Maxwell Street provides financial and prayer support to ZOE, an Empowerment Group in Kenya, that works with children orphaned by AIDS/HIV, training them how to support themselves and become self sufficient. Maxwell Street has supported two Empowerment Groups, Star Shine Kaelo (July 2016 – June, 2019) and Favor Luuma (July 2018 – June, 2021) by partnering with other Presbyterian churches, including Pisgah, Danville, Troy and Versailles. The ages of the orphans and vulnerable children in the ZOE program range from between infant and college age; however, the youth who is head of household must be old enough to manage a small business and so is usually 14 – 20 years old.
The Favor Luuma Kenya group consists of 31 households, with a total of 101 children! ZOE staff first engage local leaders in a village to explain how ZOE empowerment works to enable children to move from crippling poverty and dependency to economic and social self-sufficiency. They make home visits to identify eligible children and work with the group very closely in their first year, noting if any emergency interventions are required to alleviate health issues, abusive conditions or inadequate shelter. The youth complete intensive training on topics of food security, health and disease prevention, business management, and child rights within the first six months. If they have access to land, they receive seeds to start gardens and plant crops. If siblings are not attending school, ZOE provides uniforms and other resources to get them back into classes. Children who have skills are provided grants so that they can start small businesses, others begin vocation training. During their second and third years, ZOE provides less formal training, while members of the group take a more active role in advising each other. The ZOE program facilitators and group mentors provide assistance as required or requested. ZOE stays in contact with many graduated members, and has observed that the graduates continue to protect each other form mistreatment and provide a safety net in times of hardship; reach out to others, teaching what they have learned and helping empower the poor and vulnerable; grow businesses and employ others, with an emphasis on hiring orphans and widows; and adopt other children into their families.
Our partnership with ZOE has been a manifestation of God’s love for the children. Children begin to experience God’s love, and they realize that though many are orphans, they have a Father in heaven who loves them.