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Meet Alex

March 4, 2015 by Tori Greaves

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Alex is a leader who believes in helping others. He says that it’s his main objective in life—to help others in the way that he has been helped.

He first came to the Ilula Children’s Home in 2004. Now, more than 10 years later, Alex is in Form 4 (Grade 12) and has grown into a mature young man. In 2013, he was named “All Round Student” at his school, recognizing his involvement and achievements in sports and academics. Last year, he was number 5 out of 161 students in his class for academic ranking and had also served as Games (Sports) Captain previously.

Prior to coming to the Children’s Home, Alex and his three siblings were living with his widowed grandmother. He, his two sisters and brother lost their mother to heart disease shortly after the youngest sibling was born. Before their mother died, she struggled to make ends meet by illicitly brewing alcohol to provide for the family. Alex never knew his father and recalls moving around a lot, with his mother ill much of the time. Still, as a child, he kept the faith that someday, things would get better.

Today, Alex is an accomplished student in his last year of secondary (high) school. While he enjoys studying math and science, he is still unsure what he would like to pursue as a career. Whatever it is, he wants to be able to return to his home community and give back.

Perhaps one of the most valuable things Alex has learned over the years has been leadership skills and how to use those skills to lift up those around him. He desires for others to realize their own potential and what they have to contribute. He says that he wants others to appreciate who they are and do good. To him, this would be a way of showing gratitude to God.

“You can lead without a title,” Alex said. “Do your best in what you know is true and what you know it right.”


Thank you for your faithful support of children like Alex through your partnership with Empowering Lives International! There are still more opportunities to come alongside our Children’s Home ministries. Click here to learn more about our current sponsorship needs.

NEW! Video for Jacob

February 19, 2015 by Diana Coombs

 

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Watch our video featuring Jacob and spread the love!

 

Finding a Way Out

February 17, 2015 by Tori Greaves

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William didn’t even make enough money from illicitly brewing alcohol to buy food. He needed income, but he didn’t know what else to do.

At a community meeting, his community’s leaders asked the group who among them was brewing. William raised his hand. He wanted a way out. When William asked his community’s chief for help, he found out about Empowering Lives International’s training for brewers.

William, along with 31 other men and women from the Kerio Valley, went through a week of training in life skills (such as kitchen gardening and bread making) and graduated last Friday. He says that over the course of the week, he was filled with the Word of God, and now he’s a changed man. He took time at the concluding ceremony to ask for forgiveness of the government and community leadership on behalf of the whole group.

He plans to reconnect with a local church and use what he learned at the training to use alternative methods for earning income. He urged those in the room to support one another after they’ve all returned to their homes.

“As we start off, let’s team up together.”

“We will not be defeated”

February 9, 2015 by Tori Greaves

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From ELI staff Andrew Belko:

Mwabasabi village is one of the 26 villages in Busega district of the Simiyu region in Tanzania. The village is about 10 kilometers (about six miles) south of Lake Victoria. It covers an area of 20 square kilometers (about 12.4 square miles), and according to a 2012 census, the village has a total population of about 2,626 people.

There are two primary schools in the village, which are both government schools. There is no health center in the village. A mother of five shared, “We always pray to God we do not get sick. When you get sick, we have to go to Nyashimo hospital,” which is about 21 kilometers from the village. Clean drinking water is a huge step forward in preventing those sicknesses.

Only around 12 percent of the population is served with clean and safe water. The village had only one hand dug well that would go dry half the year. John Ng’indi, the Village Executive Official, said, “Our children now are not going to school because of water. Diarrhea and skin infections now (are) common in this village because of water.”

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Mwabasabi was selected to receive a borehole based on their need for clean water and their ability to contribute funding. ELI worked with the community’s water committee to select the best location for the borehole. The location is accessible to many in the community, including a primary school with about 600 students that’s located less than two kilometers away.

Throughout the drilling project, the team encountered several difficulties. The first hole was drilled to 45 feet before reaching impenetrable rock formations. The hole was dry. A second hole was drilled about 200 feet away to a similar depth of 43 feet before reaching hard rock again. Fortunately, we struck an aquifer this time and received plenty of water. Unfortunately, a pipe snapped while drilling the final few feet, leaving 15 feet of drill pipe and a drill bit stranded in the hole. Numerous attempts to recover the lost equipment were unsuccessful.

Finally, a third hole was drilled a few feet away to 45 feet with no problems. A sturdy Afridev hand-pump capable of five gallons per minute was installed. Even after pumping for hours on end, the water kept coming. The water was clean and potable.

What impressed the ELI staff most was the community’s constant participation and optimism. Even after two unsuccessful holes and nearly two weeks of work, the community kept bringing everything needed to continue, whether it was water, sand, gravel, food, etc. Men, women and children would carry hundreds of gallons of water needed each day to drill. The project was nicknamed Hatushindwi, which translates to “We will not be defeated.” They truly valued the importance of this clean water and took real ownership of it.

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Back to School

January 20, 2015 by Tori Greaves

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It’s January, which means children all over Kenya have now returned to their schools. Over the past few weeks, the kids at our Ilula and Kipkaren Children’s Homes have been making their way back to the classroom.

Our staff worked hard at seeing that our kids—over 200 of them in total—were well prepared to go, making sure registration was complete, school fees were paid and supplies were purchased.

In the coming few weeks, our Class 8 graduates—11 from Ilula and 16 from Kipkaren—will be receiving their acceptance letters for secondary schools (high schools). We invite you to join us in praise of all that God has done in their lives so far and to pray over this next chapter. Please pray also for our Children’s Home staff as they steward and advocate for our kids to be admitted into good secondary schools.

Last week, our 2014 secondary school graduates (10 from Ilula and six from Kipkaren) began the Business Start-up Training, a three-week course that introduces students to the basic principles of operating a small business. It also features research and field practicals out in the students’ communities. The BST is a fascinating and interactive course, helping students to think critically and creatively about how to be entrepreneurs.

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Gladys Cherono of the Kipkaren Children’s Home had this to say about the training:

The business course is really helping us in shaping and internalizing the ideas and skills that we learn. It has also helped us in making good use of the time that we have at home. I am really happy and delighted in being in such a business class, and also, we learn more about the experiences that our trainers have gone through, and it enables us to develop a dynamic mindset about the expectations and experiences in business.”

We at Empowering Lives want to thank you for your support, encouragement and faithfulness over the years as we help to care for and raise these children into men and women of bold faith. The task is great, and we could not do this without friends like you alongside us.

Photo of the Day

January 14, 2015 by Angela Vincent

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A warm welcome at our school in the Keredi slum in Bukavu, DRC. (photo: Micah Albert)

ALTERNATIVE GIFT OPPORTUNITY: The Gift of TRAINING

December 12, 2014 by Don Rogers

There are times that we hope to give so that another can be blessed.

GIVE A GIFT THIS CHRISTMAS to your family or friend that will honor them and also make an impact in the lives of people in need. Make a donation and download a gift card that you can present to your friend or family member letting them know that in their honor, a needy family in Africa has received the gift of training!

Right now, hundreds of women are hoping to be able to attend a life-changing training at the Ilula Training Center near Eldoret, Kenya. These are women who are currently brewing and selling alcohol because they lack skills in an alternative business and the courage to make the change.

THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON, YOU CAN HELP make a difference for women and men who desire these skills but lack the resources to pay for the full week of training. Give a gift this Christmas to your family or friend that will honor them and make an impact in the lives of people in need.

Learn more and take action. Discover more about the ALTERNATIVE GIFT HERE.

Support ELI through AmazonSmile

November 17, 2014 by Tori Greaves

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You can now support Empowering Lives International by shopping with AmazonSmile. The AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5 percent of the purchase price of eligible AmazonSmile items, and there’s no cap on how much they will donate. It’s a simple, convenient and comes at no extra cost to you.

With the holidays upon us, we’d like to encourage you to share this link with your friends and family so that they may be able to take care of their Christmas shopping while supporting ELI’s work in Africa!

Prayer for the 8th Grade Students

October 27, 2014 by Diana Coombs

Prayer Day

Starting next Monday, 8th grade students across Kenya will be taking an important four-day exam that will determine what high school they will be accepted into. Testing begins on Monday, November 3 and ends on Thursday, November 6. Students study long hours in order to score high grades and be accepted into good high schools. Our sponsored children would appreciate prayers as they prepare for the exams and as they take them next week.

Please partner with our Kenyan friends TONIGHT as they gather to pray for the 8th grade students.

Want to join ELI’s prayer team? CLICK HERE to sign up!

Join us for the Orange County 5K!

October 24, 2014 by Angela Vincent

Join us on November 22nd for the Orange County 5k

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Join us on November 22nd, in a synchronized video-linked footrace between Orange County, CA, USA and Eldoret, Kenya. When you run or walk, you are helping to change the course of suffering lives! Your participation and support will bring life changing training and knowledge to lives in need of hand-up (and not a hand-out).

Visit our fundraising page to register, donate, and see our progress!

Into the Slums: Reflections from Colleen Costigan

October 24, 2014 by Tori Greaves

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The kids at the ELI Children’s Home in Kipkaren, Kenya never miss a meal. They have a roof over their head and nice mattresses to sleep on. They are never sent home from school due to lack of money for tuition. Their feet are jigger-free. They have running water. They have electricity.

Thank God.

After eight years in the home, the kids are used to having their basic needs met.

And after 32 years in America and one in Kenya, so am I.

About 20 minutes down the road from the Children’s Home, there is a slum community I have grown to love called Kampi Mawe. The kids don’t always have food on their plates. Some live on the streets, others in dilapidated shanty houses. Kids are sent home from school because of money. Some suffer from jigger-infested feet. There is no running water. There is no electricity.

This past year while living in Kenya, I have spent time in both places. I often come back from Kampi Mawe and share stories at the Children’s Home about the challenges surrounding poverty. I show pictures of jiggers, and the kids wince in disbelief. We have conversations surrounding gratitude and are reminded of how much God has provided at the Children’s Home. We spend time in the nightly devotions praying for the people of Kampi Mawe and asking God what we can do to help those in need.

I had been hoping and praying these two worlds would come together.

Then it happened. Eight high school kids from the Children’s Home put together a program for the kids at a church in Kampi Mawe during their month off in August. They played games with the kids, sang a few songs and taught the kids about courage through the story of David and Goliath.

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Brian Kibet, a high school boy who went to Kampi Mawe, shared his experience with the Children’s Home at one of the nightly devotions. “We should be praying for them,” he encouraged his brothers and sisters. “When God blesses us, we tend to forget that other people elsewhere are suffering.”

Kampi Mawe is just a small representation of the 46 percent of people in Kenya who are living below the poverty line. Please be praying that God develops leaders in the Children’s Home who fight for justice, tackle poverty and become change agents for the nation of Kenya.

Introducing the ELITE Bag Video

September 29, 2014 by Tori Greaves

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Empowering Lives recently created a video on how to use our ELITE grain storage bags, which are specifically designed to protect maize and other grains without the use of chemicals. It’s a unique solution to the problem of weevils and post-harvest loss.

Over the past few weeks, the video has been shown in a number of villages to groups of anywhere between 50 to 200 farmers each. These gatherings, called Mobile Training Units (MTUs), are put on by an organization called TechnoServe, which has partnered with ELI in order to show the video and promote ELITE bags. This is the first time MTUs have been used, and ELI has been invited to be a part of it.

Our video will be shown to several thousands of people by the end of this year. We are excited that ELITE bags will be introduced to so many farmers and communities in need of better, more effective ways of protecting their harvests and thus being able to provide food and income for their families. Please pray with us that the video and the bags would have a far-reaching impact across East Africa.

To view the ELITE bag video (in Kiswahili only), click here.

Trash Digging Versus Resort Living: Reflections from Colleen Costigan

September 21, 2014 by Tori Greaves

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Gratitude over guilt.

I’ve preached about this one. Wrote about it in one of my first blogs. I don’t believe in guilt. I think it drags you down. I think it leads to bitterness. I think it can be a heavy weight on your shoulders that you carry from place to place. I think it sucks the life out of you. I think it overpowers joy. I think it makes you ugly inside and out. And when I say you, I mean me. Because I wrestle with it, especially lately. Especially after showing up at my friend Susan’s house wondering why she didn’t use the $3 I gave her to bring her grandson with an eye infection to the clinic.

Sometimes I wonder if I should believe what she tells me, why she chose to use the money in a different way. This is the ugly, guilt-ridden side of me driven by a fear of enabling instead of empowering.

But then I look around, and I see for my own eyes how little she has. I see her kids waking up from the mosquito net–less dirt floor. I don’t see beds. I don’t see a pantry full of food. I don’t see a closet full of clothes. I don’t see chai cooking on the stove. I don’t see a TV in the corner or a radio or a refrigerator or a smart phone or a dumb phone. I don’t see cushions on her chair. I don’t see a flush toilet or a pit toilet or running water.

I see a wooden bench and one wooden chair and a dilapidated mud wall.

And then I listen to her as she explains why they didn’t show up in the clinic yesterday.

Susan tells me the story of a young boy, Brian, who showed up at her house – her shanty house – hoping she can take him to the hospital. Susan already carries a lot of burdens trying to care for the other seven children in her home while managing diabetes and other health problems. But these burdens have never stopped her from turning away those who have less than her. She takes in orphans, helps treat kids with jiggers, counsels people who are suicidal, and shares about her faith in Jesus to all who cross her path.

Why did Brian show up at Susan’s? From what I understand, this 10-year-old was digging through a dump in search of food with the rest of the street boys when he got pushed and cut his foot on a glass bottle. When Brian arrived to Susan’s, she didn’t have any food. But she did have the $3 I gave her for the clinic visit. She made the choice to use it for food instead of taking her grandson to the eye clinic.

I have never had to choose between food for a few days or a visit to the doctor.  

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Intern Reflections: Janelle Norman, William Jessup University

August 29, 2014 by Tori Greaves

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Impractical thoughts ran through my mind as I began to prepare for this trip. Thoughts of how this trip was going to change my life and my worldview forever. I did not contemplate that there was going to be fear or the feeling of being useless. There was no expectation of learning how to listen to God’s voice and, in so doing, learning so much about myself. And there was not a single thought on the aspect of loving these children and how this love was going to change my life. No, there was only the excitement of going on my first missions experience. It was as if I was a new student going into preschool, unaware of the challenges or the joys of this experience. I was just excited about the experience itself. Fear, exploration and love have not only changed my life, but helped me better understand the love of Christ.

Fear: My first day of my internship started the day that my team left. I arrived in Kenya in late May with a team from William Jessup University. Over the course of two weeks, we walked through different communities that surround the ELI Kipkaren River Training Center with the goal of evangelizing. During this time, we grew close in our friendships. Because I associated everything wonderful about Kenya with my teammates, it was hard to not miss these friends with whom I had done so much ministry. It was a heart-wrenching experience to come back to my room without my friends. I felt completely alone. To make matters worse, I am an introvert and tend to get quiet in unknown places. As my first week started, I was not only struggling with my own quietness, but also with the language barrier that comes with only knowing how to speak English. Even though I pushed myself out of being an introvert, I still struggled, because there were only a handful of people that understood me. The language barrier crushed me into a state of feeling useless. (more…)

Visitor Reflections: Laurie Motz, New Life Community Church

August 15, 2014 by Tori Greaves

Pastor John with kids

As we reflect on our time at ELI in Ilula, Kenya this past June, we wonder, how could we have ever given to this beautiful place as much as they gave to us? What will we do now that we have been given the gift of being a part of their world? I feel that God allowed us this tremendous opportunity to come home and connect more with heart, mind and soul with others here as we did there in Kenya.

We were able to use our minds as a water tower was completed with the men and vehicles were repaired. We shared devotions with the women and children, and our Pastor John taught and encouraged a group of pastors from nearby villages.

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Photo of the Day

August 7, 2014 by Angela Vincent

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In Tanzania a father shows me his new chickens but he’s concerned as he likely will not have access to the much-needed vaccine for his chickens.

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Mentoring in Mombasa – by Cathy & Mark Lessig

July 15, 2014 by Tori Greaves

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For most Americans (who think of it), Mombasa brings to mind political strife, hotly contested debates between Muslims and Christians, riots by youths, bombings, and tribal clashes that often result in injury and death. Being in Mombasa during two major events – Ramadan (the Muslim holy month of fasting) and Saba Saba (a political action day with a vicious past in Kenya) – we felt we experienced a small amount of the tension that exists in this coastal city.

Ministering in the Frere Town neighborhood of Kenya’s second largest city, we saw poverty, alcoholism, drugs and low paying jobs impacting the students attending the Free Methodist Academy. Most of the 242 students come from single parent homes, with many only able attend the school because of a sponsorship program funded by the church. A subsidized breakfast and lunch program, costing families only 20 Kenyan shillings per child (about 25 cents), is struggle for many to pay.

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How can mentoring help in these situations? It is our belief that by touching the hearts and minds of children, change can take place in countries devastated by corruption, poverty, inequality and illness. Coming alongside teachers – those whom society has deemed as the carriers of societal values and knowledge – we challenge them to perform their job differently. Rather than viewing themselves as keepers of knowledge, we seek to turn their hearts and minds – and those of their students – to the ultimate place of wisdom, knowledge and character: Jesus! Using teacher training seminars and mentoring as our vehicle, we hope to touch lives in meaningful ways.

We’d like to say that this is easy, but that wouldn’t be the truth. It is hard to help people make mental shifts, to examine long-held cultural views and compare them to biblical truth. It is challenging to refocus a teacher’s efforts away from test scores to life beyond the test. Working with few resources, teachers struggle to apply innovative creative teaching when even having chalk and pencils in a challenge. Learning to welcome “errors,” “mistakes” and “wrong answers” as information to guide students to deeper thinking is a struggle for educators who are trained to believe that the world provides one right answer to everything.

Mentoring is a means to share, approximate and try new things. It opens the door to many heartbreaking discussions, but it also leads to many that are illuminating. When we are invited into schools, it is an opportunity to look at life in the classroom and seek a pathway that reveals the Creator. It is our goal to help every teacher know Christ and through that, help their students know Him too.

Graduation and a New Life

June 16, 2014 by Tori Greaves

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Helen used to illegally brew alcohol for 16 years in order to gain income to support herself and her family. Last Friday, she gave her testimony for graduation day after a weeklong training for over 40 former brewers at the Kipkaren River Training Center, with local government officials, village chiefs, and ELI Kenya staff in attendance. She expressed her vision of continuing to help people out of brewing and exhorted the group of graduates to do the same.

“I wanted these [people] to be brought, to come out of brewing so that we can do our best in developing our country,” she said through an interpreter. “So I think all of us, we are now becoming light as we go back to our villages.”

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Shoes or No Shoes – Reflections from Colleen Costigan

June 13, 2014 by Tori Greaves

In 2012, I did my first jigger outreach with ELI in the slums of Turbo. The poverty I witnessed in that community broke my heart. I believed there had to be something we could do to help those who were suffering, especially with a condition known as jiggers*. I returned to Kenya in 2013 ready and willing to attack the jigger problem in the slums.

I never imagined how complicated the solution would be until I heard a story about shoes and how at one jigger outreach, a group decided to give out shoes after the treatment – which, by the way, I thought was a great idea.

But I heard the shoe giveaway became a bit chaotic.

People came in masses.

Getting the shoes to people who actually needed them was difficult – if not impossible – and the likelihood that people would turn around and sell the free shoes at a cost to turn a profit was high.

Giving shoes to people who are suffering from jiggers should be a good thing, right?

If you asked me two years ago, I would have said yes without hesitation.

But things have changed. I now see things through a different lens. And honestly, sometimes I want my old lenses back. During my first trip to Kenya, I had glasses. They were rose-colored, as in rose-colored idealist glasses: “I can help people living in slums because they are desperate and I have a lot and I have the light of God, so surely there must be something I can do.”

But then I got Lasik.

And everything changed.

I showed up to Kenya this time without the glasses. Literally and figuratively.

I miss the rose-colored glasses. Without them, poverty feels overwhelmingly complicated and sometimes impossible to address.

We did another jigger outreach and decided not to give out shoes. Based on the story I had heard, I thought that was wise.

Until we met Jared.

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He lives on the street. He has some mental health problems. He has jiggers all over his feet and his hands and his elbow and who knows where else on his body.

He hadn’t eaten all day, so we bought him a few bananas and a pair of shoes in the market for less than $5.

I found out that within one week, the shoes were gone.

What happened to his shoes?

No idea.

Is it unusual to try to help someone, only to find out the next day that what you gave them is gone?

I don’t think so.

Would it have been better to never give Jared shoes or have him walk around for a week with something on his feet? Does the fear of enabling mean you don’t address immediate needs because it wouldn’t be sustainable? Or do you let someone get a taste of walking with shoes, even if it’s just for a week?

I am constantly wrestling with these questions. The more I wrestle, the more I realize it’s not about finding the “right or wrong” answer. It’s about seeking God’s wisdom in each situation and making peace with whatever He asks you to do.

Jared is still on my mind and as far as I know, still on the streets.

* A basic description of jiggers can be found on pages 15-17 of this article from the World Health Organization.

From Nothing to Plenty

June 6, 2014 by Tori Greaves

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“These are our children. Do not leave them.”

This was the plea given to Angelina before the parents of four children in her community died. With another 16 grandchildren to take care of, she was struggling.

She tried raising chickens to support her family and the orphans she took in. She purchased vaccines from local shops, but the medicine didn’t work. The chicks were lost, and eventually, she had no more chickens.

When Angelina heard about ELI’s extension training for farmers, she attended the first day to see if it could help her with poultry farming. After that first day, she promptly went out and bought a hen. From there, everything changed. Today, she has over 30 healthy chickens.

The extension training seeks to bring information where it’s most needed to poor farmers, giving them education and requiring practical, hands-on work in the field. The training, which runs for six months per session, takes in between 20-25 students per group and has reached 32 counties across Kenya. The mission is to train people to become “business farmers” – farmers equipped with relevant information on best agricultural practices as well as basic business principles – who are spiritually developed as well.

“We are bringing up the whole person,” as extension training leader Isaac Ruto puts it.

Throughout six months of training and fieldwork, Angelina did not lose a single chicken. From the program, she learned about local herbs that can be added to chicken feed as a natural way of protecting them from illness. She is able to keep her chickens healthy without the risk of trying expensive, store-bought vaccines that have failed in the past.

Through poultry farming and also vegetable farming, Angelina now brings in enough income to help cover school fees for her grandchildren and two of the four orphans (the other two have since gotten married and left). Her small shamba (farm) includes peppers, pumpkin, tomatoes, kale, and onions. What she doesn’t sell, she uses to feed her family, saving about 100 Kenyan Shillings (over $1) a day.

Angelina graduated from the extension training program this spring. Despite starting the program with nothing, she has come a long way. Her farm is thriving, her family is taken care of and her chickens are plenty.

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