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.
Any school needs classrooms, a library, and a laboratory. It also needs a kitchen to prepare the food for hungry students, as well as a place for them to gather to sit and enjoy their meal break in between their classwork.
Such as the Kebeneti Secondary School in Kericho, Kenya which has been growing since its founding in 2015. Today, the student population has grown to 455 students, and as their numbers have increased so has the need for a larger kitchen and for an actual cafeteria.
“The dining hall and kitchen are essential as students are currently eating lunch outside,” we were told by school founder Titus Korir.
Through the past few years, thanks to our supporters, especially one in particular, Dick Landis, Bread and Water for Africa® has been able to assist Kebeneti in meeting the educational needs for hundreds of teenage boys and girls who would otherwise been unable to attend a school in their community.
The completion of the dining hall and kitchen by the end of the summer (weather permitting with rainy season ahead) is another step towards Kebeneti’s steady march towards meeting every student’s needs, and that includes a dining hall which “will provide a conducive environment for the students now, and in the long term,” notes Mr. Korir.
Earlier this year, we were able to ship a 40-foot container (approximately 22,000 books) to Kampala, Uganda, where they were distributed by our partner there, Bega kwa Bega to dozens of schools.
Those textbooks and reference books will be used to educate tens of thousands of children and youth in a country where going to school is a privilege that most parents, who being uneducated themselves, cannot afford.
The students who attend these schools fully understand how fortunate they are to be in school and savor every moment in the knowledge that without knowing how to read and write they have little hope for anything more than a subsistence way of life ahead.
These books will be treasured by these children who will first use them to learn simply how to read, and later to expand their vocabulary, and ultimately their mind.