s Home. The banana plantation, started in 2007, was so successful that a few years later Bread and Water for Africa® provided funding for Kabwata director Angela Miyanda to double the size of the planation.
Then, in 2015, Angela came up with the idea to expand her food producing activities with pisciculture, more commonly known as “fish farming.” Bread and Water for Africa® provided her the “seed” money to construct ponds each containing 3,000 tilapia fish which mature in 90 to 120 days not only providing fish for the children, but making thousands of dollars in profits annually.
And in Zimbabwe, Bread and Water for Africa® partner, Shinga Development Trust, is not set up using modern farming mechanisms such as Baraka Farm, but instead utilizes a more traditional farming method known as “Farming God’s Way.”
As explained by Shinga director Margaret Makambira, “Farming God’s Way” stresses teacher farmers to build a sustainable farming method by managing the land, maintaining minimum wastage, no ploughing, and rotation of the crops.
From large scale modern farming to assisting small holder farmers subsisting on the small tracts of land, Bread and Water for Africa® places a high value on agricultural programs, and rightly so as so many lives depend on the success of farmers, big and small.
It may be a cliché, but there’s no denying its truth – time flies.
It’s hard to believe all that Bread and Water for Africa® has been able to accomplish in the past 18 years (since our inception in 1997) with our partner organizations in numerous countries throughout the African continent.
And perhaps none has been more rewarding for us and beneficial to the most needy children in Kenya – orphaned or abandoned by their parents – than our partnership with the Lewa Children’s Home and our international spokesperson Phyllis Keino.
What began as Phyllis’ mission to provide a loving place to live for a few children in her local community of Eldoret in the early -1970s has evolved into a home for hundreds of young children who would otherwise likely be fending for themselves on the streets with no one to care for them, one of nation’s top primary schools and a farm operation which not only provides food for the children, but has excess produce and dairy products to sell at the market.
Bread and Water for Africa® executive director Bethlehem Tessema had the opportunity earlier this year to visit her close friend Phyllis and see all the progress the home, school and farm have made since our partnership with Phyllis began in 1997.
“It is amazing to see all that Phyllis has been able to accomplish with the assistance of Bread and Water for Africa® supporters,” said Bethlehem. “We are proud of what we have been able to do, together with one of our longest-standing partners – the Lewa Children’s Home, the KipKeino Primary School and the Baraka Farm – and it’s all thanks to you.”
So it is today, a dream to do more for Kenya’s children with no place to turn than just provide a bed with a roof over their heads and food in their empty bellies, has been realized. They have a home where they know they are loved, and an education so that they will be able to mature into successful adults with hope for a bright future.
They say that knowledge is power, and thanks to Bread and Water for Africa®’s partner in Kenya, Baraka Farm , today there are some very powerful smallholder dairy farmers who are realizing great increases in their milk production.
Philimon, Stanley, Raphael, Paul and Samuel each have fewer than 10 cows, but with the training they received through the farm’s Practical Dairy Training Center they learned how to more than double the amount of milk they were getting from those cows without increasing their number.
Course modules included feeding, an introduction to various zero-grazing options, production of the milk in a sanitary and hygienic manner, and calf-rearing. Future courses will include the topics of cow health, fertility and farm record keeping.
While there is much to be learned in a classroom setting, more than half of the training is spent on the farm doing practical hands-on training on a small model farm, similar to the circumstances in which the students operate their own farms.
And for those who cannot make it to Eldoret to take the class themselves in person, Baraka Farm has started posting videos on youtube for anyone with a computer to view and learn from. For example, see the video below, it is now possible to gain information about calf rearing from the farm manager Jos Creemers himself.
There can be no doubt that for the small Kenyan farmers Philimon, Stanley, Raphael, Paul and Samuel the knowledge they obtained through the course will benefit more than just themselves alone, but their families, and those they share the knowledge with in their own communities.
Through your support of Bread and Water for Africa® you are helping to put more, and safer, milk into the bellies of children and making Kenya a more prosperous place to live, one small farmer at a time.