What Makes Feed the Children Unique? A Look at Kenya

Feed the Children recently interviewed Ben Greene, Vice President of Sponsorship and Media, after his first trip to visit the communities we serve in Kenya. 

FTC: Could you tell us when you joined the staff at Feed the Children and what your role is on our team?

BG: I joined Feed the Children in November of last year. I serve as the Vice President of Sponsorship & Media. This simply means that I work with our child sponsorship team to find ways to ensure even more children in developing countries are given the opportunity to thrive in life.

FTC: You recently traveled to Kenya to visit our staff and field programs there. Could you tell us when and why you made this long journey?

BG: Yes, from January 28- February 5th I traveled to Nairobi alongside one of our artist partners, Warren Barfield and his team. As a new member of the Feed the Children staff I was eager to get to the field and see the work myself. And because artists like Warren will be telling the Feed the Children story at events to potential child sponsors, they need to see and experience firsthand what we are doing on the ground. Together with Warren, it was wonderful to see the children we serve in the Dagoretti Children’s Center orphanage, those we serve in the slums in the city of Nairobi, and also those in Maparasha, a rural community.

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FTC: You came to Feed the Children after having worked with two other similar large international non-profits. What stood out to you as you experienced Feed the Children’s programs first hand in Kenya that distinguishes Feed the Children from other organizations?

BG: In my work with organizations, I have been all around the world. And I know this: it seems that most organizations choose to either meet immediate needs and deal with the pressing issues of a community, or they decide to participate in development which helps the communities think long-term. I see a unique distinctive with Feed the Children in that we do both.  We do feed children, especially in schools. Full tummies means effective learning for the day. But we also work with community leaders to develop better systems of healthcare, agriculture and education as well as livelihood development for the future. While in Kenya, it was wonderful to see communities engaged in all sorts of projects dealing with beekeeping, greenhouses, and water and sanitation. We truly are doing the work of holistic development— or as many folks in our industry like to say “giving a hand up and not just a hand out.”

FTC: Could you tell us more about a memorable experience you had while you were in Kenya.

BG: Being in this line of work for a while now, I’ve always said I aim to support the work of an organization that looks after the most vulnerable in our world. But, what an eye-opening experience it was visiting with the “Hardy Boys” in Nairobi! I realized I still had much to learn about what this means. The Hardy Boys are a group of 10 young men in their 20s who have aged out of our orphanage, but for whom Feed the Children will have a life-long relationship with because they are unable to care for themselves on their own due to certain disabilities.

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As soon as we walked into their home, I was overwhelmed by their joy as the smiles never left their faces. After sharing a meal together, Warren began to play his guitar as we sang the song, “Everlasting God.” When we got to the words that said, “You’re the defender of the weak and You comfort those in need” I couldn’t help but think about the poignancy of those lyrics in that moment.  I realized that these “boys” are what my work is all about. You can’t get much more vulnerable than living with special needs in the developing world. But even with all of their challenges the Hardy Boys couldn’t help but sing. This is what my work at Feed the Children is all about—protecting the most vulnerable like them. I think about them often now.

The Journey of Hope Begins with the End of Violence

Today, we’re honored to partner with International Justice Mission on the launch of IJM president Gary Haugen’s book “The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence.” When they spoke with us about the book and the video below, they asked us to share a story of the impact of violence on the children we serve. We immediately thought of a poem and story we received recently from Seintje Veldhuis, Feed the Children’s Regional Director of Operations and Programs for Africa. But before we share her words with you, please watch this video.

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People ask me all the time, “How can one person make a difference?” And when they ask, I hear what they are saying. The problems of this world are so huge and our despair so great. It can be overwhelming. I know this from personally dedicating over 19 years of my life to communities in need in Africa.

However, in the end, I believe it is always just about one child. It’s about making a difference in one boy or girl’s life. It’s about doing what we can to ensure he or she has a better future. Acts of violence can steal the innocence of a child and take from them the security that all of us deserve to have.

I’ve seen this loss of innocence, security, and hope over and over in the children we serve. My years of work among the poor have taught me this: our work is to love.

I wrote this poem to introduce to you one of the babies that recently arrived at Feed the Children’s Abandoned Babies Center in Nairobi. She came to us because a senseless act of violence took her family away. Her story, while unique, is not completely dissimilar from many of those who come into our care. Without the support of Feed the Children, children like this would not have hope for a better future. With all our support, their future is boundless! We proclaim loud and clear that violence will not win, but hope does!

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“Journey of Hope”

I was tightly wrapped in a blanket and my sister’s arm; newly born,
Mother next to me on a rough road, in a bus keeping me safe and warm.
Just discharged from the hospital, on our way home,
Hardship and poverty ahead, but at least not alone.

Before I could even make one choice
My family was housed in a slum, filled with junk and noise.
One sister wheel chaired for the rest of life
And a brother fighting AIDS to survive.

But all of us were building hope on Faith, the educated one we adore,
As she was completing this year in form four.
She was our only source of hope, for my brother in despair,
And my sister in wheelchair for my Mum with no income
Is there a way out from this slum?

Suddenly, I am shocked and shaken by a loud bang and blast
It all happened very fast,
No longer was I hiding in my sister’s embrace,
Or could I gaze on loving eyes of my Mother face.
People screamed, cried and died
The terrorists, El Shabaab were as killers identified.

I was later found by my Auntie as a miracle child.
She took me to ABC Home were everyone was so kind.
I was cleaned, fed, cuddled and loved from the very start
Though my beginning was forever marred.

I cannot tell you my real name, as I became the Media’s fame,
And news spread very fast about this criminal blast.
I don’t know why I was born in such misery
Losing my Mum and sister in this tragedy.

But terrorists who throw grenades and bombs
Will not forever murder babes and Mums.

As long as you will stand up, and join the voiceless loud and clear
Your work will shine, spark and speak without fear.
I have joined the homeless, fatherless and motherless just after my birth
But the poor of Spirit will inherit the Earth.

Feed the Children became Christ to me
As hope and light came into my tragedy
As I now walk the Journey of Hope with you today
Knowing that all children will be found and freed one day.

I will be found by a Mum and other Home
Dream of a better slum, and never be alone,
His Kingdom come,
His will be done
On Earth
As it is in Heaven.

Baby Blessing.

Seintje Velduis was born in Holland and has worked for Feed the Children for seven years. She currently serves as Interim Director of Operations and Programs – Africa, based in Kenya.

From Skeptic to Believer: How Our CEO’s Wife Became Our Biggest Supporter

Once upon a time, only a few months ago, I never would have given Feed the Children a dime.

I never would have written anything nice about them in public.

I never would have put on a Feed the Children t-shirt.

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And my husband Kevin was Feed the Children’s new President and CEO.

As a 30-something pastor already involved through my church in supporting relief and development organizations, I was leery of the big promises of an organization with such a wide scope. I opted to support and give to my local church and to other do-good organizations with which I had a personal connection—places where I was confident my dollar was being put to good use.

Yet, I supported my husband’s calling to lead Feed the Children (I’d never seen him so passionate about anything quite like this) and soon thereafter I said yes to my first field program trip in August of 2012 to Malawi and Kenya… only because Kevin asked me to go with him.

As we boarded the plane Africa-bound, I sought to have an open mind.  Maybe it might be different than I imagined?

e hagan 2 editedAnd it was. From day one, I began to experience some of the most pure and life-changing work I’d ever seen—though I’d already traveled extensively in the developing world, coming to Africa twice before.  The Feed the Children I began to get to know personally surprised me.

I was surprised when I met some beautiful women in remote villages in Malawi who brought their toddlers to one of our feeding centers. I heard them say to me through translators, “Thank you so much. There is no other way we could feed our babies if you didn’t help us. Feed the Children is the only support network we’ve ever known that has stayed here for the long haul.”

I was surprised when I chatted with staff over cups of coffee in Kenya with so much light in their eyes. Their unbelievable dedication to improving the lives of children and deep spiritual core humbled me. I knew if I’d ever met a saint— these leaders were the real deal.

Kevin and I with the staff at one of our children's homes in Kenya
Kevin and I with the staff at one of our children’s homes in Kenya

I was surprised when I visited a school in the slums of Nairobi and put shoes on the tattered feet of first graders. As I watched delight come to their faces, I couldn’t help but have Isaiah’s words come to mind: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” I realized these children could now live into their God-given mission of simply be-ing because Feed the Children facilitated this gift of school shoes to them.  Wow.

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And over the past seventeen months, as I’ve continued to travel to field programs in other regions of the world like the Philippines and Latin America with Kevin, the story has been the same. Feed the Children does amazing work and I am a changed woman. I now own at least five Feed the Children t-shirts. And no one paid me to write this blog.

I’m not saying that Feed the Children is perfect. It has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go in achieving its mission of ensuring that no child goes to bed hungry, but for now, this skeptic of a CEO’s wife is a super fan! I’ve seen the work. I’ve met the staff. I’ve hugged the kids. And I can tell you: these are good people doing amazing things!

For the other skeptics out there too, I hope that you’ll believe as my husband says all the time, “It’s a new day at Feed the Children” because it truly is.