No Hungry Children partners with Manna Ministries, Kenya to feed over 2000 children 10 meals each week through 20 Christian schools in the slums of Nairobi. In November, Jimmy Gunderman, our Executive Vice-President took a team from Northstar Church of Kennesaw, GA to view our feeding program in action – and here’s what he found.
Q: Why did you go on this particular trip in November 2013?
We take trips regularly to view the schools where our feeding program is working to make sure all is going well and to encourage the teachers and staff of Manna Ministries on the ground. On this trip, Marsha James, Kathy Lawrence, and Jessica Smith went with us from Northstar Church as they considered sponsoring an entire school from their church.
Marsha James, Mission Director, Northstar Church, Kennesaw, GA
Q: What did they decide?
After seeing the difference a feeding program makes in a school, they have now adopted and sponsored the Miracle and Victory Centre School in the Kibera slums, started by Monica Akinyi, a woman who was at one time on the verge of taking her own life. She decided to turn to the Lord as her final hope and, not only did He save her and her family, but He has used her to establish an entirely new Christian school, which is now feeding children daily thanks to Northstar’s partnership with our No Hungry Children feeding program.
Q: Where in Nairobi is the school actually located? We hear it’s in a pretty bad area…
A: Many of our schools are in the Kibera slum area, considered the second-largest slum in the world. As a matter of fact, when you look at Kibera on a satellite shot, it’s amazing to see how this slum which has 200,000 – 300,000 people per square mile is surrounded by golf courses, apartments, and neighborhoods.
Q: When you say “slum”, tell us what you mean…
A: It’s a low-lying area of the city where people are packed on top of people everywhere. Tin roofs, dirt floors, outdoor latrines, flooding at times that spreads typhoid, hot and dusty at other times, trash burning everywhere that stings your eyes and a smell that you’ll never forget.
Q: Sounds like a desperate place…
A: It really is, to me. But the people were smiling, kids were playing, businesses were operating – everyone was making do with what they had. I saw one man sewing new soles on the bottom of shoes we would have thrown away 5 years ago. There are many small children working to support their families – like the six-year-old I saw cooking grain to make chapati bread, and others out sowing sugar cane.
Q: So what was it like when the group arrived at the first school where the No Hungry Children feeding program is in operation?
A: The kids were laughing, singing, playing the djembe [hand drum], all because they were excited that the people who are feeding them were on the way! They had prepared songs and poems for us and even gave us a letter that thanked us for feeding them because their minds were now clearer and they were able to learn.
Q: Could you see a difference in the children we feed at school and other children you saw out in the streets?
A: Definitely! The kids not being fed are more lethargic during the day, less interested in learning, much less energy in general, couldn’t focus. At lunchtime about half of them just take a nap where they’re sitting while others go out to try to find something to eat in the garbage in the street.
Our kids are extremely grateful, and to them, school is a joy! It’s where they go to eat, to learn and to hear the Word of God.
Q: How about their teachers?
A: Yes, the teachers are just as grateful and there’s a joy about them as they teach the kids daily. Most of them don’t get paid anything at all – they are doing it because they know it’s what the Lord has called them to do. At a few schools, we are now able to pay some of our teachers thanks to some special donors to our program who have stepped up.
But you have to understand, these teachers don’t think of themselves as poor. We define poverty in the US as “a lack of possessions.” They define poverty as “a lack of self-worth.” These teachers know they have value and worth because they are using their gifts and following God’s calling to teach the children.
Q: So now that you’re back home, what can you say the Lord did in YOU during your trip?
A: Good question. Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed in Africa with all the need that is there, thinking to yourself “I can’t accomplish all this, I can’t meet all these needs I see everywhere!” On this trip, the Lord continued to pinpoint His calling for us with No Hungry Children, and that is primarily to feed children. Other needs can pop up and we can confidently know “that’s a need that is going to be met through us.” With each trip, that continues to be solidified.
When you walk through Nairobi, you see the poor everywhere, hands held out. At first we were all just giving stuff to people right and left, until a pastor asked us not to do that. We were surprised, but when asked why, he said “because everyone here is poor – you are not helping.” We weren’t actually helping people to have initiative or any more incentive to support their own families once we were gone. Lesson learned.
Q: If someone’s read all the way to this point and feels like they should explore coming on a trip with No Hungry Children to Nairobi, what’s their next step?
A: We take numerous trips each year and would definitely love to talk with you. Just contact us to get started.
Jimmy Gunderman is the Executive Vice-President of Reformed Life Ministries, which operates the No Hungry Children Feeding program. He lives in Dallas, GA, with his wife Melanie and four children. He is a businessman and former Children’s Pastor who has a passion for ministering to children.