As a young child, Fred Outa had no hope, no future. An orphan in the village of Kapiyo, Kenya, he was one of many kids who shared a similar fate: Taken in by extended family or other village members, he was given nothing but a place to live, and instead of going to school had to tend to chores.

“Orphans don’t get food in those (strangers’) homes, what they get is a roof to live there — but no love, not much,” Outa told a small gathering of people in October at the Lakebay Community Church. “It was tough, even for me, to bear that… It’s so painful, because you (the orphan) are a black sheep in that community.”

Fred Outa, center, at a community presentation on the Key Pen in October. Photo by Rodika Tollefson

A couple of decades later, Outa is helping turn around the lives of other orphans in his native village. He founded a nonprofit called the Valley African Center, where a pre-school was built for orphan children with the help of American volunteers, and other projects are in the works.

“I have built a network with a number of individuals who are involved with what I do in Kenya,” Outa said in an interview.

Father and son Mark and Shane Plummer, both Key Pen residents, are among supporters who are helping Outa’s vision come to life. The pair recently returned from Kapiyo, where they worked on a sanitation project with a U.S. team (see the September issue of the KP News). Mark Plummer hosted Outa at his home in October. The trip was Outa’s first to Washington state, but he tries to visit the United States every year to stay connected with his network of supporters and keep the momentum going. With an American college education, thanks to an American missionary family, he has been bringing sustainable farming projects to his village. One of those projects brings profit to the community by growing rice, an industry that has been mismanaged by a corrupt government.

“Fred in Kenya is seen as a threat by the politicians,” Plummer said. “He’s been threatened by his life.”

The trips by the mission groups have made a huge impact on his people, Outa said. In Kenya, there is no sanitation or  healthy drinking water; people usually drink rainwater or water from muddy lakes. “Before the community didn’t have clean water; now they have it,” he said. “This will reduce illnesses and the amount of money used fighting them.”

Mark and Shane Plummer said they hope to return to Kapiyo in February to finish the septic system project and do other work. Mark’s friend, Port Orchard resident Don Burlingame, who first got the Plummers involved and was part of this year’s group, also went on a trip once, and since then decided to become involved long-term.

“It’s addictive,” Outa said. “Once you taste it (the need and helping out), you’ll want to come every year. The motivation is helping the people of Africa, who are so poor.”

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