November 12, 2008, —
Meet Erick Omondi Okoth from Kenya. Erick was orphaned as a teenager and left to care for seven siblings as well as eight cousins. This is excerpted from an interview he did while visiting Catholic Relief Services' world headquarters in Baltimore.
My life, when my parents died, was very miserable. It was very painful. I almost collapsed, but something came into my mind. I'm the eldest—if I collapse, how will the young boys be? How will the young children see it? I grabbed some faith. It has befallen us. I said, "Let me face it as a young man." I had the responsibility of being a father, being a mother, being a big brother to my 15 siblings [and cousins]. Life was not easy because I was unemployed, I had no education.
Then, in 2003, I heard of Lake Region Community Development program. This program is one of the local implementing partners of CRS [in Kenya]. When I went to the office, I told them my story. Then, they enrolled my family in The Children Behind program. And I want to say that from that time, life started taking another direction: the positive direction.
I'm a small-scale farmer. CRS has a program of seeds in our area. They provide seeds, certified seeds, to local, overseas and vulnerable groups, as a means of food sustainability.
I want to say it has worked. For two years now, with my big family, we don't rely on relief food. Our produce from the farm has been enough to sustain us. And I want to say, last year, I took one and a half sacks of corn to church to give glory to God. So it is good when we are blessed, we say, "Thank you," to Him.
Another thing is that I want to help people. I will say thank you, people of American states for being so kind. Thank you, CRS for also sacrificing some of your things to be concerned with vulnerable people like me.
Erick Omondi Okoth is a beneficiary of a CRS program that helps orphans and other vulnerable children in Kenya.