• Phoebe Onyango took a bold step and opted to take in six street children, although she was living in a slum with her husband and three children.
• She fed, clothed and enrolled the children in school and treated them like her own.
• With time, good Samaritans started supporting her and she was able to take in more children, ushering in Salem Ministries.
By Maureen Odiwour
|Bishop Phoebe Onyango|
From her many accomplishments, one can assume she has a refined education background or is from a well off family. Far from it.
Bishop Phoebe Onyango dropped out of school at Class Seven. Yet despite this, with meagre resources and no education, Phoebe has managed to start a fully-fledged church ministry with over 26 branches in Kenya and one in Uganda; and build a children’s home, a secondary and primary school.
What is astonishing is that Phoebe’s background is humbling; born and bred in Nyawita slums in Kisumu where she lived with her parents.
“I was forced to drop out of school because of biting poverty that my family was facing. My father was a small-scale businessman in Kisumu and his meagre income was not enough to cater for our family’s needs,” she shares.
In 1976, her parents separated and she was forced to move in with her mother, who was a housewife.
“My mom could not take care of me and so she took me to live with my maternal grandmother who enrolled me at Pandpieri Primary School,” Phoebe recalls.
LIFE OF STRUGGLE
In 1979, things became tough for her grandmother and her life took another turn.
“Grandma took me to Asembo to live with my stepmother (my dad’s new wife) and I was again enrolled at Nyagoko Primary School. I was forced to drop out when in Class Seven because my father could not afford it,” recounts Phoebe.
From then on, Phoebe’s life was one of struggle as she tried her hand in menial jobs within Kisumu. She continued to yearn for education and she saved the little money she earned to enroll for a series of short courses.
But when the situation at home grew worse, Phoebe opted to get married at 17 years hoping to improve her fortunes.
Sadly, the marriage did not offer any solace because her husband was a man of little means.