Upendo Kids International started around 2007 by Eunice and Robert Menja. Robert Menja Karaya and Eunice Menja moved from Kenya in 2004 to Oklahoma where they attended Oklahoma State University. Robert and Eunice met in a Kenyan college, Jomo Kenyatta University located in Juja. Eunice taught Sunday School children at their home church, Presbyterian Church of Juja before moving to the United States. When Eunice told the Sunday School kids that she was coming to the US, the children and teachers were sad. They met on a Sunday Afternoon for a farewell party. There were a lot of tears, but there are some words that Eunice kept in her heart; “teacher Eunice never forget us” is what the kids said over and over as they hugged each other good-byes.
After arriving in the US, Eunice’s family decided to help her honor the promise of “remembering” the kids in Kenya. The family raised the first two hundred dollars that was saved in a piggy bank. The money was sent to Kenya to another Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Mahui to provide a Christmas party for the kids. It is after that party that Eunice started receiving requests from several children and parents asking for education sponsorship. One letter that struck Eunice came from a boy named Kelvin. Kelvin was one of Eunice’s students at church who had graduated eighth grade and needed financial support to attend high school. It is this need that awakened Eunice and demanded more from her side. She then started to make necklaces and bracelets (with beads from Kenya). After selling them, she raised enough money to send Kelvin to school.
Over the years, the scholarship demand increased. That is when Eunice decided to look for other sponsors to support more children to attend school for free.
In Stillwater, Eunice became a teacher at Early Head Start where she discovered the need to give poor children in Kenya early childhood education. The reality hit her after the vigorous trainings that led her to understand children’s brain require stimulation right at birth.
Eunice remembered the children in the streets and those from poor families where early childhood education is not free. Her focus then became providing scholarship to children in the age of 3 to 5 years. The number of children receiving sponsorship through Upendo is about 80. Some of the children are attending High school and others have moved on to colleges.
Helping children in Kenya with school fees also led to mission trips. The mission teams took supplies to the children who were receiving sponsorship and others who were attending the public schools around Juja.
Eunice Menja is the Director and Co-Founder of Upendo Kids International
Eunice attained both her Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Human Development and Family Sciences from Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater. She also has an Associate Degree in Civil Engineering Jomo Kenyatta University. Currently, Eunice serves as an Adjunct Professor for St. Gregory’s University and Mid America Christian University.
Eunice had previously worked for the State of Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) and Stillwater Head Start. While in graduate school, she acted as a Teaching and Graduate Assistant at OSU.
Eunice uses her education and experience to organize and design programs for the children and families that benefit from the organization.
In 2004, when her family moved to Oklahoma, Eunice vowed never to forget the kids she had left in Kenya. She remembered the kids she had taught in Sunday School at their home church, Presbyterian Church of Juja. It is these words from the kids at her farewell party that stayed Eunice’s heart that forced her to help the poor: “Teacher Eunice, please never forget us when you go to America”.
Eunice’s family agreed to help her honor the promise of not forgetting the kids in Kenya. It started small, with only $200 saved in a piggy bank. Her family sent the money back to her church to fund a Christmas party for the Sunday School kids. Soon after the party, Eunice started receiving endless requests from poor children and parents asking her to sponsorship their education. Other requests were for food and medical assistance. One letter that struck Eunice’s attention came from a 14-year-old boy, Kevin. Kelvin was one of Eunice’s Sunday School students who had graduated eight grade and needed financial support to attend high school. It is this need and several others that awakened Eunice’s calling and demanded more from her side. After making and selling necklaces, the first education scholarship was realized and Kelvin’s school fees paid. Ten years later, hundreds of kids have received scholarships.
In 2013, the needs and suffering of many orphans and street kids led Eunice’s vision to establish Upendo Children’s Home. Through the leadership of Eunice, many lives in Kenya have been transformed by Upendo Kids International. Children have found a home and are also receiving their education.
Robert Menja is Co-Founder of Upendo Kids International
Robert is a co-founder of Upendo Kids and is primarily involved in strategic planning, vision casting, and implementing the very diverse mission of the organization. He also has lead three mission trips to Kenya where several projects were implemented including; water pump installation and personal water filter distribution, solar panel installation in a church and school to provide energy for about two thousand members and students, and school supply distribution.
After successful fundraising efforts in 2012 by Upendo Kids in Edmond and the larger Oklahoma City, Robert helped negotiate and acquire the current land and property at Upendo Children’s Home in Juja, Kenya.
On the professional side, Robert currently works for a top tier financial firm in Oklahoma City as a financial advisor and has done so for over seven years. He has been able to help many businesses, families and friends secure their financial future through various financial strategies and plans.
Robert holds a Bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Technology from Jomo Kenyatta University in Juja Kenya as well as a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Robert enjoys the company of family and friends and he can be found over the weekend on bike trails, racquetball courts, or the gym working out.