Hope for the Destitutes

Published on 9th August 2005

The African Executive talked to Micah Ommani, a former banker, is now a proprietor of Shammah Orphanage Home that houses 23 orphans.

AE. What does your center do?

M. It feeds, clothes, counsels and schools orphans.

AE. What led you start one?

M. My village has been hit hard by the Aids scourge. I was saddened to see children who had no parents suffering for lack of parental care and basic necessities. I wanted them to be integrated in the society and feel like the rest of the children. My heart went out to them and I decided to do something to change their lives.

AE. How did you get going?

I rented two rooms in an estate and would pay Ksh. 2,500 for each every month. My mother who is a farmer would supply maize, milk and vegetables from her farm produce and I would pay her back at the end of the month after earning my salary.

AE. You were taking care of the children single handed?

M. Yes. This is a calling. When you have a call, you are willing to risk. My salary that time was Ksh. 70,000. I consulted my wife and she consented that we spend Ksh.25,000 per month to support the orphans.

AE. How did you acquire your current plot?

M. The government had awarded Kenya Outreach Ministries (KOM); a religious based organization 5 acres of land. Since the land was lying idle, I negotiated with the KOM board and they allowed me to use the land. I immediately embarked on putting up a semi permanent dorm. This progress attracted a team from Texas in 2004 who volunteered to construct another dorm. A black American based organization from California volunteered to feed the orphans.

AE. What challenges do you face in your work?

M. Some children come with poor health. I ensure they are treated. One of the volunteers working with me is a retired health officer. He examines and treats them. Some children come with very anti-social character. They are rude and fight over food. My wife counsels them. The inflow of funds is insufficient and unsteady to meet particularly the schooling of the orphans. Some donors take over two years before they honour their pledge. We do face a transport crisis too. We incur big expenses hiring means to transport items for use and take the children for site seeing.

AE. Do you network with other local orphanages?

M. I’m sorry to say most of them are very closed. I’ve tried to interact with them but the managers don’t like other people to interact with their donors. I’m sorry to say some organizations purport to house orphans but they have none at all! One manager upon
being visited by donors dressed his sisters and brothers in rags and presented them as the destitutes! Another one sweet talked a government based orphanage and took donors there in pretext that he was the one running it. He had choreographed the children in such
a way that when they saw him, they started shouting; Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Such shady deals inhibit interaction.

AE. What are your future plans?

M. I’d like to set up a school on the compound so that the children can learn from the compound. I’m also thinking of taking care of orphans in secondary schools.

AE .What plans do you have to make your center self-sustaining?

M. Plans are ripe to set up a travel agency so that bookings to Kenya can be done from here. I also intend to buy vans to take visitors to visit game parks etc. the commission from all these can run the center.

AE. Can Africans be self-sustaining and help people in US for example?

M. Yes. We should stop the mentality of being helped always. We should take a step and do something. Before I got well-wishers to help boost my work, I had invested my own Ksh. 535,000 in it. I had a vision and I’m working to see its fulfillment. I’ve seen local
people sending used clothes here. The work is not easy but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

AE. How do you balance your pastoral work and orphanage?

M. I have 5 workers and a board. I always delegate the work. I have an administrator who runs the center and updates me. For the church, I have two assistant pastors.

AE. Any message to workers of your calibre?

M. Integrity is very important. One must have a workable plan and ensure that any funds accrued go towards the designated work. Many Africans have spoilt their image by cunning. What legacy are they leaving? It is possible for Africans who are focused to solve the problems facing their respective communities. I have sown a seed and I look forward to see it reach other parts of Africa. If the blacks in diaspora team up with their fellow blacks in terms of ideas and resources, I am sure Africa will not stagnate in development. My center is open to all for learning and sharing ideas.


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