For many years, Richard “Dick” Landis has been partnering with Bread and Water for Africa® to help improve the lives of Kenyan children.
First was his support of the Lewa Children’s Home, the Kipkeino Primary School and Baraka Farm, all integrated under the direction of Bread and Water for Africa® international spokesperson Phyllis Keino.
A successful retired businessman and track coach, Landis and his wife, Toini, have committed the biggest part of his retirement to working in Kenya, so far making the 18-hour trip some 40 times, notes a 2017 article in the Cornell College alumni magazine, his alma mater.
As noted in the article, he and Toini created a foundation to support their efforts which is building a high school and medical clinic with one of his former runners, a tribal elder.
That school is Kebeneti Secondary School in the town of Kericho where Bread and Water for Africa® and Mr. Landis have been partnering together for the past few years, first getting the start-up school established and then working on improvements and upgrades year after year.
Kebeneti opened in 2015 with 50 students, and has new grown to an enrollment of 480, where girls outnumber boys 244 to 236.
That former runner and tribal elder, Titus Korir, noted that the opening of the school four years ago was necessary because there was no secondary school in the area forcing children who had graduated from primary school who lived in the community to walk many miles to the nearest secondary school to continue their education.
Since the opening of the school, Bread and Water for Africa® has teamed up with Mr. Landis to construct six classrooms, as well as the construction of a chemistry lab and physics lab, which we then equipped with modern equipment.
Mr. Landis was quick to recognize the generous contributions of Unilever and the Finley Trust who supporting equipping the labs. “They were very helping with the labs,” he told us.
To accommodate the rapidly growing student body population, we are now in the process of constructing four more additional classrooms.
Most recently, we have just completed the construction of a dining hall and kitchen which was celebrated in grand style with a ceremony commending Bread and Water for Africa® and Mr. Landis on November 24 with ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Mr. and Mrs. Landis.
In a card written by a student, the student wrote:
To Landis family,
Wow! Thank you for the lovely gift! Thank you for your kindness; thank you for being the person you are.
You are a person who makes life easier and better for everyone in need.
You put others before yourself, making us feel special and important! It is a privilege and a please to know you Bread and Water for Africa!
We appreciate you Bread and Water for Africa ®. We thank you Mr. and Mrs. Landis.
A plaque on the exterior of the dining hall, known as “Landis Hall,” states: “The construction of this hall was funded with donations from Mr. Richard Landis of Montana, USA, and Bread and Water for Africa. It was officially opened by Richard Landis and his wife Toini on Sunday, 24th November 2019.”
As Mr. Korir stated in his request for assistance in constructing the dining hall, “The dining hall and kitchen are essential as students are currently eating lunch outside and their meals are being cooked in temporary shade.”
He also noted in addition to having a place for the nearly 500 students to sit
down together at lunchtime, the hall will also be used for school assemblies and as a concert hall.
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.
Kobby was abandoned when she was only 7 years old and the first home she can remember was the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.
At Lewa, Kobby has everything she needs.
“I am happy,” she says. “We are fed well every day, we eat a balanced diet, and we are given enough clothes and shoes.
“We are not all the same age, there are small babies brought to the home and I enjoy helping them in the mornings and evenings because I love babies so much.
“In the mornings when we wake up we are well, we play in a clean field, the place where we sleep is clean, we have cupboards to put our clothes, there are toilets.”
In school, her favorite subject is Christian Religious Education where she learns about the Bible and the story of Jesus and his disciples.
“We learn how God created the earth and we learn so many things I can share with others,” she said.
She does acknowledge that some subjects are more challenging for her than others.
“I learn well, but sometimes I can’t understand some subjects,” she told us.
Only a fifth-grader, Kobby already has big dreams for her future.
“When I grow up I want to be a doctor because I want to help those who are sick,” Kobby said. “I want to treat them so that they can enjoy their life again. Even when my family, friends, relatives, and others become sick, I would like to treat them so that they can be healed.”
Kobby has years to make her dream a reality.
For now, she can enjoy being a child without worry or fear for the future thanks to Phyllis.
“I cannot remember when I lived, or my family, but I know my home is the Lewa Children’s Home,” Irene said. “Life here at Lewa is cool and I love being here.”
In 2016, hundreds of students in Africa were able realize their dream of furthering their education through the Bread and Water for Africa® school fees assistance program. Among them is Kito, a Form 2 (sophomore) at the prestigious Kapsabet High School in Kenya, one of the oldest high schools in the country. He was abandoned by his mother at age 2, and along with his older brother and sister. Kito was placed at the Lewa Children’s Home, which receives support from Bread and Water for Africa®. He started his education in nursery school at the age of 4 and studied for 8 years at the Kipkeino Primary School. He now attends the prestigious Kapsabelt High School. His dream for the future? To become a doctor in his homeland. And to Kito, we have no doubt that he won’t let us down. We know there are thousands who don’t have the opportunity to continue their education. His dream is possible because supporters like you help pay his school fees through donations to Bread and Water for Africa®.