An Interview With Phyllis Keino

We are proud to find good willed people, like Phyllis, from all over the world coming together to help us.

What was your childhood like? Did this factor into your decision to help so many children today?

We were poor people, very poor, in Kenya. That actually helped me to be what I am, people helped us all the time. When we didn’t have food, other people would come and help us. We had a stable home, even with all my stepsisters and stepbrothers. What actually made me want to help other people was because we were poor and I felt like I should help others that were poor too. I developed a love of children when I became a nursing student. I worked in the hospital for a while and only left after I decided to start my Children’s Home. Children used to come to the hospital looking for food and employment and it was then that I knew… this is it.

Lewa artcile 2_1Was there one exact moment when you first felt the need to help all these children?

The children I first took in were hungry, they had no family. These children were looking for food and jobs, and they were so small, they only looked maybe 10 to 12 years old, but actually they were much older. The children grew very slowly because they had nothing to eat, but they grew fast once I took them in. So that’s when I decided I would like to start taking them in. The official home didn’t start until 1980s. We didn’t have such a big home at first. Things were not like they are now.

When the children’s home first began, did you ever expect it to become this successful?

No I didn’t think it would. Sometimes I look at my Home and think it’s just normal, some other people don’t but it’s normal to me. Sometimes you don’t plan for something to be so big, but it just happens.

What do you consider the most beneficial thing you have given these children? Education, food, shelter, a family, or something else entirely?

Life. All of what I give to the children can be summed up in that word. Life must be the number one thing. Mothers abandon their children, and also there is poverty, and when children are going to school and they get pregnant they do not want to keep that child, and their parents do not want them to keep that child either. And then you find the young girls abandoning their children, even at the hospital. Even the grandmothers don’t know what to do about it. It’s hard when there’s even one more person to feed and there isn’t even enough food to feed the family as it is. Girls give birth as early as age 14. They are very young mothers and they are unprepared to have children.

Lewa-Children-holding-handsHow would you describe Lewa Children’s Home / Baraka Farm / Kipkeino School in a few sentences to someone who had never seen them first-hand?

The only way to really know our projects and our family is to visit. But, if that’s not possible, maybe our website will help them. The Farm and the School are all within each other, all walking distance. The School and the home are sitting on the Farm area. It’s one big project together.

Do you plan on keeping the children’s home growing? Some people may say you’ve already done enough, or do you believe it’s just the beginning?

What I’m doing now is I’m co-operating with the government to find some of these children foster homes. Or to try to find the children’s distant relatives. We encourage the extended families to take in these children, and then we sponsor them with the money they need to keep the children healthy and in school. If they have family near, I talk to the family before the child is handed over to make sure that the child will be cared for. Even when they live with their family, we will sponsor them and help them.
We are granted custody of the children by the government. Before we take the children, we meet at the court, with a judge present. When the child is committed to my Home, I take the child directly from the court hearing. The children are often still very sickly when they are handed over to me. Sometimes it takes 6 to 8 weeks, even some up to 10 before they are stable. We make sure that the children are taken to the hospital regularly when they’re first admitted so that they can get the medications and care that they need to become healthy again. Some homes do not want the small sickly children who have problems, so I take them. We have gotten very many new children lately, twelve in all.

Lewa Children 5What makes the Home, the School and the Farm different from the other projects they are similar to?

There are other homes, but the difference that I see is that we have a school and a farm as well as a home. It’s easier that way. Many homes are just a home, ours is a home, a school and a farm. Even though we do not have that much money, we always have food and the children always have access to an education. It’s also the support of people like you here, I give them my time and love at home, but you (the supporter) make it all possible.