Although Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, that does not mean that dozens of children living at the Lewa Children’s Home do not have plenty to be thankful for every single day.
Thanks to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa®, and of course “Mama” Phyllis Keino who decades ago began taking orphaned and abandoned children into her home, and eventually founding what was to become the Lewa Children’s Home.
It is because of Phyllis and our supporters that these vulnerable children get to eat three healthy, filling meals daily, have a warm bed to sleep in every night, and have the opportunity to attend school and build a pathway towards a brighter future.
It is also because of Phylllis’ vision to build a children’s home, the KipKeino Primary School, and the Baraka Farm which provides the children with nutritional milk and dairy products for strong bones, maize and vegetables to ensure they receive the nutrition they need for a healthy life.
Among those who has most to be thankful for is Brian who has spent most of his young life at Lewa, thriving under Phyllis’ loving care.
“In this home I have it very good because of the love offered to me,” says Brian. “I would like to thank Mama Phyllis Keino for her support in my education and home. May God bless the work of her hands. Thank you.”
Joseph Ekidor is no longer a child at age 19, but a young adult looking to make his way in the world as he is on the verge of completing his secondary school education.
It’s a bright future made possible only through his hard work and determination, the loving home he found at the Lewa Children’s Home in Eldoret, Kenya, and the generous and loyal supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® who made it possible for him not only to attend school as a child, but complete his secondary school education.
He came from a family of five siblings being raised by their parents who, only working casual jobs when they could find work, could barely scrape by putting a roof over their heads and putting food on the table for all of them – much less pay for the education they knew their children would need to succeed, reported Lewa founder and director Phyllis Keino.
“His parents were not able pay for their children’s education as the little they earn is used for basic needs,” explained Phyllis. “Through the Lewa Children’s Home he has been provided with an education through the Bread and Water for Africa® school fee sponsorship program.”
Phyllis noted that his best subjects in the classes he attends at Sambut Secondary School in Eldoret are chemistry, physics and mathematics – which is a good thing as his dream is to pursue a career in medicine, a much-needed field in the developing country.
His teachers noted in his term one academic report that in the courses where he is struggling that the see the potential in him writing, “you are capable of doing better.”
As for Joseph himself, “I really appreciate the support that you have given me since I entered Form One (freshman year),” he wrote in a letter for the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® who made it possible to attend secondary school.
18-year-old Ann Tiyaa is a Form Four (senior) at Sambut Secondary School in Eldoret, Kenya, who has made great strides in her life.
For one thing, she has accomplished something only few children and youth are able to do in Kenya – attend 12 years of school and poised to graduate with a bright future ahead of her.
This would not have been possible for this orphaned young woman who first found a home in the loving arms of Phyllis Keino at the Lewa Children’s Home, and then began her education as a young child 12 years ago and steadily progressing through each grade, without the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® who made it possible for Phyllis to pay her school fees.
“She was born and raised in a family of four children before her mother’s demise,” reported Phyllis. “She was an orphan so she was raised up in the Lewa Children’s Home.”
Phyllis has full faith in Ann who has already demonstrated in her young life that she has the will and determination to succeed at anything she puts her mind to.
“She is working hard to achieve her dream of becoming a journalist, and her best subjects are business studies, languages and history,” added Phyllis.
In her term one academic report, her teacher expressed encouragement to Ann to “put more effort” into the subjects where she has been struggling in the knowledge that “you have the potential.”
As for Ann herself, she is grateful and appreciative of the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® school fee assistance program. In a letter of appreciation she wrote this to those who made it possible for her to continue her education to its completion:
“It is my pleasure to thank my sponsors for their efforts, and good hearts.
“If not for your support, I could not have reached where I am today or even have visions and missions…or even become the person that I am today.
“I promise you that I am going to do my best and make you proud at the end of this year. Words cannot express my gratitude. Only God knows what is in my mind.
“May God bless you very abundantly.”
This month, Bread and Water for Africa® executive director Beth Tessema is spending several weeks in East Africa developing new partnerships in order to enable us to provide assistance to more and more Africans, particularly children.
In Nairobi, Kenya, Beth toured the infamous Kibera slum, the largest slum in Africa and among the largest slums in the world, home to an estimated 250,000 impoverished people, the majority of them children.
It is there that we now have a new partner, the Seed Foundation, with the mission of transforming the lives of these vulnerable children living in squalor by providing them with access to a good education, while ensuring they also get fed during the school day.
“Most parents send their children to school because of the feeding program,” explained Beth. “Yes, in the short term the children are fed, but in the mid-term and long-term they get an education that will enable them to reach their full potential leading towards a better life than in the slum.”
Through our newly-established partnership with the Seed Foundation, we are working to raise $7,200 to provide meals to 100 children for an entire year – that amounts to just $72 per child per year.
The children in Kibera live with their families in a shack with an average size of 12 feet by 12 feet with mud walls, a corrugated tin roof and a dirt floor. These “homes” often house up to eight family members or more, and many sleep on the floor.
For them, attending the Seed Foundation school where they are learning and getting fed is a respite from their dire living conditions at home.
“Our program addresses the educational needs of the most vulnerable children within the communities in the slums of Kibera,” says Seed Foundation founder and director Patrick Odongo.
He explained that Kibera is “an informal set-up which bears the heaviest burden of employment and poverty in all of Nairobi. Due to rampant unemployment and the inadequacy of resources in rural areas, Kenyans migrate from their rural homes to Nairobi in search of jobs – and end up finding themselves in one of the most populous slums in Africa.
“The Seed School was created to offer students a quality education, and combine it with a feeding program,” Patrick continued. “Two meals are provided every day to every student. This helps in preventing stunting and other malnutritional-related diseases.”
In addition, he noted that the feeding program enables the children to be able to concentrate on their studies, instead of focusing on empty bellies.
The children from impoverished families who are able to attend the Seed School realize how fortunate they are.
“These are children who come from less privileged backgrounds and families,” said Patrick. “Our program offers hope and assurance for these children – giving them hopes and opportunities for a predictive and foreseeable future where they will be self-reliant.”
For us at Bread and Water for Africa® that is what we have been all about for more than 20 years – addressing a child’s immediate needs including food and shelter, while at the same time giving them the opportunity for a brighter future, and in this case – a life out of the slum.
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.