A native of Kenya, she has seen more death and loss in her 10 years of life than most people in America will see in a lifetime. She watched the relentless ravages of AIDS take her father and then her mother, and now, as she rises in the morning, in a region engulfed in civil strife, she wonders what she and her two younger siblings, who now depend on her, will do to survive.
Her story is that of many African children who wake to the stark reality of hunger, disease and death. Miriam Macharia is familiar with their plight, because she has lived it.
“With the meager salary I earned, it was really hard bringing up my children and there were many days we slept without food,” says Macharia.
A native of Nakuru, Kenya, raised by Christian parents and now living in the U.S., Macharia could have settled into the comfort of life in America and forgotten those desperate times as a single-mother of three.
But she remembered a promise she made to God.
“I promised God that one day, if I was in any way able, I would make sure that, as I was provided for, I would provide for my neighbors in need,” says Macharia.
A victim of rape as a teenager and unable to attend college due to her family’s financial circumstances, Macharia began working as an untrained teacher in her village. Teaching in a slum of Nakura, where most of her students arrived to school hungry, awakened Macharia’s memories of her own struggles. Her class included a brother and sister who had lost their parents to HIV-AIDS and a young boy who had watched helplessly from beneath his bed as his parents were hacked to death in a tribal clash in the region.
Moved by their tragic struggles, Macharia began providing food for the three children and later began paying the cost for their schooling. According to Macharia, in Africa, when a child loses their parents and becomes orphaned, there are no government programs to help that child in any way. No welfare, no foster care, no assistance or food stamps.
“The child is left alone to beg for food and has very little hope for any type of future. They are truly the poorest of the poor,” says Macharia of the plight of orphans in her country.
In 2007, sixteen years after completing her education and graduating as a trained primary school teacher, Bethel International Ministries was birthed to broaden Macharia’s ability to help children and widows in her native country. A 501(c)3 organization, the nonprofit was founded in conjunction with her former church, Ashford United Methodist Church in Houston.
Today Macharia, a member of The Church at Bethel’s Family, continues to fulfill her promise to God as her non-profits’ efforts have expanded to provide for the needs of 24 povertystricken children and 12 widows.
“The BIM children range in age from 3 to 18, and, most have lost their parents to AIDS or AIDS related illness. The children come from Western and Nyanza provinces in Kenya, and most show with up with nothing, sometimes not even a history,” says Macharia.
Moved to tears by the letters received from some of the children the organization serves, Macharia and her board of directors are driven to do more for the many remaining children and widows in the region challenged by hunger and severe lack.
One child writes:
‘Thank you for what you have done to my family.
You have shown your mercy. In the past, we would struggle to get daily food, we got money by selling firewood and sometimes we could go a day without selling meaning no food that day. Since I am a student, I do not know what to give to you, but pray for you and ask for many blessings from Almighty God.’
‘You are the reason I can smile today. My mother died leaving me and other two children with my grandparent, days became weeks and weeks months, without food. I remember you countless times in my prayers.’
The non-profit founder invites others to join Bethel International Ministries in its efforts to make a life-changing impact on the lives of children and families in need.
“The next step in Bethel’s outreach is construction of a Food Bank in Nakuru to increase the stockpile of food and reach more children in need,” says Macharia.
According to the Kenyan native, the Food Bank will serve as a channel for local food and cash donations, as well as partnerships with local farmers and hunger relief organizations that distribute and donate food items.
Bethel International Ministries Board of Directors has established a budget of $30,000 for the purchase of a one-acre plot of land and construction and internal build-out of the facility.
In preparation for fulfilling this vision, the nonprofit also is in need of a van to assist in transporting food items for the food bank.
Officials with the nonprofit also are working to expand services to provide medication, counseling and job opportunities, as well as a program that will allow donors to sponsor individual children.
In the long term Macharia also has plans to build a health clinic, schools, small business enterprises and technical skills training programs to advance the welfare of those in need in Nakura, Kenya.
What began as one womans calling and desire to help others in
response to a promise she made to God, has become a mission of hope, faith and unselfish love in action.
To join her or to find out more information, visit http://www.bimkena.org.