Clemson University Feature Stories

While attending Clemson full time, Edward Phillips has been working 20 to 30 hours a week to start an orphanage in Kenya, Africa. | Photo used with permission

A heart for orphans

By Crystal Boyles | Creative Services

147 million orphans worldwide.

2.6 million orphans in Kenya.

1 Clemson student with a heart to help.

When Edward Phillips walked into a cramped, dirty Kenyan orphanage two years ago, he felt a call to help. Didn’t matter that he was just 19 years old. Didn’t matter that he was a rising junior at Clemson. Didn’t matter that he lived almost 8,000 miles away.

He had to help. Now.

“I knew I could do something now; you don’t have to wait to make a difference,” Phillips said.

Edward was in Kenya on a mission trip in 2010 with a discipleship group called Choose to Invest. As they approached the older, concrete orphanage, he was overwhelmed with a desire to start an orphanage in this country, for these children.

Everything has since come together so beautifully for this ambitious, kind-hearted young man who graduates from Clemson in May.

When he shared his vision with the Choose to Invest leaders he was traveling with — founders Kristin and Nathanael Avery — he learned that they, too, felt a call to start an orphanage in Kenya. When he mentioned it to fellow Clemson student Chase Robinson, he, too, had a desire to help. But in Chase’s case it was to design a building — just like the one Edward envisioned.

In addition to being a full-time student, Edward has worked 20 to 30 hours a week the past year to get the orphanage — called Kimbilio — started. He’s been making plans, fundraising and organizing events. All without being paid a dime.

“It’s been difficult. Most of my friends are hanging out, and I am at home reading Kenyan government documents and developing fundraising materials,” Edward said.

But the work is paying off. Fundraising is picking up, the events he’s organized have been successful, and the Averys are hoping they can buy the land this fall, a long and arduous process in Kenya.

“We’re pushing through and really having faith — we’re 22, we’re not professionals, but we can do this,” said Chase, a junior architecture student.

He has drawn some initial plans for the orphanage, and will work on more specifics once the site is chosen and bought. A licensed American architect will finalize the plans, then a licensed Kenyan architect will make sure all is in order.

When finished, the complex will be at least three buildings — the orphanage, a guest house and a family home — and will house about 75 children, with an emphasis on children with special needs.

“These children are the least cared for — they’re abused or chained up, and it’s not necessarily out of a desire to hurt, but simply because people don’t know how to care for them,” Kristin said.

Based on the child development model Choose to Invest has created, they will care for the children holistically — spiritually, physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially — in an effort meant to educate a culture and break the cycle. In addition, they plan to partner with other Kenyan orphanages to help them care for their children the same way.

“These orphans will eventually have kids, and we want them to make wise decisions when that happens,” Edward said.

This young man’s attitude and passion are exactly why Kristin and Nathanael began Choose to Invest and why they spend their days pouring their knowledge and support into the upcoming generation.

“We were very blessed to have people in our lives who realized we have vision and passion and who helped us develop,” Kristin said. “We want to give these students the skills and passion at a young age.”

Choose to Invest also uses the same approach in their other work in Africa, training leaders in each village who will make a difference.

When Edward graduates in May with his communication studies degree, he’ll join the Choose to Invest staff in Atlanta full time. He’s already begun fundraising for his salary. Ultimately, his goal is to have the orphanage up and running in three years.

One by one, those numbers — 2.6 million orphans — will become real. He’ll learn their names, faces, stories, smiles, laughs, hurts and pain. For him, that number isn’t truly a number. It’s a child who needs him; and he’s coming to help.

If you’d like to be a part of the Kimbilio project or would like to know more, please email Edward Phillips at

Tags: , ,


Related Links