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.
For one brief, heartbreaking period in their young lives all that the three brothers Wilson, Samuel and Joseph had was themselves after unbelievably being abandoned by their mother.
And it was on a dark, rainy evening in Kenya when a neighbor heard their desperate crying that a concerned, compassionate neighbor came to their rescue.
Though she tried to locate the boys’ mother, she was nowhere to be found – and with nowhere else to turn, the woman brought Wilson, Samuel and Joseph into the loving, welcoming arms of Phyllis Keino, the founder and director of the Lewa Children’s Home, a longtime partner of Bread and Water for Africa®.
“On arrival, they were weak, hungry and very malnourished,” Phyllis told us. “They came with many ailments.”
In addition, never having been to school, they could neither read nor write and showed signs of being mentally challenged.
Phyllis does not select the orphaned and abandoned children who are brought to her. Whether this is by government officials, the police because their parent(s) are in prison, or caring citizens, she instantly gives them her love as if each is one of her own, because from that moment on they are.
The horrors of their past lives are thankfully unknown, but what is known is that these three boys have a present filled with a love they have likely never known, the basic necessities of life including health care and an education, and hope for a long life and a bright future – thanks to Phyllis and the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa®.
At the Lewa Children’s Home in Kenya, roughly 50 children are provided with everything they need – food, shelter, healthcare, an education and more. They even have electricity, unlike many children in the country, but it comes at a high cost.
To help defray that major expense, thanks to the generosity of long-time supporter, the Landis Family Foundation, we were able to sponsor 50 percent of the cost of equipment and installation of solar panels and hot water heaters this year.
Lewa founder and director, and our international spokesperson Phyllis Keino noted that “This grant will ensure that children of Lewa will have access to hot water as the current installed solar panels are over 10 years old and have stopped working.”
In fact, Kenya and many African countries are “going green” and we are doing our part to take advantage of the tremendous amount of solar power potential available throughout the continent.
As reported recently by Africa.com, Africa has an immense energy crisis with a population of close to 1 billion, there are 625 million people living without power – nearly 70 percent of the population.
“Africa has much greater solar resources available than any other continent because it is the sunniest continent on earth,” notes Africa.com.
Kenya is taking the lead in promoting solar power as more and more of the country’s residents are getting power for the first time, or installing solar panels and reducing or eliminating their dependence on the grid.
In 2017, we installed solar panels on the roof of a clinic in the town of Kericho enabling doctors and staff to have hot water for washing, as well as keeping the facility itself more sanitary.
And three years ago, working with our partner in Sierra Leone, the Christian Health Association of Sierra Leone, we shipped solar panels which were placed on the roofs of clinics and hospitals in the most remote regions of the country where running a power line would be impossible.
Renewable energy technology has the potential to reduce the many of the problems faced throughout the continent and we applaud the fact many small-scale companies and start-ups, such as M-KOPA Solar in Kenya which sells solar home systems to low-income earners, are making large inroads in making green energy available for all.
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.”