Joshua Amwai Machinga, is the Executive Director of Common Ground for Africa (CGA) and the founding director Lenana Girls High School in Kenya.
Joshua is deeply involved with issues affecting poor communities in Africa. CGA seeks to expose and address the root causes of the problems faced by peasant farmers, women, youth, and indigenous people. CGA creates and provides educational tools and training materials designed to raise awareness, generate critical social analysis, and inspire decisive action. Through programs such as Teach to Learn, eighth grade and high school students go out into the community to provide training for farmers in GROW BIOINTENSIVE (organic) agriculture and the control of resources, aid, and foreign policy. Each year Teach to Learn provides training programs to over 150 interns and volunteers globally. Since 1995, CGA has trained over 55,000 farmers in Eastern and Central Africa and planted over 2.1 million trees through land rehabilitation programs.
In the mid-90’s, CGA spearheaded Community Cereal Banking, a new approach to marketing cereals in western Kenya. In Cereal Banking, farmers form their own marketing associations to inspect, bulk, store, and trade cereals. This approach allows them to sell cereals for top prices to larger-scale buyers, such as millers, but also to take greater control over their local food supply and sell small quantities for reasonable prices during grain shortages. This approach has been adopted by many communities across the continent.
One such group is the Wasoni Women Cooperative Center, made up of seven different women groups. They store and market their cereals in the most profitable manner to generate substantial income. With a membership now spanning to 1500 women, a model is emerging that can be replicated in many communities around the globe.
Mr. Machinga has traveled to many countries, including the United States, and has spoken at conferences to share perspectives and to build partnerships around grass roots issues and strategies for food sovereignty. His talk on food sovereignty at a meeting of Community Alliance for Global Justice helped to establish the AGRA Watch Project. AGRA Watch Project is at the forefront of advocacy for farmers and consumers in countries around the world.
Having worked with many community groups over the years, he is focused on developing leadership among women, in particular, to empower them to engage in their own business planning, to set goals and make strategic decisions. He knows that women are more likely to break the cycle of poverty and ignorance in their families than men. Joshua Machinga is equally passionate about education and sees the imperative need for a self-sustaining, scholarship-based girls’ high school in Kitale, Kenya: Lenana Girls High School.
Mr. Machinga has been nominated for several prestigious awards: World Food Sovereignty Prize, Ribbon Award, Global Children Award, and Equator Award, among other national and educational awards. In 2012, he won the Humanity for Humanity International Award.
Rev. Joseph Kipkemoi Rono is the Founder and President of Grace Foundation International (GFI) – a Kenyan based non-profit organization. Rev. Rono’s dream of registering GFI began 1998 as a result of an agonizing experience he had upon seeing many youth from his rural neighborhood either dropping out of school due to lack of school fees or not going any further than Form 4 because they could not score enough marks to enable them to join university. These two painful realities prompted Rev. Rono to seek registration of GFI with the Kenya Government. The process was difficult and expensive but he pressed on. In the year 2000, GFI registration was completed and Rev. Rono began to work in earnest towards achieving GFI’s dream.
Since its registration, GFI has been working with Mogonjet Secondary and Primary schools. Some of their accomplished projects include: the refurbishment of existing classrooms, building of new classrooms, a science laboratory, a dispensary, painting of new and old classrooms, and the addition of a teachers’ housing unit.
Besides being the Dean of Students at Kabianga University, Rev. Rono is currently the Chairman of Mogonjet Secondary School’s Board of Governors and the Patron of Mogonjet Primary School. The community honored Rev. Rono with these responsibilities because of his foresight and relentless campaign for quality and higher education. Rev. Rono is extremely grateful to partners like Lift the Lid who see potential in destitute children and bring fundamental changes to their schools and communities.
Mary Naipanoi Tobiko is the Headmistress of Namelok Junior Academy in Kisamis, Kenya. The fifth born in a family of nine, she started caring for and teaching her siblings at a young age. She attended Olepolos primary school, and went on to high school, graduating in 1994. Her first teaching position was at her former primary school, where she volunteered for one year. Later, Mary was employed by parents as a untrained teacher. This was her first paid position, earning $10 per month. She saved what she made until she had the tuition for Early Childhood Education College. After two years, Mary graduated with a certificate and became employed in her former primary school as a trained teacher. She held this position for five years before transfering to another school due to salary delays. In the year 2007, Mary decided to start a school at Corner Baridi, which means “cold corner,” beside a church. This was a challenging time for her in many ways. But in 2009, her father gave her five acres of land where Namelok now stands. If all goes well, Mary would like to go back to school to continue her studies in education.
Alfredo Olavidez co-founded the Street Dwellers Outreach Ministries, Inc. (SDOMI) in 2004, together with Jun del Corro and the late Steve Serna. Its front-runner programs, spiritual and physical feeding, were started in 1997.
SDOMI was the original proponent of the “School in a Cart” with Nonito Samonte as the main teacher. The School in a Cart was continued by the Mabuhay Christian Home Foundation, Inc., also under the leadership of Alfredo Olavidez.
The ministry is likened to a wheel with four spokes each representing education, livelihood & shelter, health, and spiritual values. Alfredo and Nonie ‘wheel’ to where the families are to assist them attain these basic rights and needs, although the intention is also there to establish a resident preschool and daycare center.
In 2000, Alfredo Olavidez completed the academic requirements for a degree in Master of Organizational Leadership at the Philadelphia Biblical University, formerly Philadelphia Bible College.
Rebbecca Ross Russell is the Executive Director of The Small Things (TST), founded in 2011. Her passion for and vision of children growing up in a loving environment with a happy home was the inspiration for establishing the non-profit organization dedicated to family preservation through holistic support and residential care. Deeply influenced by the life and work of her grandmother, a Holocaust survivor who at great risk saved children from the Nazis during World War II, Bekka’s work is also a catalyst – and a homage.
In 2010, following undergraduate studies at Tufts University, Bekka began working as a volunteer at the Nkoaranga Orphanage in the Arusha region of Tanzania. But after falling hopelessly in love with the children, a year-long stay became the beginning of a lifelong commitment – and the impetus for finding a way to ensure saving the lives of countless young children who without help, would surely be deprived of loving homes and hope for the future.
The Small Thing’s partnership with Nkoaranga Orphanage has evolved to include providing additional residential care at Happy Family Children’s Village. Since 2014, the Children’s Village has offered loving homes with committed long-term caretakers for children not able to immediately return to family members, while TST’s team implements a model for family stabilization and empowerment.