Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Sorry to leave all of our lovely readers hanging for such a long stretch – you know what they say about time flying when you’re working hard…or something like that 🙂

I’m actually stepping out of my posting hiatus to highlight some really great sources I have recently stumbled across in my day to day work.  If you’re reading this blog, you are probably as interested in charity work and Africa’s future as I am!  So I thought I’d share some links with you – ranging from other great blogs to general informational sources that include progress and statistics on development in Africa.

Titled The Africanist Perspective, I am certainly not the first or last to recommend this insightful blog.  Ken Opalo covers a range of topics from social to political and I, personally, found his commentary during the Kenyan elections this year to be honest, comprehensive, and easy to follow for any newcomer to African politics.

Mo Ibrahim is always a strong voice in the field and this report on “African Youth: Fulfilling the Potential” is just one of many publications they offer.  They also hold forums for leaders in Africa and publish those results for other scholars and development practitioners to utilize in their work and experiences.  This particular report is an eye-opening and refreshingly visual look into the state of African Youth today.


The World Health Organization (WHO) is probably a familiar source to development students or other practitioners, but nonetheless they are worthy of mention as an authority on health risks and challenges around the world.  This particular link highlights risks for youth around the world, all of which are particularly relevant to the communities we work with in Africa.


Another familiar transnational body – the United Nations provides great resources and fact sheets about Africa and worldwide development.


This is a great link for the nitty gritty statistics about countries in Africa.  Population? Working age population? Literacy Rates?  All here!

Did I leave anything out?  Tell me your favorite sources for information, opinions, and news on Africa and development in the comments!


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Don’t worry! We will continue with recaps from our trip to Lewa after this brief interlude of thoughts from the 2012 AidEx Conference (a global humanitarian and development aid event) that was centered on this very question of being prepared for the future.


Being welcomed to the AidEx Conference at the Brussels Expo Center

 The question of preparedness is one that many of us in the development or nonprofit fields fear asking – or one that we simply don’t have time to ask as we frantically try to keep up with present crises, projects, and ideas.  However, this conference was a stark reminder of the consequences of being unprepared for the future and its opportunities and challenges.

So what are the risks of avoiding “future-think”?  Well, the underlying consequence to the organization doing the avoiding would be its own eventual phase-out.  If you don’t plan for the future, you have no future – Sweet and simple, right?  This is a very serious and very real threat, especially for smaller organizations like Bread and Water for Africa®.  Our ability to survive in a climate of global transformation depends on whether we MAKE time for strategic thinking, innovation, and planning.

Besides the immediate threat to the organization itself, we must also consider our many partners in Africa.  What are we risking for the communities that we partner with?  What are the threats to the livelihood of the children, the families that they support?

At AidEx, Randolph Kent (Director of the Humanitarian Future Program at King’s College, London) discussed the importance of sustainability for preparedness in terms of

  • Fostering and creating more opportunities for successful innovation;
  • Avoiding a synchronous system failure; and
  • Building resilience to external shock.

When working in a field where people’s lives can depend on how smart and efficient we are in accomplishing a mission, we cannot overlook the magnitude of these outcomes on our partners.


It’s good to prepare for the future! But Baby Edward at Lewa might be getting ahead of himself…

“Sustainability” is a word that’s been thrown around a lot in the era of globalization.  It is used so frequently that it has come to mean everything and nothing – which is a huge pet peeve of mine, since I believe that “sustainability” has a huge role to play in our future-think strategy before word-overuse renders it obsolete!

So how do we define “sustainability”?  Why is it important in our approach to the future?  Simply speaking, our team identifies a project or program as sustainable once we are confident that it would remain operable without the support of Bread and Water for Africa®.  For us, sustainable means that without Bread and Water for Africa®, the change and impact achieved in the community during the time of our support and through the support of our donors would remain. 

Our ability to prioritize sustainability and anticipate the challenges and opportunities the future holds will dictate our success in supporting African communities, our ability to be efficient and responsible stewards of our donors’ gifts, and our resilience as an organization – and a team – in the face of the ever-transforming global context.

How do you define sustainability?  What do you think is the most important opportunity or challenge that the future poses for us (in a humanitarian context)?  Leave a comment!

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6:00 am – An hour I generally consider the middle of the night. Not at Lewa. 6:00am is when the children’s home comes to life. Young voices trickle through the dormitory, then the hallway, gradually gaining numbers and force until there’s a full-blown cacophony in the playground, just beyond my window pane.

The early morning also marks the start of a working day at Lewa, where Phyllis’s small staff of social workers tackles large-scale child rearing with the speed and efficiency that would be the envy of most parents. The “older kids”—age five and up—are seasoned veterans by now and don’t need much help getting ready. But the toddlers—and there are dozens of them—are shepherded through an assembly line of morning routines.

The kids are soaped and rinsed by a staffer who sends them onto the next station where they get dried, one after the other, using a single towel that gradually dampens. At station three, the kids are rubbed with body oil and assigned their clothes for the day.

Today I’m on-hand and desperately want to help. So I’m toweling off kids who aren’t quite dry and attending to the final phase of the process: helping them into their pants and t-shirts, pulling chubby limbs through sleeves and cuffs. For some of them, this is just a game. They can actually dress on their own but are happy to take advantage of my ignorance of this fact. I help them pick their outfits, and they soak up the extra attention from a grown up. They also get an extra kiss.

Getting dressed

Getting a bit overwhelmed here

My sudden appearance on the scene has also set off a feeding frenzy of sorts. On most days, Lewa’s 106 kids are competing for the attention of Phyllis, who they call “mom.” Today I have the honor of being the center of attention. I don’t speak their native Kiswahili, but the language barrier melts away as I get a crash course in emergency terms. “Pole pole” means “Slow down.” “Godja!” is “Wait!” while “Cudja” means “Come here.” And of course, “Hapana!” for “No!”


Finally ready for breakfast

By the end of the day, my own t-shirt can be thrown directly into the washing machine. I’m also adapting to the rhythms of the house, ready for bed and fast asleep at 9:00pm.

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What does it take to care for 106 small children—all at once? That question loomed over my trip to Lewa Children’s Home, an orphanage at the northwestern edge of Kenya funded by Bread and Water for Africa. As a fundraiser, the question first came to me in the abstract: 106 mouths to feed. How do you get it done? How much food, supplies and labor is required just to keep Lewa going? The project is made up of three interlocking parts: the orphanage that raises the kids; the school that educates them; and the farm that produces their food and income. And the closer you get to Lewa–once you fly over continents, cross the vast plains of Kenya and find yourself face-to-face with 106 other little faces–you realize that the endeavor is even more complex than you thought. But more on that later. First, I had to actually get there…

Laundry hanging at the Lewa Children's Home

Children’s laundry

I travelled to the Lewa Children’s Home on August 30th, after having spent a few days in a Catholic mission in Karungu, on Lake Victoria. I arrived two hours early to catch the local bus(or matatu) that runs between the town of Kisii and Eldoret, the closest city to the Lewa Home.  By the time the bus came, it was so crowded that there was only one seat left: An unenviable space wedged between the driver and other passengers to his right. That implied riding over 200 kilometers of bumpy roads with the stick shift between my knees. So, with a little bit of arguing and the support of strategic alliances I had formed with other passengers during the wait, I managed to finagle a more comfortable seat in the second row. Despite the heavy rain and the fact that no one had the faintest idea of when we were scheduled to arrive, the ride was relatively comfortable. (It’s worth noting that I had actually snagged a seat on a “luxury” matatu).

Matatu bus

A Matatu bus

Phyllis Keino, the founder of Lewa Children’s Home, was waiting for me at the gas station in Eldoret, where I disembarked. We then drove another thirty minutes to reach Baraka Farm, the 200 acre cheese and dairy farm that hosts the Lewa Home.

When I arrived, the children were getting ready for bed. On the say to my room I passed the dormitory and glimpsed a flurry of small bodies jostling into their beds, which were lined up in neat rows. By the time I got back from dropping off my suitcase, it was too late. The kids were all tucked in. Exhausted by a long day on the road, I had a delicious dinner with Phyllis and Jos and went to bed. Outside my window the night air hummed with insects. The quiet before the storm…

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Since I began working for Bread and Water for Africa, I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I chose to take the non-profit route instead of following many of my fellow graduates to jobs in finance, consulting or the stockmarket (not that the stockmarket’s so desireable these days, but you get the picture). 

The first thing that I tell them is that this is the only job that I’ve ever had where I leave the office everyday feeling like I’ve really done something significant to help those less fortunate than myself. Every once and a while, something comes across my desk that proves this theory of mine.  I’d like to share with you one example of a source of my inspiration.

A few weeks ago, we received a package from Phyllis containing thank you letters from some of the children that we help her sponsor with school fees and basic necessities.  One of these letters in particular really moved me…

Thank you letter from Daniel Kimutai 
The letter reads:
Dear sir/madam,
It is with great honour and sheer gratitude that I take this opportunity to thank and appreciate your great devotion, commitment and willingness to enable me to be in school.  Many people wish to get this opportunity to learn but due to various social and economic reasons they can not.  During my previous phases of education, I have never been chased from school due to lack of school fees.  It is sad to see friends dropping out of school then drowning in the sea of drug abuse.  I thank God that I am not a victim.
Thank you for working hand in hand with our loving mother Mrs Phyllis Keino.  Through her, we have learnt the basic principles of Christian living such as respect, hardworking, humility and obedience.  I must assure you that success will be the fruit your labour.  You will be proud of all your sacrifices you have made to me.  When I grow up, I would like to be a lawyer, and my greatest objective in life is to the shining star and a role model to Lewa Childrens Home.  I know that with hard work and a great determination, I will achieve my goal.  Thank you very much and may you be blessed. 
Yours faithful,
Daniel Kimutai
This is just one of the many such letters that I have had the pleasure of reading since I began working here.  I’ll admit, it does make me feel a bit guilty about how much I complained when finals rolled around each year, knowing that I should have been grateful for my educational opportunities.  But knowing that there are organizations like Bread and Water out there to provide these opportunities to children and young adults without the means to achieve them themselves is not only inspiring… it’s reassuring. 
Bread and Water for Africa has renewed my faith in the goodness of people and in the power of determination and hard work.  I’m truly lucky to have the opportunity to see what the work of Bread and Water looks like on the ground.  And to think, Eldoret is just 5 short days away…

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During my stay in Kenya, I will be hosted by our volunteer spokesperson Phyllis Keino at the Lewa Children’s Home (pictured below). 
The brand new Lewa Children's Home dormitory

Phyllis’ dedication to caring for the orphaned and abandoned children of Kenya began in the 1970s when two dear friends of her family died in a car crash, leaving their two young children without a family to care for them.  She and her former husband, Olympic gold medalist Kip Keino, recognized the plight of children in their community and began taking in more and more little ones as the years went on. In 1975, they purchased a farm in Eldoret, Kenya in order to build a proper home for their growing family. 

The revamped Children’s Home, shown above, was constructed with the help of Bread and Water for Africa.  This 108-room dormitory opened its doors in 2007 and has proved to be a safe, cozy home for the Lewa kids.  Today, the Home cares for 85 children and sponsors another 102 in surrounding communities with scholarships so that they can receive a quality education – something that is often hard to come by in rural communities in Kenya.

All of the children of the Lewa Children’s Home are enrolled in the Kipkeino Primary School (pictured below). 

Kipkeino Primary School

This School, founded by the Keinos in 2000, is currently ranked Kenya’s 5th best primary school.  Not only are the Lewa kids getting the love and care that they need at the Home, they are also receiving one of the finest primary educations in all of Kenya!  A steadily increasing number of the Lewa children are receiving scores high enough to move onto secondary school, and a few are even currently enrolled in Kenyan universities.

The Lewa Children’s Home and Kipkeino School are both provided with fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products and produce by the adjoining Baraka Farm, run by Dutch farmer Jos Creemers (Jos and Farm pictured below). 

Jos explaining planting techniques to local farmers at the Baraka Farm

This farm not only provides nutritious foods to the children of the Home and students at the School, but it also sells surplus goods at it’s Baraka Farm store. All proceeds go to benefit all of the Lewa projects. The farm also serves as an example to local farmers who are given access to technical training and farming technique demonstrations which help them to re-work their own land in order to increase productivity.

During my stay in Eldoret, I will be visiting all three of these exemplary programs. Please check back for stories, updates, photos, and more!


(Thanks to condron.us for your help with traffic!)

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The U.S. branch of Bread and Water for Africa, founded in 1986 as a project of Christian Relief Services, made way for its UK, French and German sister organizations founded in 2004, 2005 and 2008 respectively.  Since their inceptions, these four charities have raised and dispersed hundreds of thousands of dollars, euros and pounds to partner community-based organizations in nine different African countries: Kenya, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Ethiopia. 

The official mission statement of Bread and Water for Africa reads:

To promote positive change in Africa by supporting and strengthening grassroots initiatives for community self-sufficiency, health, orphan care and education. Our charity not only provides emergency relief to African peoples in need, but also promotes sustainable growth to provide Africa’s children with a brighter future. 

Bread and Water for Africa’s partner organizations are based within and run by the communities that they serve.  They work in the areas of health care, orphan care, agriculture/farming, water harvesting and education and vocational training in an attempt to empower impoverished African citizens to break the vicious cycle of poverty. 

Specific projects that Bread and Water for Africa and its sister organizations have funded include: the construction of orphanage dormitories, fresh water pumps and primary schools, the purchasing of dairy cows, farm equipment, and high-quality seeds and fertilizers, and even emergency grants to supply partners in Kenya with extra security during times of political unrest.

Despite the pressure that the recent economic downturn has placed on the non-profit sector, Bread and Water for Africa is still fighting each and every day to provide its partners with the financial support that they need to continue their progress.  The close ties maintained with partner organization directors, many of whom are local volunteers like Phyllis in Kenya, ensures that the funds provided by Bread and Water for Africa are used efficiently and effectively to achieve the best results possible.

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