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Olives Rehabilitation Center

Steven Were
Mombasa, Kenya

Volunteers from Family Care Missions delivering food for school lunches to the Olives Rehabilitation Center.

Children at the Olives Rehabilitation Center in Mombasa, Kenya, waiting in line for lunch.
Elvis with children from the Olives Rehabilitation Center in front of the classrooms.
Left to right: Franz (Family Care Missions), Stephen (Olives Rehabilitation Center director), and his brother Michael (Olives Rehabilitation Center manager) in the Olives Library.

The Olives Rehabilitation Center is a compassionate Christian response program, which aims to assist children at risk from neglect, abuse, and malnutrition due to extreme poverty. Our purpose is to mobilize locally available resources to educate, feed, and care for underprivileged children in our community.

Olives is situated in the coastal town of Mombasa, Kenya. The program consists of:

  1. Providing a nutritional meal for 270 underprivileged children five days a week for nine months a year.
  2. Providing basic education for the 270 children, including:
    • Textbooks and workbooks
    • Stationary
    • School uniforms
    • School lunch
      The above are also sponsored for another 20 children who were part of the Olives Program and have since received funding from local benefactors to attend various schools in Mombasa.
  3. A waste management program, which involves clean-up campaigns and educating people in how to better care for their environment.
  4. A free annual medical camp, which covers some of the urgent medical needs in the community, including HIV-AIDS counseling.

A Brief History
My name is Steven Were and I come from a simple middle class family in Kenya. I received an average education, but then later worked my way up and enrolled in several college courses including counseling and social and community work. My brother Michael and I have always been very concerned about the poverty in our neighborhood and regularly prayed for the many poor and the needy people in the community. We felt God tugging at our hearts to do something to help the underprivileged in our area. We lived in an area that borders a slum village where thousands of poor people live.

One day in July 2000 two small girls, 6- and 8-years-old—the children of a single mother—came to our house, asking for prayer for their desperate situation. (We were known as active Christians in the community, through our different church activities.) The following day the two girls came back with a whole group of friends, all wanting prayer for various needy situations. We prayed for them and they left with a hope that God would answer their pleas in some way.

The next day, again more children came to our house asking for prayer for their needs; and this is when we felt that further action was required.

Our Mission Begins
Some of our friends told us about the Family Care Missions Outreach Program (run by members of TFI) in town, where they held a monthly First Aid/Feeding Program for homeless people. We found out where they lived and went to their house and knocked on their door. We explained our cause and made an appointment for them to visit the children we felt led to care for. Iris Richard and a team of ambitious young missionaries from Family Care Missions donated two boxes of New Testament Bibles for our fledgling children’s rescue ministry. They also donated food items and gave us some useful counsel which we benefited from as we began our mission.

Later, Iris introduced me to several businesspeople in town, who started supporting our budding work. From this point on, I started to build my life around helping these underprivileged children and thus the vision of the Olives Rehabilitation Center was born.

Soon after meeting with Family Care Missions, my brother and I started to participate in weekly motivational Christian classes—the 12 Foundation Stones—which further motivated us to get our school project started and help these needy children. It also boosted our faith for greater things and the counsel we received clarified our vision.

Seeing the needs around me, I couldn’t just sit and do nothing about them. The following motivational quotes from the classes kept ringing in my mind:

“All it takes for evil to continue is for good people to do nothing.”

“We can either be thermometers or thermostats. Thermometers pick up the temperature. Thermostats set the temperature.” I’d rather be a thermostat than a thermometer. I’d rather set the temperature than pick up the temperature around.

In July 2000 my brother and I started teaching basic literacy skills to neglected children and teens in a small two-room building. We selected the children by a simple screening process where we would interview the child and the parent or guardian of the child, and then choose the most needy cases.

In the beginning the school was open only in the mornings, and most of the children were not able to pay any fee, as they were from very poor backgrounds. Many even came from teenage led households. As time went on, we realized that the children were too hungry to learn, as many came without eating breakfast, so we started a feeding program, and later we were able to extend the time to two more hours of teaching in the afternoons, for five days a week.

As children were added, we slowly expanded, with the help of Family Care Missions and our newfound sponsors. In time the initial simple structure was slowly renovated through donations from Family Care Missions and local donors, and we were able to add three more classrooms, a small library, and a small office.

During the first five years, the program which started with 60 children expanded to teaching 90 children. Teachers helped out on a voluntary basis, namely those who were doing an internship from a local college or university. We also hired accredited teachers.

Through collaboration with other charitable projects for children at risk within the coast province, we learned a lot. We registered the Olives Rehabilitation Program with the government as a community-based organization. Registering enabled us to more freely network with other community-based organizations and to be accepted in the community. To run any type of work in the community, CBO status (community-based organization) is the minimum registration that is required by law.

Compassion for these children in need, and the love of Christ, compel us to keep striving to develop this project further. Since our humble and small beginnings, we have grown to where we now take care of nearly 300 children; and also teach, train and encourage volunteers, caretakers of the children, and those in the community who struggle with the hardships of life.

One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned through working with a community which is facing many challenges due to poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and crime, is the importance of patience, love, and understanding. Since the answer to all these existing problems is not only in providing material needs, the importance of a counseling and prayer ministry, plus motivational Christian teaching for adults and teenagers, has been apparent, and our providing these things is bearing fruit. People are learning about the importance of lending a helping hand to their neighbor and to assist in time of need.

One of the biggest jobs we have is inspiring people to find homegrown solutions to their challenges, to think out of the box of their surrounding poverty, and to see opportunity. The known principle that giving a man a fish feeds him for a day, but teaching a man how to fish feeds him for a lifetime, has inspired me greatly. We hope to start several income generating self-help projects in the future.

Staff Recruitment
Most of our staff comprises college students, interns, and volunteers from other countries who have varied experiences and expertise. We have a website where we also advertise positions available.

Many times we’ll meet people during local forums of community-based organizations and our interactions will spark in them an interest to volunteer at our school. News has also spread by word of mouth, Mombasa being a small city, and we get volunteers through referrals from other organizations. Also, volunteers who worked with our project for some time will inspire others to do the same.

Sometimes retired teachers or community workers who need a holiday engagement will come and help teach at the school for a bit.

How the School is Funded
The school is mainly funded through donations. Sometimes visitors who hear or read about the project will give a donation when they visit the school. Several companies in the Mombasa business community, have pledged a monthly fee (solicited by Family Care Missions) to help the school.

Family Care Missions donates food items regularly and also helps with cash donations from time to time. Many of the volunteers also help with financial contributions.

We also found it very important to involve the parents/guardians of the children we care for and to encourage them to participate, whether in services or a small “token” school fee, in order to help them value the service we provide and take responsibility for their children, which often is greatly lacking due to various hardships people face in our community.

Some of the Positive Results thus Far Have Been:

  • The children are better cared for as they grow up, as they spend a number of hours getting quality input and education at our school.
  • They receive better nourishment through the meals they get at school.
  • They have an opportunity to get good education—some have already moved on to higher education and/or job opportunities.
  • The children grow up to be responsible for their own lives and understand their responsibility to love and care for others.
  • This project has made a positive impact in the community, and has brought about awareness and positive change as the word of our project spreads.

In Closing
Since our project still needs to grow, and we have a long way to go to be as effective as we’d like to be in our cause of helping, teaching, and training, we are in urgent need of more regular funding and pledges. We would be very grateful for any donations and/or pledges you can give towards any of the following needs:

  • Teacher and staff salaries and allowances
  • High school fees for the children
  • Funding towards self-help projects
  • To cut on costs for rent, we hope to buy the land on which the school is located. The cost for this would be approximately 60,000 Euros, and then step by step the building would have to be tackled. For more details about future plans, please contact us via e-mail or visit our Website

For further information about Family Care Missions, please see: www.familycare.or.ke

Originally Published in 2011.