, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 19 – In Balozi Academy located deep in the slums of Kawangware, the pupils have every reason to smile.
These children always look forward to coming to school every morning as they are assured of a cup of porridge.
We meet Francis Amonde, the 27-year-old man behind those smiles and the founder of Cup of Uji Initiative, a programme he started back in 2011 while he was still in university.
Amonde supplies flour for the preparation of porridge in various schools across the country, his target being schools located in low income areas where most children go to school on empty stomachs.
He says, as time went by there was increased demand because most of the schools used him to send him messages requesting him to start the Uji initiative in their schools, but he was not able to sustain it because that time he was using his money to run the project.
In 2014, Amonde took a bold step and decided to tweet the President and explain to him about the Cup of Uji initiative so that he could assist him.
“It was around 2am when I tweeted the President and immediately Dennis Itumbi – who was then handling the President’s Twitter account sent me a message asking for my contact and from there, we started talking.”
Amonde says he explained to him about the Cup of Uji Initiative and Itumbi assisted him to lobby for funds via Twitter under the hash tag #CupOfUjiInitiative.
“By morning we had enough cash and we were able to scale up the number of children and since then I have never looked back,” he says.
Amonde says seeing the smiles of the young children as they drink the porridge makes him happy and fulfilled.
“Waking up every morning to go serve the children a cup of porridge gives me a fulfilment which I cannot get elsewhere and am looking forward to doing this for the rest of my life,” he says.
His passion for children is easily noticeable, and the pupils always scramble for him whenever he visits them, sometimes forcing the intervention of teachers to get them children back to class.
Through this initiative, Amonde is currently reaching 3,143 primary school children who are assured of a daily cup of porridge every morning from Monday to Friday.
Some of the schools where this programme is running include Nyatwere Primary School, Kasimba Primary School in Oyugis Homa Bay County, Makindi Primary and Kositot Primary School in West Pokot, Balozi School and Fikisha Street Boys Centre primary in Kawangware slums Nairobi and Silala Primary School in Ganze, Kilifi County.
The Cup of Uji Initiative is financed through online donations by wellwishers.
Amonde says he chose porridge because it has all the necessary nutrients necessary for growth and development, which has remained to be a huge challenge especially to children from low income areas where even getting one meal is a nightmare.
This damages life chances and reduces the potential for communities and the economy.
According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), malnutrition contributes to over 50 per cent of child mortality globally; the statistics further show that one third of malnourished children are in Africa.
It also emerges that three out of 10 Kenyans lack good nutrition for proper growth and development.
Also, about 26 per cent of children below five years of age are stunted, too short for their age, implying that they don’t eat the right type of food and in sufficient quantities, and only 22 per cent of children between 6 to 23 months are adequately fed.