Dear Friends,

I arrived at Lewa late at night to a locked-up house and the loud buzz of night-time crickets. I hesitantly knocked on the large doors, praying I hadn't woken up the whole house and unfortunately setting off the 4 legged alarm system, Picout the dog! Phyllis opened the door with a big smile and welcomed me in with a warm hug and from that moment on was an incredible host!

     Lewa Children's Home 

I had already fallen in love with the continent after backpacking around East and Southern Africa back in 2013. There is just something about the people and the wildlife and landscape that gets under your skin. It's unlike any other place I have been. However, in hindsight on my first trip to Africa, I was a slightly naive teenager with only a superficial understanding of the complex history and socio-political economics of the countries I was travelling through. 7 years on and with slightly more experience of the world, my trip to Eldoret and Lewa's Children Home was educational in so many ways.

"Lewa Children's Home is a special place; a place that truly deserves support."

On my first day I explored the farm, visiting the cheese factory and the dairy farm. Everyone I met was incredibly friendly, greeting me with big warm smiles and letting me look in on their daily activities. The farm work was very impressive and, along with the vegetable and fruit gardens, are a big step in the direction of Lewa becoming a fully self-sustained farm. The cheese and milk produced on the farm not only acts as an extra income to help fund the Children's Home, it also provides food and milk for the Kipkeino School, which sits opposite the Lewa Children's Home and farm and which many of the younger children attend. The primary school was founded by Phyllis and is rated as one of the best in the country.

Phyliss gardening on LewaPhyllis tending to the garden plot at Lewa

When school was finished for the day several of the younger ones fought to hold my hand for the walk back. If only I was an octopus there would have been less sad faces! It was lovely to see the energy the children had left for playing well into the evening.

The favourite part of my trip to Lewa was the early mornings where I would wake up before the sun and watch it rise. There is nothing more beautiful than an African sunrise. I'd then find the children at various stages of getting ready. Some with one shoe on, some eating breakfast, others brushing their teeth. And somehow, by 7.30 am, we would all set off up to school with everyone properly dressed and ready to learn. It was lovely to see the little ones running towards school with such an enthusiasm to learn and to see their other classmates.

"The work Phyllis and the social workers at Lewa carry out means that so many children's lives are saved."

School, is not just for education, it is a crucial part of the children's lives as it allows them to integrate with other children who are not living in the children’s home and who have their own families to return to. The development of social skills is important for later life and I could see how well behaved and loving the Lewa children were towards the other school children. I asked a few of the children what their favourite school subjects were, English and Kiswahili came out on top although a few of the younger boys said playtime!

Daisy Crabtree holding hands with children at Lewa Childrens HomeDaisy spending time with the children at Lewa

Not only is Phyllis a mother to so many children, a business woman, a nurse, a farmer, a delivery driver, she is also a fantastic cook. The food is always so fresh with the taste of proper home cooking. I loved sitting down to have dinner with Phyllis each evening as we chatted about the children and their development in school. I learnt so much from her about Kenya as a country and the deeply embedded issues which make everyday life in Kenya a struggle. I wanted to know more about the work she had done throughout her life and how many lives she had transformed and saved, but true to Phyllis’ humble nature, she played down the impact of her dedicated work by saying it’s just what she feels she has to do.

 Children sat down to eat their food at Lewa Childrens HomeChildren sat down to eat at Lewa Children's Home

During my trip I learned of the very harrowing reality of abandonment, trafficking, and abuse for many of the children in care all across the African continent. Awareness of the daily struggles for money to send the children to school, to buy their uniforms and books, and to put food on the table for all the children was never far away. As well as this, there is a crucial need for specialist care for the disabled children staying at Lewa and for the children who have been saved from abusive backgrounds. The work Phyllis and the social workers at Lewa carry out means that so many children's lives are saved. The happiness and kindness which shines through in every single one of them is a real testament to the love and guidance they receive from Phyllis and their support workers. Lewa Children's Home is a beacon of hope for so many children and families.

 Young children sat smiling in Lewa Childrens HomeHappy young children at Lewa

Vibrant wildlife, stunning landscapes and beautifully warm people; this is what makes Kenya so unique and transformational. If you ever find yourself travelling in Kenya, visit Lewa Children's Home, have a delicious dinner with Phyllis and meet all of the beautiful children who have been lucky enough to have their lives transformed by this amazing place. I guarantee you will also leave feeling transformed. Lewa Children's Home is a special place; a place that truly deserves support.

Phyllis, you are an amazing person. Thank you for having me and I will definitely be back. 

Intern at Bread and Water for Africa in 2018
Volunteer at Lewa Children's Home in January 2020

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