In the 1990’s. the HIV/AIDS virus raged through several African nations, and Kenya was hit very hard.  While millions of victims lost their lives to this disease, they left behind children with virtually no resources.

In 2000,  COCI Board Member Judith Ernst went to Africa and discovered an incredible woman who stepped into her community as a leader.  She opened her modest home to many of these orphans, and provided schooling and other services for them.  COCI partnered with Joyce Odongo and brought the Casa Speranta “family style group home” model of care to the Nyalunda Slums in Kisumu, Kenya.  It was named “Children First”.

An Arts and Agriculture Collaborative through the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Grant and together with resources in the US and Kenya developed the Nelson Mandela Freedom Garden Project which helped Children’s First take broad steps towards becoming a self sustaining model.  By growing their own food, selling eggs from their chickens and opening their  home and school to the community, Children’s First led their community in taking care of their own, in a time when disease was debilitating their resources

From 2006-2012

  • Established Children First Organization (CFO)—NGO to support 16 orphans left parentless by the HIV plague
  • Built a Pre-School  providing Education, Nutrition and Medical care to 100 children in the Nylanda slums in partnership with The Bridgeway Foundation
  • Established  an Outreach program in the Bondo Region for 25 homesteads, providing  nutrition, education and medical support for 51 vulnerable children

2013  In partnership with SOS Children’s Villages we adopted an Orphan House  with capacity of 10 orphans to be cared for till age of full maturity/independence—around 23 years.