Guest Post by Monte Fisher, Executive Director of Achungo Children’s Center.
“The Achungo Children’s Center (ACC) provides education, care, food, clothing and medical assistance for over 200 orphans and destitute children in rural southwest Kenya.”
I first visited Kenya when I was 19. As part of my studies, I spent 8 months in Kenya and absolutely fell in love with the country – its incredible beauty and exotic character, and more than that, with its people. They seemed the friendliest, most inclusive and loving people I’d ever met. Nothing was more important to them than relationships.
It was more than 40 years later before I returned. I had taken up a US non-profit that supported an orphanage and I wanted to get acquainted with the operation of the school and children’s center. And my love was rekindled as I met the Director (Michael Nyangi) and his staff (at that point, all volunteer). He has more compassion and integrity that anyone I’ve ever met and I immediately wanted to work with him any way I could.
Michael attributes his desire to help orphans to his own experience growing up in a very poor local family and losing his father at the age of 7. He is a remarkable man who has dedicated his life to higher purposes ever since the generosity of good Samaritans enabled him to graduate from college with the prospect of a career as an accountant. However, instead of pursuing a path of personal financial security, after 1 week at his dream job in a bank, he quit to begin a micro-financing organization, Lomoro, at the age of 22. He had lent $20 from his own pocket to each of two single, destitute women with babies and each woman turned the money into a business selling roasted corn and other vegetables along a busy railroad track. And Michael Nyangi realized how a little money could radically change lives.
Lomoro became a 15-person office and the success of his endeavors led to Michael’s invitation to speak on poverty before the General Assembly of the U.N. in 2008. During this time, Michael also started taking orphans into his own home and recruiting some local widows to do likewise. Others noticed Michael’s ability to bring together the needed resources to care for the growing number of destitute children, and more children arrived on his doorstep. In 2005 Michael officially opened Achungo Children’s Center, renting a small shed, and he continues to oversee and direct the operation that now cares for almost 280 children in an award-winning school through the financial help of hundreds of individuals in the U.S. and Europe.
I visit twice each year, taking a team of volunteers with me, many of whom have never been to Africa. I am always excited to see my children – the happiest kids on earth, and to bring things for them and for the school. We’ve brought them (in our luggage) hundreds of donated books that now fill a library at the school where there had been no books of any kind (except for teachers’ copies of textbooks). We’ve taken out over 40 donated used laptops that now fill a computer lab. (On my first visit there, there was 1 laptop for the entire school and staff – hard to teach much to a class of 15 with just 1 laptop). And we’ve transformed their recesses with lots of balls and athletic gear. On my first visit they had 1 torn-up soccer ball and 6 jump ropes for the 130 children.
But the most exciting element of those trips is seeing how the experience radically changes the perspectives and in time, the very lives, of those who go with me. They become citizens of the world as they leave their upper middle class bubbles and experience the joy and love shared by these children and staff who, by all appearances have nothing. They not only don’t have cars or even bicycles for their households, but live in mud huts without water or electricity in an area virtually without jobs where survival may still depend on a garden harvest lasting until the next one.
It is a delight to be able just to help them with food, care, clothes and an education with the hope of giving them a decent start on life. But in the end we gain so much more than we give through this experience.
Visit Achungo’s website, blog, and YouTube channel to stay up to date with more information, stories, pictures, and videos! If you have any questions, you can email Achungo Children’s Center at email@example.com.
If you’d like to see what projects they’re working on and how you can help, visit their UniversalGiving page!