Presbyterian Church of East Africa helps transform lives — one child at a time
by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service
NAIROBI, Kenya — About three years ago, Brian Odhiambo lived a life of “survival of the fittest” on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya. He was rescued from his street boy existence and taken to Eastleigh Community Center (ECC), a vocational skills training primary and secondary school of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) that promotes peacebuilding at every grade level.
“They did something great to my life,” Odhiambo remembered. “They took me back to secondary school and paid for my school fees and education essentials.”
Today Odhiambo looks forward to beginning his studies in business and entrepreneurship at Maseno University in Kenya. He is excited to pursue his goals in life and gives God all the glory, he said.
Phares Mithamo Nyaga, an ordained elder of the PCEA’s Nairobi Central Presbytery and director of ECC, served as an international peacemaker with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program in 2017. He and the center’s staff believe education is effective in keeping street children from being exploited and radicalized by terrorists and traffickers of drugs and ammunition.
ECC, a ministry of Eastleigh parish and church, has been providing access to faith-based educational opportunities and vocational skills development since 1959. Nyaga and the center’s staff believe education is an effective tool in sustaining peace through economic and political empowerment of vulnerable people, such as refugees, women and children.
In addition to Kenyan street children, ECC helps “street families” and others affected by war and famine in neighboring Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia.
“In my opinion, Eastleigh Community Center and the Presbyterian Church of East Africa are revealing, through their work and ministries to those on the margins, the quintessence of what it means to be a Matthew 25 church,” said the Rev. Paula Cooper, World Mission’s regional liaison for East Central Africa. Cooper said the center is feeding, teaching, clothing and sharing God’s love with children, youth and families experiencing hopelessness within their current circumstances.
“They offer a holistic approach to their ministries,” Cooper said. “On that great day, when they are asked, ‘Who did you feed?’ ‘Who did you clothe?’ ‘Who did you visit?’ They will have responses.”
Eastleigh is called “Little Mogadishu” because of its large Somali population. It is considered a place of opportunity and a major East African commercial zone. Through educational support of children, basic literacy skills for adults, psychosocial support, livelihood skills training for youth, women’s microenterprise development and promotion of health and sanitation, ECC’s primary and secondary school programs emphasize attitudes of respect, harmony and co-existence between students of different religious backgrounds while equipping the youth with skills that will give them a competitive edge in the market, Nyaga said.
Government policy in Kenya allows a child to be in a rescue center for a maximum of three years.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, all except 10 of the rescued street children have been returned to live with their families. The 10 students at the center are waiting to take their primary education examination, scheduled for October. These students are under the supervision of four staff members who are helping them prepare for the examination.
Nyaga said the main challenge has been providing food and essentials for the students, as well as paying staff salaries and utilities with no incoming revenue since February. “We remain in prayer that all these hard experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic will come to an end,” Nyaga said.
If you are interested in learning more about the work of Eastleigh Community Center, contact Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Paula Cooper, World Mission’s regional liaison for East Central Africa, facilitates PC(USA) relationships with partner churches and institutions in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia. She also provides support for PC(USA) mission personnel and Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) in the region. She assists PC(USA) congregations and presbyteries that are or who want to be in relationship with partners in East Central Africa. Contact her here. Subscribe to her letters. Consider supporting her work in East Central Africa.
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Categories: Matthew 25, World Mission
Tags: africa, Brian Odhiambo, Eastleigh Community Center, Eastleigh Parish, Eastleigh Primary and Secondary School, Eastleigh Vocational Skills Training, Hillary Khalwale, international peacemakers, James Mwangi, kenya, Mary Njambi, Maseno University, Nairobi, Nairobi Central Presbytery, Paul Mwai, paula cooper, pcea, Phares Mithamo Nyaga, Presbyterian Church of East Africa, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, rescued street children, Rev. Jane Kariuki, Steve Collins
Ministries: Matthew 25 in the PC(USA): Join the Movement, World Mission