Father Francis Limo Riwa, 62, had no idea a children’s rescue centre could become a great institution and home to hundreds.
Started in 1998, it became a refuge of hope for children who were rejected and abandoned by relatives and the community after they lost their parents to HIV-Aids and other illnesses.
The children by then were severely stigmatised and their physical health wasted away so badly due to severe malnourishment that it promoted more opportunistic infection. Some developed chronic tuberculosis. Others had heavy jiggers infestation that developed gangrene.
Despite taking refuge in the streets, some were sexually molested. Some inherited HIV from their succumbed parents. Some escaped torture by their guardians. Indeed, all were affected and reeling from pains and in dire need of help.
They never have had self-sustainability as they depended on donated foodstuffs. No beddings or shoes and tattered clothes plagued their existence.
“I started this project on August 18, 1997. I was working for the diocese of Meru as a coordinator for medical services then. It is when I saw so many boys in the streets of Meru town. They were asking for a loaf of bread from passers-by,” Father Limo said.
I was shocked. I wondered how could bread be their solution? I decided I wouldn’t bother providing them with it. Instead I looked for a place where they could call home, where I could offer them a platform for their education for self-reliance.
The Chinese proverb that states, “If you give me fish, you have given me food for a day, but if you give me a hook, you have given me food for life, came to my mind.”
He said he started St Francis Children’s Village with only seven boys.
“Today, it is a home and school with over 400. The children we have received here are from all over the country. Some are from Nairobi, Thika, Samburu, Isiolo, Tharaka Nithi and Meru,” Limo said.
“When we started almost everybody said you can’t offer housing to street children. Many said it cannot work. It is impossible to put a street boy into rehabilitation and they obey you.
“But I decided to embark on a unique programme of equipping them with a new mentality. I told them to be simple but think high. So that is our motto. I told the boys to live by four pillars: prayer, study hard, sporting and work for progress.
“I started by teaching them what they know first and proceeded to what they did not know. This way, I put them in an accelerated learning. The institution has children learning from nursery school to form four.
The project is now a success story because I am happy to see my boys studying in different colleges and universities in Kenya,” Limo said.
While running the project, he noticed there were so many girls mistreated and suffering because they were orphans.
Some were lured into working as house helps and after they grew into womanhood, they were disowned, thus getting back into streets again, worsening their lives.
“I realised that after being used as maids, they grew big and were not marketable, and so ended up in the streets,” Limo said.
Limo is the patron of 380 girls at St Clare Children’s Home.
Some are in primary school and others in secondary school.
About 100 of the children are HIV-positive. All of them are in different places.
Limo said he is never stressed in providing the needs of the boys and girls. He has asked the community to accept those living with HIV-Aids rather than stigmatise them.
He called upon people with HIV-infected children to take them to the facility instead of hiding them.
The children are housed in the two-storey building of St Philomena Homes of Hope, which stands on a quarter-acre plot.
Limo said all the HIV-positive children he offers homes to are registered with the government.
He gives medication to the children, including blackseed oil, which he says is a cure of all kinds of diseases. He also gives them olive oil, fish oil, shark liver oil and cold liver oil.
“I don’t cook githeri for the children. I use whole wheat instead and I also give them pro biotics. With enough healthy food, I conclude, they are free from diseases. They remain happy. I struggle to support 50 of my boys in college and universities. I rely on rare external donors and I believe Kenyans are capable of taking care of these children. They didn’t commit any sin to suffer,” he says.
As we spoke, a 26-year-old woman (whom Liwa said was HIV-positive) arrived in his office with a huge cockerel as a reward to the father after he took her to a hospital for treatment and surgery.
He said her late husband had three wives. Limo said he owes a hospital Sh180,000 after the successful treatment.
He said the woman’s daughter is at the Philomena Homes of Hope Care Centre.
The father said in March next year, he will bring to light a girl fully cured from HIV at the institution, if all goes well.
He said the girl’s health had completely changed. Her viral load had lowered from around 3,000 to 500.
Her encounter with father Limo has become her testimony in church.
Limo said the community surrounding the institution is keen on their health after his frequent teachings.
“I had so many challenges. We had dirty water. We had very many diseases like diarrhoea, typhoid, skin disease and others. But my borehole has solved the health problems. Before it, I used to incur accumulated hospital and medical bills. Only two people appear in the community health facility I started here. This means people nowadays take care of their health,” he said.
He urged people to exercise daily for a healthy life.
“I run five kilometres every morning for a healthy life,” he said as he jumped up and down and jogged inside his office, which also acts a library.
“I have never visited the hospital or bought over-the-counter medicine on prescription. I am free from any illness for the last eight years.
“As a Parish priest, after mass, I teach locals about health and self-development. Every Sunday, I emphasise on wheat grass farming. My talks are aimed at reducing the level of illiteracy in the community.”
More than four patients trooped into the compound either to take medicine or thank the Father.
Some also came to look for admission of their children into the facility.
Limo said he uses his natural cures to rehabilitate addicts.
He led the way to the dining hall, where he showcased a 60/40 per cent mixer of black seed oil and pure honey. He also displayed 20 black seed herbal tea packets.
“I have very bright university students addicted to drugs. I put them under six months’ probation. Some come when they could not talk or had lost memory, and they regain it,” he said.
BACKGROUND AND FUTURE PLANS
Father Francis Limo, born in Tanzania, came to Kenya at the age of 16 years. He taught at Nkubu Seminary since 1982-1987 where he was a vice rector.
Limo was ordained on October 1, 1983. He was in charge of Oldo Nyiro parish for 12 years.
The father has great plans for his children. He wants them to make a difference in society.
He plans to build them a state-of-the-art home in Tanzania, where they could go for their holidays.
“My future plan is to see them go for a holiday in a lovely place. I have already bought seven acres in Tanzania in a village near Indian Ocean, at Pangani, Tanga region, which is safe for them to go and stay,” Limo said.
“This is the work of God, and I believe somebody somewhere will be touched by this noble project and contribute. I am never worried about what we shall eat, drink, dress or how learning will proceed because I trust in God’s providence.”
He said after the constraints of getting funds to run the project, he established income-generating enterprises, mostly in farming.
“We believe in income generating and this is why we produce our own fruits. We have a farm in Kathwene in North Imenti, where we produce mangoes and oranges. I have another farm at Murerwa near the Meru National Park, where I produce tomatoes and onions. We also have a vegetable farm at Nchiru,” Limo said.
“I also rear pigs for pork and have numerous fish ponds for fish farming. In these farms, we don’t use chemicals because we practise organic farming.
“I don’t use agro vets or medicines, either, and instead I use hydrogen peroxide to treat water. When you mix 1.2 millilitre of hydrogen peroxide in 20 litres of water, the water is completely free from any contamination or pesticides. And when the animal drinks it, it clears all parasites, making the animal free from illness and very healthy. I rear catfish.”
He said some health problems are brought about by people themselves, depending on what they feed on and the time they also feed.
“Many people complain of health complications, heart burn, constipation and acidity. This is likely because they ate at the wrong time or they never chewed their food properly. My boys eat at exactly 5pm and no one ever complains of heart burn, constipation or acids,” Limo said.
“Their diet is well balanced, too. They take breakfast at 7am. There are some whom I have put under wheat grass juice, which is similar to human blood, it has chlorophyll. People can easily heal themselves naturally and I practise this in a bid way,” Riwa said.
He said none of his teachers are government-sponsored.
“I have my small cubical room in their dormitory. I eat with them, pray with them, I am always there present with them, and the main secret to the success of this project is that I teach them to do what I do and not what I say. They follow my example,” he said.