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Home taps talent of orphaned children

By | March 14th 2012

By Joe Ombuor

We sit sipping fruit juice to entertaining theatrical and dance renditions belted out by orphaned children of Amani Christian Mission Centre.

We are in Siaya County — an obscure location known as Malanga on the busy Kisumu-Busia highway.

It is hot and humid.

Obscure? Malanga in Gem District is home to the late Clem Argwings-Kodhek, Kenya’s first African lawyer, who also served as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He was the first MP for Gem who died in a mysterious road accident along the road in Nairobi after which he is named, in 1969.

"Refreshing juice," I whisper to the centre director, Mr Samson Mayienga, middle-aged man with a serious expression repeatedly broken by a smile.

Students at Amani Christian Mission Centre perform a verse

He is seated next to me, equally consumed by the exhilarating performances.

"It is the product of our farm," he says of the passion juice, "grown and processed by our children. These children locally produce even the sukuma wiki we eat, the chicken. The banana you took –– virtually all foods here are homegrown."

As they walk out of the stage, Mayienga turns says: "What you have just seen is raw talent at its best. It is a pity that our people generally ignore talent. We are obsessed with academics. That is where we go wrong!"

Oil to success

"In the Western world where I lived before returning home to start this home, talent is viewed as the natural oil to success. Our athletes have proved that fact here.

Earlier, 15-year-old Juliet Shaban who hails from Mumias had expressed her dream to become a tailor some day. I could not hide my surprise. A tailor after finishing school?

"Juliet is certainly not the material for academics, Kenyan style," Mayienga said. "She is an excellent performer in class, but she is victim of a recall mess. She cannot muster what she has learnt over a period for an examination paper that lasts just hours or minutes. "

Juliet has repeated class six three times, determined to reach at least class eight and do sit the national examinations.

But she is an excellent theatre artist, a perfect cook and her leadership qualities are superb.

The centre strives to nurture such quality for students, who are mostly orphans.

"There are those like 17-year-old Charles Baraza, now in Form Three who have the ability of scaling any ladder in the academic world. He has always been in position one or two in his class and aspires to become a computer engineer some day.

But talent notwithstanding, Mayienga believes that children ought to be prepared for self-reliance and an ability to generate income through manual work. All Amani children are involved in farming activities.

Vegetable Gardens

All the 35 children in the home either individually or in groups have adopted something to look after, ranging from poultry rearing to rabbits, fruits, tree seedlings, bananas, vegetable gardens — even ant hills.

"Yes, anthills are also important sources of food in the form of delicious flying insects rich in protein, known locally as ng’wen by the Luo or chiswa by the Luhya," says Mayienga.

The institution can access whatever the children have adopted only with their permission. They are responsible for the weeding, watering, feeding and all forms of care for what they have adopted.

Students at Amani Christian Mission Centre work in the garden. [Photo: JOE OMBUOR/Standard]

Mayienga and his wife, Melissa have two children living in the US. Of their adopted children, the oldest one, Geoffrey Washiswa from Mumias is a first year Bachelor of Education at Moi University.

Of the 35 in-house children at the home, 10 are students at Argwings Kodhek High School nearby. The 25 in primary schools attend Mutumbu and Malanga Primary schools.

All are orphans, either total or with one destitute parent with no means to fend for them.

Juliet’s mother for instance, is of unsound mind while a brother is serving a life sentence after killing another brother.

Amani pays Sh15, 000 for each secondary school student annually and Sh1,200 for each of its primary school children in addition to footing their food, accommodation and medical expenses. A partnership with Dorcas Aid International has faltered with a policy they took up not to support institutionalised children.

A trained accountant by profession, Mayienga doubles up as an ordained priest.

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