Serving the Least of These

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?”  .  .  .  The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’   – Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 25:37-40

Linstone Sonny Ouma Omollo was born and raised in Kangemi, an informal settlement located in Nairobi, Kenya. Like most families struggling to survive in such places, Sonny’s parents were unable to afford to send all of their children to school. Excluded from school and suffering from hunger, Sonny and an older brother ran to the streets to look for food.

Running to the streets is an all-too-common experience for Kenyan children. There are inadequate social safety nets in Kenya. Estimates place the number of homeless children throughout Kenya at 250,000 to 300,000, with 60,000 to 70,000 of them living on the streets of Nairobi. Focused solely on survival, they beg for food, and sometimes sell their bodies to obtain it. At an elevation of 5,889 feet, the nights are cold. Without adequate clothing and certainly not nearly enough calories, many children sniff jet fuel or glue so the high will mask their suffering. The masking efforts often turn into an addiction. These children are desperate.

As for Sonny, he and his brother were rescued by a Kenyan missionary who paid to place them in a boarding school right near their family’s home. Sonny was then enrolled in a child sponsorship program to pay for his schooling. With the financial support of his sponsors, Sonny went on to graduate from high school and then college.

After college, Sonny took a job as a social worker for a mission that is still operating schools for children who live in other informal settlements in and around Nairobi. While these children are also living in abject poverty, they have roofs over their heads at night, and someone makes certain they make it to school every day.

While being paid to work with children who are not homeless, Sonny could not, and did not, forget about the children on the streets. Starting small, carving money from his own budget and obtaining small donations whenever he could, Sonny began feeding hot meals to street children. The frequency with which he could do it depended on how much money he could scrape together.

In 2016, Katie Harvey visited Nairobi as a member of a short-term missionary team sent from her home church in Indiana. She fell in love with the country and its people. She returned to Nairobi in 2017 for a summer internship, working for a mission organization that focuses on rescuing children from the streets. In her words, “God broke my heart for the street children I was encountering daily.” It was that summer that Katie met Sonny.

In 2017, Sonny’s work caught the attention of Destiney Roxburgh, a talented web designer in California. She built a simple website for the small organization that is now Giving Back Hope Together (GBHT), and donations increased. Over the past 5 years, the feeding program has grown substantially. Provision of clothing, shoes, and medical attention have been added to the ministry. Identifying children who wished to return home and mediating the process of family reconciliation started and continues to grow. Two years ago, enough donations were raised to build two buildings in Kangemi, now known as GBHT’s Hope Center. The Hope Center is located on land that Sonny’s parents were able to secure for this purpose.

Having a permanent “place” in Kangemi has allowed GBHT’s ministry opportunities to expand exponentially. The Hope Center serves as a place for the community’s children to stay during school breaks when they are vulnerable to hunger (and thus tempted to run to the streets). At the Hope Center, children are fed a daily meal, provided tutoring and mentoring, and engaged in a “Vacation Bible School” experience. Sonny’s now spouse and co-leader, Katie, planned for a maximum of 100 children their first VBS, and they quickly exceeded that number – now serving more than 300 children every time they conduct one. A child sponsorship program is now getting off the ground.

These are only a portion of the ministry efforts in which GBHT is now engaged. Sonny’s long-term vision is the establishment of Hope Centers in other settlements, as he is convinced that prevention is the only way to stem the tide of children turning to street life.

In 2022, a U.S. corporation was formed for GBHT, and it is now a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Its board of directors in the U.S. is comprised of people passionate about GBHT’s efforts to save children. GBHT is a rescue and prevention mission born out of the experiences of its founder – experiences largely identical to the experience of the “least of these” whom GBHT now serves.

As with many mission organizations operating in Kenya and elsewhere, the needs always exceed the resources. There are many worthy organizations to which you can donate your time and financial resources. But if none have yet captured your heart, we invite you to explore joining us in making a difference in Kangemi, and on whatever street corners where those thousands of homeless children in Nairobi are trying to sleep tonight.

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Kevin Harvey

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