Michael grew up nearby, in the village of Kager, in a poor family in this isolated rural area of southwest Kenya where most barely subsist on their maize and bean gardens. His heart for the plight of orphans stems from the loss of his own father while he was quite young.
A bright boy, Michael placed well in his class at the end of primary (8th grade) so that he was eligible for government subsidies for his secondary schooling. When he graduated from secondary (the equivalent of high school), Michael started working in construction. When the company owner recognized Michael's potential, he helped him with college costs as did other good samaritans. After completing his degree in accounting and CPA certification, Michael began his career in Nairobi but within a few years decided that what he really wanted to do was to make a life for the orphans like those he remembered in his village. He moved back to Kager (a 7-hour drive from Nairobi) and began taking orphans into his home and recruiting other volunteers to do the same. In 2003 he registered as a Community Based Organization with the Kenya Department of Social Services (this is similar to recognition as a non-profit).
He continued to support himself with part-time teaching in Nairobi and at the same time began to make a name for himself in Kibera, the vast slum of Nairobi. He set up a microlender called Lomoro as a way to combat the poverty of Kibera through the development of microenterprises. He eventually partnered with an anti-poverty NGO (http://www.the1010project.org/microfinance/lomoro/#comments), was invited in 2008 to speak at a U.N. conference on poverty eradication (described on the Amnesty International site: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=17905). In this video, Michael describes Kibera and the impetus for his work there: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/video-and-audio/video-working-against-poverty-kenya-20081017
Michael is a role model for the children of Achungo and for all of us who work with him.
At first Michael had no financial support for Achungo apart from very modest help from others in his village area, but that was about to change dramatically with a single email. After a year or two, Michael was given the email of some tourists who had visited a friend of his. Michael emailed his story, and the man receiving it was moved by it and connected Michael with his brother-in-law, Armin Opitz, a schoolteacher from Germany. Armin was impressed with his story and began fundraising through his choir students. Armin has raised over 5,000 Euros each year since 2006 but quickly felt Michael needed more support than he could provide alone. So he got his sister, Barbara involved.
Armin knew Barbara had volunteered for some 12 years with Mother Teresa's Sisters of Mercy in San Francisco and would be sympathetic to this wonderful cause in Kenya...besides she lived in the U.S. and could surely find generous donors there!
On a family visit, Barbara heard from Armin all about Michael and Achungo and his hopes for what she could do to help. She returned home to Santa Cruz, California and to her church, Saratoga Federated Church (SFC), to build some support. Barbara marshaled resources from SFC for a number of major gifts (a fresh-water well, tank and pumphouse, a parcel of land, uniforms for all the children, and many other needs). She applied for and received major grants (over $50,000 to-date) from Samaritan’s Purse to support the food program for years and in 2009 obtained 501c3 status, creating a board, bylaws and all that was necessary to form a tax-exempt non-profit. She also organized an 8-person trip from SFC in 2008 that provided a medical clinic and children’s program and subsequently was instrumental in the creation of promotional videos and a website. She connected farming experts with Michael and provided significant personal financial support. And she continues to engage prayer teams on both coasts of the U.S. on behalf of Achungo and Michael – and these are prayer teams from Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Mercy! These are huge accomplishments, especially for a woman of seriously failing health. It was her increasingly debilitating health problems that eventually led her to search for a successor as Execute Director for Achungo Community Center, the US 501c3.