Daniel Ochieng runs the Ebenezer Orphanage in Rongo, Kenya, which St. Matthew’s has been supporting for a number of years through our “Kenya Kids @ Rongo” outreach.
Daniel and Damaris Ochieng will arrive in Louisville on Saturday, Oct. 10. After some rest overnight, their first appearance will be at the 5p service on Sun. Oct. 11.
Alice Tiano, head of our Kenya Kids @ Rongo outreach, writes,
It has been my fondest hope for a number of years to invite Daniel and his wife, Damaris, to visit St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church to tell us about their work and future vision for the Kenya Kids @ Rongo. And now it’s finally happening.
Some of us have been fortunate to visit the orphanage at Rongo. But it seemed important for all of us at St. Matthew’s to participate in an opportunity to meet Daniel and Damaris.
A little history about Daniel Ochieng
Daniel came to the U.S. in 2000 to attend a course at the Southern Baptist Seminary here in Louisville. While in Kentucky, he met a former St. Matthew’s rector. Following that meeting, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church began a relationship with Daniel and his orphanage. I do not know the details of those early years, but I do know that St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church then began financial support of the orphanage (which was then located in Oyugus, Kenya). Several members of the congregation visited there.
At some point, the Kenya Government, as a gesture of support for his efforts, offered to give Daniel some land near Rongo if he would build a building. He built a small hut for the tailoring teacher. At that time St. Matthew’s was regularly sending money to support the orphanage with everyday expenses, mostly for food.
Orphanage at Rongo
When I first traveled to Rongo in 2006, there were several buildings at the orphanage, including two substantial classrooms and two small inadequate dorms. On this first trip, we spent one day building bunk beds for those dorms. In the years that followed, St. Matthew’s supported our Kenya Kids by providing funds for food, medicine, clean water, clothing and education (plus countless soccer balls). To reduce the amount of food that must be purchased, we have also supplied funds to purchase livestock (chickens, lambs, goats, and cows) and to buy fertile farmland where the orphans learn to farm.
Our congregation has been very generous with international outreach and the members have made sacrifices for Rongo. Over the years they have sent funds to build two new dormitories with beds, bedding, mosquito nets and latrines. Other infrastructure includes two drilled and sealed wells, a new kitchen, study/social shelters, solar panels, and recently an electrical connection. The largest addition is St. Matthew’s Hall which serves as a dining room, a setting for programs, religious services, teaching, singing, community events, youth camps, weddings and more.
This building was almost finished when my husband and I, feeling that it had been overlong since a substantial onsite visit, stayed at the orphanage for six days in 2011. We were impressed by what had been accomplished with our church’s funds.
The latest construction is a house on campus for Daniel, Damaris, and their two young sons and small daughter, Daisy. This on-campus home allows Daniel or Damaris to provide immediate support, counseling, and nurturing whenever necessary. The house includes an infirmary to isolate the sick, and a nursery for small little people. No longer does a nighttime emergency require Daniel to ride on the back of a scooter down a dark and dangerous road to the orphanage. Damaris is a full-time worker, and now we have put her to work at night!
Our Kenya Kids’ successes
As a result of increasing nutrition, clean water, a healthy place to live and an improved diet, many of the students are excelling at school and passing entrance exams for upper school (high school). In Kenya, school is only free through the 8th grade (and that only since 2004). For upper school, the Kenyans follow the English system of boarding schools, which charge tuition, room and board.
Six of the 8th graders have recently passed their government exams and will start upper school in Form One. The others will continue on the vocational track with welding, carpentry, farming, and tailoring among the offerings. The Form Four class of six scored high enough on their college/university exams to be eligible for government loans.
Damaris and Daniel are coming at the specific invitation of St. Matthew’s Church to report on the children and their successes and challenges.
Daniel has a calling to pass on the help he received as a young student as well as a strong and commonsense faith when nurturing these children. He wants all the children of Ebenezer Orphanage – our “Kenya Kids @ Rongo – to leave his care with, as Daniel says, “faith, hope and voice” (the slogan of Kenya Kids @ Rongo).
St. Matthew’s has a right to be proud of our contributon to the physical and emotional well-being and education of the 70 orphans whom we think will be the future leaders of Rongo, the county of Homa Bay and, yes, even the country of Kenya.