Plans under way to fund and build a residential home for orphans of HIV/AIDS victims in Kenya

BETHANY -In the western province of Kenya the AIDS pandemic is spreading like a wildfire in California in the middle of a scorching summer.

The AIDS crisis in Africa is claiming an estimated 6,000 lives every day, leaving some 12 million children orphaned.

And a friend of the Christ Church in Bethany, the Rev. Evalyn Wakhusama, has a dream to help many of those orphaned by the pandemic; The Nambale Residential School.


Wakhusama, a Kenyan native graduated from the Yale Divinity School in 2002. During her tenure at Yale she struggled with the need to find a way to help those suffering the consequences of the devastation of the pandemic.

"I had the dream of helping people back in my country. In 2002 at Yale Divinity School I shared this vision with my friends and colleagues and they confirmed this was a noble idea to change lives," Wakhusama said.

After receiving her education from Yale University she returned to Kenya to use her knowledge to improve the conditions of her people. At this juncture, the concept of the Women's Initiative For Knowledge And Survival (WIKS) was conceived.

Wakhusama noted that poverty is a dehumanizing state no matter where you live. She recognized that indigence is caused by a diverse set of power relationships that deny life skills, assets and resources and that an understanding of these complex interactions is required to break the cycle, according to her Web site.

The WIKS rationale stems from an analogy to water, Wakhusama said. In western Kenya girls go to the river to fetch water for their entire family and return home carrying it in buckets on their heads she explained. Wakhusama sees herself as the bearer of the water nurturing her community with knowledge empowering them to become self-sufficient.

WIKS' members envision themselves as bearers of water for these communities. The water they carry is, however, not ordinary water; it is the water of knowledge and survival, which empowers society and restores it back to life.

Already, through the nonprofit organization WIKS, she and supporters have established a feeding program for children orphaned by AIDS and offering educational seminars on building self-esteem, harm reduction, how to negotiate difficult situations with partners/husband and safe sex.

One of Wakhusama's largest projects is the creation of the Nambale Residential School in the Busia District in western Kenya.

She envisions this to be a safe haven for children orphaned by AIDS where children will not only be educated but loved, fed and nurtured as well.

Not only will traditional education be taught but skilled trades can be acquired as well.

WIKS is in the midst of a 5-year plan to reach this goal. Already they have purchased a 7-acre parcel, with assistance from Christ Church in Bethany, have architectural designs, have the governments' permission as it's classified as agricultural land and fundraising is under way.

The complex will include a school, residential, apprentice school, staff houses and a guest house which will earn income

Christ Church Bethany is in the forefront of leading the cause to see the school built. In 2004 church leader The Rev. Canon Peter Stebinger and parishioner Loretta Smith traveled to Kenya to see first hnad what Wakhusama was trying to accomplish.

"The area around Nambale is incredibly poverty stricken. In Kenya poverty is defined as an income of less than $1 per day. Sixty-five percent of the people earn a wage less than that. We realized we needed to build this school," Stebinger said.

Smith concurred.

"Evalyn's dream became our dream," Smith said.

If all goes well, Wakhusama said, she hopes to break ground this summer. So far, she said, they have raised two thirds of the money needed for Phase 1 of construction.

There is an urgency to break ground and begin construction, Wakhusama said as construction costs, such as concrete and lumber are beginning to escalate.

Stebinger said he learned last Sunday that a generous benefactor, who wished to remain anonmyous was willing to match funds raised.

"Through the generosity of someone who is very committed to this project, all future donations up to $45,000 will be matched two to one," he said.

Wakhusama believes her dream will change lives forever.

"We can change lives when we give people the opportunity to go to school. That is an empowerment many children and women need," she said. She added that the influence this project will have will reach over 70,000 lives.

Wakhusama said she envisions the complex housing about 300 students 8 to 14 years of age and then expand to complete high school. Additionally, once established will take younger children.

There will also be a medical infirmary for sick support.

She said her long-range vision will be the establishment of an organization that is self-sustaining through income generating apprenticeships such as farming, dairy animals, chicken and food crops.

Additionally the guest house will be used for visitors, retreats and meetings.

Wakhusama is pasturing a church in Kenya, St. John's ACK KARI. She is married to Dr. Samuel Wakhusama, a veterinarian.

To learn more about her work her Web site can be found at .

Donations can be sent to Loretta Smith 526 Amity Road, Bethany, CT. 06524 where 100 percent goes directly to the costs of developing and constructing of the Nambale Residential School.

All board members and other supporters provide services on a strictly volunteer basis.