On December 9, 1988, the board of directors of Christian Relief Services agreed to provide support to a fledgling orphanage in the town of Eldoret, Kenya.
And with that, Christian Relief Services, the umbrella organization of Bread and Water for Africa®, took the first step in a nearly 30-year mission of providing loving homes for thousands of Africa’s most vulnerable, its orphaned and abandoned children.
Bread and Water for Africa® soon developed close ties with Phyllis Keino, founder of the Lewa Children’s Home, who today remains director of the children’s home and is the longtime international spokesperson for Bread and Water for Africa.®
Phyllis and her former husband, Olympic gold medalist Kip Keino, began their journey of caring for others by taking in a few parentless children in their community who had nowhere else to turn but the streets. Over the years those “few” became “many” as Phyllis could not turn away any child in need who showed up at her doorstep from her home.
By 1990, they had nearly 50 children they were caring for and raising as part of the family – and they realized they could not do it alone.
During the next decade, Bread and Water for Africa® stepped up its support for the children’s home to include funding for paying for all the children’s school fees and building a dormitory.
In the meantime, Bread and Water for Africa® also provided substantial assistance in the construction of a primary school which would serve the children in the surrounding community whose school fees would make it possible for children living at Lewa to attend the new school free of charge.
Bread and Water for Africa® also provided significant resources towards the development of Baraka Farm which would not only provide food for the children at Lewa, but sell the surplus produce on the way to making the children’s home self-sufficient.
By the year 2000, the primary school had been constructed and there were 80 children living in the children’s home, which had grown to 96 children by 2002.
With the realization of the life-altering results being made at the Lewa Children’s Home, in 1999 Bread and Water for Africa® expanded our orphan care program to the Kabwata Orphanage and Transit Centre in Zambia, founded by Angela Miyanda, the wife of the county’s vice president.
The need for such an orphanage in Zambia was dire as the AIDS/HIV crisis was leaving tens of thousands of young children orphans to struggle to survive alone on the streets. Tragically, many of the young children she took in were born with the virus itself.
In 2000, there were reports of 100 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses each day in the capital city of Lusaka alone, and Angela had made a home for 50 children at Kabwata who were “indeed blessed to be in Mrs. Miyanda’s care,” a Bread and Water for Africa® staff person reported at the time after a field visit to the country.
It was also reported that month that Angela had been able to take a $5,000 grant from Bread and Water for Africa® “and turn an old, shell of a building into a beautiful new dormitory for more than 80 children she currently has in her program.”
By 2003, Bread and Water for Africa® was providing life-saving assistance to more than 400 AIDS orphans in Zambia, and today, Bread and Water for Africa® and Kabwata remain as stronger partners than ever.
Around the same time, Bread and Water for Africa® joined forces with Emmanuel Ministries (later to become Shinga Development Trust) in Zimbabwe by Margaret Makambira providing assistance to orphans in that country as well. Like Kabwata, Shinga remains a partner of Bread and Water for Africa® today, and is looking forward to opening its own children’s home this year.
In 2010, Christian Relief Services founder Gene Krizek described Phyllis as the “Mother Teresa of Africa,” but we believe in 2017 it’s appropriate to name them all the “Mothers Teresa of Africa” as they truly have been, and will always be, the “mothers to thousands.”