Acacia in Africa-01-01-01-01

Our History

Our way of giving and life

BACKGROUND

Acacia in Kenya was founded in 2005 by Joyce Mohr and Sammy Lutomia. Joyce had already become interested in traveling to East Africa through her work as a tax accountant with international clients when she met Sammy, who was returning to Kenya after 18 months working in the U.S. His family had hosted Americans on occasion since the 1970s, and Sammy, on behalf of his family, extended a generous invitation for Joyce to visit Kenya and learn more about East Africa.

During the planning for and experience of their 30-day trip in 2005, Joyce and Sammy saw a tremendous outpouring of support, interest, and well-wishes from a range of people who knew of the impending trip. Friends, churchgoers, colleagues, family, as well as those from each of their respective communities (both in the U.S. and Kenya) expressed a heartfelt desire to do something that would have a real, sustainable impact on, and better the lives of, at-risk teens. “People began to ask what they could give to [the Kenyan youth Sammy and Joyce would encounter],” Joyce recalls.

“Initially I was collecting money, clothes, and school supplies such as pens, pencils, etc., but then, because there was so much interest, I asked Sammy and Francis what items would be most helpful. We created a poster board that listed how many beds, blankets, bags of food, and other items were needed. At that point we were collecting items for the orphanage I visited as well as the high school.” These donors bought blankets, food, school uniforms and English text books to be purchased while in Kenya.

It was during the trip preparation and gathering of some of the supplies, and then again during the actual month-long stay in Kenya, that Sammy, Francis Lutomia (a retired school principal), and Joyce, along with other community leaders, realized that their efforts were not only effective, but that they, as a team, enjoyed working together. What’s more, this group began to see great potential to do more for these at-risk Kenyan students on a regular, consistent basis, and the vision for Acacia in Kenya as a long-term, growing, multi-pronged education and sustainable development mission took shape.

In short, there was a precious opportunity here, as Joyce noted: “…the opportunity through our shared values and that of our extended communities to make a difference in the lives of young people in Western Kenya through caring for and supporting the education of vulnerable young people. To feel a greater connection and to expand these, with our African friends. To make the world smaller. To feel that we might in some small way be contributing to world peace by extending friendship and understanding across continents.”

Why? Simply because “Poverty and injustice are hard to face, or live with, and remain just a bystander. By working together we were making tangible and significant differences in the lives of individual young people and by extension, their communities; we hoped to create greater opportunities for these individuals, who in turn would be able to contribute more and give back to their own communities, thus empowering as many people as we can for the greatest possible impact for individuals, families, communities, and even whole villages.”

Although unsure about the next steps for developing their Kenya-U.S. partnership mission, this team resolved to continue their work together. After returning to the U.S., the Acacia In Kenya Project was born, and Joyce asked the Board of Managers at First Parish Church in Waltham to make the Initiative an official outreach project of the church, a motion unanimously and gratefully approved.