Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, on this Sunday, May 9, sadly there are millions of children who do not have a mother to thank for bringing them into the world, feeding them when they’re hungry and comforting them when their sick, and most importantly, loving them with all her heart.
Perhaps their mother died in childbirth, and their infant son or daughter never even got to see their mother’s face. Maybe she died of a tragic disease such as HIV/AIDS, or malaria, an untreated waterborne disease from drinking contaminated water because she had no other choice. Or perhaps she was a young, teenage mother who was not prepared for the responsibility of raising a child on her own and simply abandoned their daughter or son.
Mother’s Day as we know it began in the early 20th century in the United States as a way to honor each individual mother, motherhood itself, the maternal bonds between mother and child, and the great influence mothers have had on society.
Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated each year on the second Sunday in May, not only in the United States but in countries throughout the world, including Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe where our partners operate children’s homes to give hundreds of children every year a place to live where they are loved and treated as family – because that is who they have become.
In Kenya, Phyllis Keino, founder and director of the Lewa Children’s Home and the international spokesperson of Bread and Water for Africa®, opened her home, and her heart, to the orphaned and abandoned children in her community of Eldoret more than 30 years ago.
And since that time, thanks to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa®, her first compassionate step to help save but a few has grown into the children’s home which at any given time is home to roughly 100 little boys and girls, and teenagers on the verge of adulthood who have lived most, if not all, of their lives there.
Such is also the case in Zambia where our partner Angela Miyanda, founder and director of the Kabwata Orphanage & Transit Centre, provides a loving home for about 60 children, many of them whose their parents were victims of the AIDS epidemic – some tragically born with the virus themselves – found a home when others, even members of their own extended families shunned them and turned them away.
And in Zimbabwe, another of our longtime partners, Margaret Makambira, founder and director of the Shinga Development Trust and its Lerato Children’s Village, shares our mission of providing loving homes, three nutritious meals each day, and a warm bed to sleep in at night, medical care when they are sick and an education to give them hope for a brighter future.
In addition, in Sierra Leone where our partner Faith Healing Development Organization operates clinics with the primary focus of providing young mothers-to-be with the preventative care they need to have a successful birth, and then the follow-up care to ensure that both the mother and child are healthy and happy.
Over the past three decades Phyllis, Angela, and Margaret have become the “mothers” to thousands of children who have matured into successful adults under their caring and watchful eyes – a daunting, but a loving task made so much easier through the generosity of the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa®.
A year ago, schools throughout Kenya were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that included the Seed School located in the largest slum in East Africa — Kibera on the outskirts of Nairobi.
For more than 100 students who attend the Seed School not only were their educations were interrupted (with, of course, no possibility of attending classes virtually), but for many, if not most or all, they lost the regular meals they received at school made possible by the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa®.
However, thankfully schools have since reopened and our meals program has resumed, and the student body has increased to 177 students putting increased pressure on the school administrators to ensure every student receives two meals each school day.
Patrick Ndongo, director of our partner the Seed Foundation which operates the school, explained that the school administration and staff strive to transform the lives of the children in their care by not only offering them hope through an education but keeping them happy and healthy through the feeding program.
In February, Patrick reported the mission of the Seed Foundation and School is to transform the lives of vulnerable children intellectually by giving them the opportunity to access quality education.
“This cannot be achieved easily without a realistic feeding program in place,” says Patrick. “Support received from Bread and Water for Africa® enabled the Seed Foundation to provide a reliable feeding program.
“This kept the children to attend classes regularly and gave them focused concentration in classes. Without the feeding program, it would be impossible for a regular school attendance which would heavily jeopardize our work toward meeting our goal.”
Among them is Novella, a 13-year-old orphaned girl who has been attending the Seed School for four years who lives with her stepsister.
“I feel so much privileged to be studying at Seed School,” Novella told us. “This because I get porridge in the morning and different categories of food at lunchtime.
“Many times, I leave the house without having taken even breakfast; this makes it so difficult for me to concentrate in my studies.”
As for Patrick, the impact on being able to provide students with steady meals has been obvious and immense.
“When I listen to the feedback from the parents, they are so impressed with the feeding program, which has led to a significant increase in enrollment at the school. And going through the school register, it is evident that the class attendance has improved.
“Many of the students are attentive in class unlike before. This has made them improve in class performances leading to more skill and talent development. The feeding program has helped significantly in improving children’s performance levels in class and extracurricular activities.
“This leads to positive growth and improved health, keeping nutritional deficiency diseases at bay.”
What started as an idea at an UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) conference in 1969, became what we know today, Thursday, April 22, as Earth Day, is now observed — 51 years following the very first celebration in 1970 — in nearly 200 countries around world by more than 1 billion people.
EARTHDAY.ORG will feature workshops, panel discussions, and special performances that will focus on the theme of Restore Our Earth™ and ways of innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems including regenerative agriculture – a holistic land management practice which improves soil health.
At Bread and Water for Africa®, our partners in the agricultural field, such as Rural Youth Development Organization – Sierra Leone (RYDO-SL), are not massive farming operations with hundreds or thousands of acres, but grassroots organizationsfocused on helping small scale farmers get the most productivity as they can from their small tracts of land using ecologically sustainable methods.
Among them is Mamie, who through the Bread and Water for Africa® COVID-19 Relief Fund, received agricultural training, gardening tools and vegetable seeds to start gardening in an environmentally- sensitive manner to produce food for her family and sell the surplus at the local market.
“According to Mamie, as much as this project has contributed a lot in diversifying her household’s diet, it has also contributed in empowering her as a woman,” reported RYDO-SL program manager Joseph Ngoniyela Kobba.
Mamie described herself as “just a housewife” with her husband being the family’s sole provider until she received the training from RYDO-SL through the Bread and Water for Africa® COVID-19 Relief Fund.
“We had been encountering difficulties for food and to attend to other financial commitments of the family just relying on his salary,” Mamie told us. “With this project, lots has changed in my home.
“Now I am engaged in income–generation (vegetable cultivation) and with the proceeds from sales of some of my produce I can now contribute financially to the running of the household.
“With the income I make, I now have a voice in deciding what we do with the money and that makes me feel empowered,” she says proudly.
And on this Earth Day 2021, we are sure that Mamie will be out in her garden working certain in the knowledge that through sustainable gardening she is today an equal partner “and not just dependent on my husband” as together they lead a more self-sufficient lifestyle
We at Bread and Water for Africa® fear what would have happened to 7-year-old Usif when he was severely burned over 70 percent of his small body without the nearby Rokel Clinic where he received free treatment for his injuries.
Rev. Francis Mambu, executive director of our longtime partner Faith Healing Development Organization (FHDO) in Sierra Leone, told us the boy was brought to the clinic by his mother, an impoverished widow raising her children on her own.
“The burn extended to the chest, lower abdomen and his right and left thighs,” reported Rev. Mambu.
Initially, due to the severity of Usif’s burns, it was recommended that he be taken to a local hospital for care.
“However, the mother pleaded with the health care staff at the clinic that she had no money to pay for the treatment if she took him to the hospital,” said Rev. Mambu.
So the staff at the Rokel Clinic was sympathetic to her and her son’s plight and agreed to provide treatment for Usif, and we are pleased to report from Rev. Mambu that within about three weeks of being cared for at the clinic “the boy was completely healed.”
Thanks to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® we were able to provide grant funding and ship medicines and medical supplies and equipment to FHDO for use to help keep the Rokel Clinic’s doors open for people like Usif and his mother who otherwise would go without treatment – even for a little boy with large burns who desperately needed medical care.
The clinic treats thousands of impoverished Sierra Leoneans every year providing basic health care services, reduces the area’s child and mother mortality rates, and provides knowledge to the community on health issues, mainly catering to the vulnerable, especially infants and children up to age 5 and women, particularly pregnant and lactating mothers.
And we shudder to think about what would have happened to little Usif if the Rokel Clinic was not there to treat him, and potentially saving his life.
“His mother was full of joy as she left the clinic with her son,” said Rev. Mambu. “She thanked the Almighty God for saving her son’s life, and also the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® for sponsoring the Rokel Clinic.”
Today, April 7, Bread and Water for Africa® supports and applauds the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Day, which has been held every April 7 since 1950 to draw worldwide attention to the major importance of global health.
This year’s theme, “Building a fairer, healthier world” recognizes that “Our world is an unequal one” when it comes to health care for all around the world.
“As COVID-19 has highlighted, some people are able to live healthier lives and have better access to health services than others — entirely due to the conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age,” states the WHO.
“All over the world, some groups struggle to make ends meet with little daily income, have poorer housing conditions and education, fewer employment opportunities, experience greater gender inequality and have little or no access to safe environments, clean water, and air, food security and health services.
“This leads to unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness, and premature death. This is not only unfair: it is preventable.”
Sadly, this is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa.
At Bread and Water for Africa®, we have been working for some 20 years to provide medicines and medical supplies, and equipment to our partners in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sierra Leone who operate clinics and hospitals to treat such preventable and easily treatable illnesses — with the proper medications — and literally save lives.
And we have the greatest respect for those frontline healthcare workers, sometimes risking their own lives to save others, such as Nurse Faty who works at the Mokoba Health Center operated by our partner, Rural Youth Development Organization – Sierra Leone.
Nurse Faty told us that working at a clinic in a rural village in Sierra Leone “is at most times difficult as one is working to save lives where people lack basic health information.”
She acknowledged becoming worried as the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread in the country — not so much for herself — but for those infected with the coronavirus who were fearful of being stigmatized for coming to the clinic for the treatment they needed.
Nurse Faty told us she was constantly thinking of how she could reach out to those in isolated communities and to explain to them to not be afraid to come to the clinic as many were more afraid of being identified COVID-19 patients than they were of becoming seriously ill or even dying.
To help alleviate that fear, she told us “I organized a community information program with various stakeholders to build confidence for patients and the community as a whole.”
Today, Nurse Faty says she is “happy as the rate of COVID-19 infections is declining,” but remains determined to do her work and save lives thanks to the generosity of the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa®.
Bread and Water for Africa® partner Rural Youth Development Organization – Sierra Leone (RYDO-SL) has the primary goal “to provide free and affordable health services for rural people, including community-based health education, and services to families and disadvantaged individuals.”
And, thanks to our supporters, we are proud to be able to assist them in their mission of preventing and treating illnesses and injuries and literally saving lives.
RYDO-SL partners and collaborates its work with two hospitals and nine health centers and clinics, including a COVID-19 health center in the Bo District, and in the past year, RYDO-SL reported that these hospitals and health centers have served more than 25,000 Sierra Leonean children, mothers, parents, and elders.
Among them is Nyanwo Luseni, a 40-year-old single mother living in the small village of Kortumahun, four miles from the Bumpe Health Center, who had been suffering for years from severe high blood pressure which required medical treatment.
After being diagnosed at a government hospital in 2017, she was prescribed medication which she desperately needed; however, “there was no pharmacy, and no medication available for her sickness,” RYDO – SL program manager Joseph Kobba told us.
Joseph told us the nearest pharmacy to her was in the city of Bo, and the cost of her medicine — $10 — which was more than she could ever possibly raise from the meager revenue she earns selling the produce she grows in her small vegetable garden and sells at the village market.
But, again, thanks to the supporters we were able to ship a 40-foot container filled with medical supplies and medicines — including the medicine Nyanwo needed to save her life — which was provided to her, free of charge.
“That was three months ago,” Joseph told us earlier this year,” and today her blood pressure, which is being monitored at the Bumpe Health Center, her blood pressure is normal and she is now able to again work in her garden.”
Joseph told us that the equipment necessary to monitor blood pressure is not available at most of the small village health centers in the Bo District, and that, sadly, high blood pressure, easily treatable with prescribed medication, is “reported as one of the sicknesses that show the highest death rate in the country.”
And to our supporters who made it possible to ship the life-saving medicine to RYDO-SL, Nyanwo says:
“Thanks to Bread and Water for Africa® for your timely support for helping to save my life.”