Melanie Blake MBE

Founder and Director, The Kamili Organisation, Nairobi, Kenya

Melanie’s lifelong passion for and understanding of Kenya and her commitment to improving mental health wherever she lives, have combined to become a force for extraordinary good in Kenya. Her tenacity has created an organisation that has the structure and momentum to be self-sustaining. Her patience when dealing with authorities who have had different priorities has enabled her to build a service that is integrated into Kenya’s Health delivery model, and is welcomed by those same authorities as a partnership. Her creative problem solving is a masterclass in getting things done, and in providing holistic solutions to immense and intractable problems. These things have never been achieved before and, as a result, 5,000 (and growing) patients and their extended families are getting the support and therapies they need to manage their mental health issues. In 2017, Melanie was awarded an MBE from HM The Queen.

Phyllis Keino

Founder and Director, Lewa Children's Home, Eldoret, Kenya

Phyllis began caring for orphaned Kenyan children in the early 1960s. Since then she has been a tireless advocate for Africa’s children, founding the Lewa Children’s Home and the Kipkeino Primary School. She also created the Baraka Farm: from a barren piece of land to a thriving dairy farming center, providing milk and food for the children of the Home and School and selling surplus on the market to generate income. 

I always dreamed of setting up a school for orphaned children. I started with five and then I never looked back. I kept going.” - Phyllis Keino

For the last ten years she has also served as the volunteer spokesperson for Bread and Water Africa UK, travelling all over the world to spread the message about our work. She was honoured in Canada with the International Alliance for Women (TIAW) World of Difference 100 award, as well as in Uganda by the East African Association of Grantmakers. In 2018, she received the World of Children Humanitarian Award 2018 for for her unwavering commitment to the children of Kenya.

John Donald Sandy

Founder and Director, We Are the Future Center, Freetown, Sierra Leone

After completing his Masters in Development Studies from Njala University, John worked for several faith-based and community-based organisations, managing development and advocacy projects in post-war Sierra Leone. In 2005, he was charged with establishing the We Are the Future Center, in partnership with Freetown City Council and international partners, which he still runs to this day. The Center is a thriving educational center for early childhood education, a primary school and a youth training center. He has been working closely with the local community and local authorities in the face of challenges, such as the Ebola outbreak and the recent mudslides. 

The We Are the Future Center provided an opportunity for youths to see children as their responsibility in a positive way, demonstrating love and care. I see my role as a guidance to help them become the next generation of leaders for our country.” - John Donald Sandy

In 2016, John was elected Secretary General of the Local Policing Partnership Board, to liaise between the community and the authorities. John is passionate about working with children and youth and determined to build their skills and attitude to become the future leaders of tomorrow.

Francoise Najean

Francoise Najean director of CAPE at her desk in Bujumbura

Volunteer director, CAPE (Centre d'Aide et de Protection de l'Enfant), Bujumbura, Burundi

Originally from France, Françoise has lived in Burundi for most of her life. A teacher of theater and performing arts, she took over the direction of CAPE (Centre for the support and protection of the child) as volunteer director in 2012. Since then, she has spent most of her energy and free time to make sure the Murakaza school continues to provide critical services to some of the most vulnerable children in Bujumbura and their families. She has expanded the service to include literacy classes for adults, the Gushona sewing workshop and, more recently, the porridge project, which provides the children at Murakaza with a daily bowl of fortified porridge to fight malnutrition.

"Our priority is the children. But we also focus on the family as a whole. Because what the children learn here at the school is impacted by their conditions at home. So we are really happy when we can also help the parents, particularly the mothers, to improve their own education and skills." -- Françoise Najean