About Friends of the Old

Friends of the Old (FOTO) is a community-based organization working in eleven locations of Lower Nyakach, with special focus on helping economically disempowered senior citizens who look after their grandchildren orphaned by HIV/ AIDs. The emphasis is on providing for the needs of the most deserving cases, those without any means of support.  The selection criteria is on the extent of need. Thus, preference is given to the neediest of the needy. In assessing the extent of need, community members work together with FOTO and the local administration. With the support of International Water and Health Alliance, FOTO promotes health in the community by distributing safe water packages, training on water testing and solar water pasteurization, training on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) within the community and  recommending water treatment methods, promoting reduced smoke and smoke-free cooking environments

Lower Nyakach is wracked by crop failures and food insecurity due to lack of rainfall and inadequate water supplies. The main sources of water are highly contaminated hence there have been high incidences of water borne diseases. These are the difficult economic, hygienic and nutritional circumstances that FOTO addresses in its programs.


FOTO works in Lower Nyakach Division of Nyakach District, Kisumu County, Kenya. The FOTO office is located in Katito Trading Centre.


FOTO was registered with the Ministry of Gender and Social Services in 2005 as a self help group and has grown steadily in activities and networks. It has a membership of 13 people and currently has a team of 28 staff actively working to serve the community.
It has a bank account with Equity Bank, Kisumu Branch which is operational

GOAL:  To have a community in which senior citizens, women and vulnerable children have secure lives through educational and economic empowerment that breaks the pattern of dependency.

MISSION: Friends of the Old will work towards the improvement of the welfare of the aged and orphans and vulnerable children within the community and support their contributions to development.  

VISION: The people we serve be healthy, benefit from the natural goods of the earth and live  fulfilling lives.


Lower Nyakach is a Division in Nyakach District, Nyakach Constituency in Kisumu County, near Lake Victoria in western Kenya. It has a population of ~69,000, with ~60% of the population in absolute poverty. The main sources of water are highly contaminated and consequently there has been a high incidence of water-borne disease in Lower Nyakach.

The average family size in Nyakach is 8 members and many families have single bread winners, many surviving on odd jobs and petty trade.
Most of the children live under difficult circumstances. This is mainly due to HIV/AIDS scourge which has resulted in children living with old vulnerable grand parents, child headed families and children dropping out of school to fend for their siblings and parents
Many people live under extreme poverty. Most homes have grass thatched houses, some of which have leaking roofs, without toilets and the families can barely afford 3 meals a day. The main sources of water  for all purposes are ponds, shallow wells and seasonal rivers, all of which are highly contaminated. The level of access of drinking water is of great concern because of the extent of its scarcity. The floods during the rainy season result in contamination of water sources which results in an upsurge of water borne diseases and due to low income, most people cannot afford the cost of treatment. The other extreme is drought when people have to walk long distances in search of water or rely on unsuitable water from ponds that are shared with livestock.
Firewood is another major problem in the community. Most households depend on firewood for cooking fuel. This has created deforestation resulting in firewood scarcity. People have cut down trees to burn as charcoal further worsening the problem.


1. Awareness creation on Safe Drinking Water
·         Training on simple water testing technology and helping people know the status of their drinking water through testing with simple Portable Microbiology Laboratory and advising on the right precautions towards avoiding water borne diseases. FOTO staff teach Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to community members.
·         The VAFs distribute safe water packages which enable the people to pasteurize their drinking water through solar cooker and to keep it safe from contamination.
·         FOTO installs leaky tins in homesteads to enhance hand washing,
·         Distributing Waterguard for  water treatment.

2. Livelihood improvement
  • Support of vulnerable families by giving certified maize and millet seeds for planting
  • Support of income generating activities for sustainability by initiating and encouraging kitchen gardens and use of solar and energy saving stoves for cooking

3.  Promotion of clean and disease free environment
  • Provision of safe water packages (solar cookit, safe water storage pot, fuel-efficient stove and a hay basket) to needy families.
  • Encouraging the use of clean water, especially for drinking and household use by encouraging pasteurization (by use of solar cookit) of drinking water and the use of water purifying agents
  • Encouraging keeping compounds clean and construction and use of toilets
  • Encouraging the use of smoke free cooking environment by promoting and distributing fuel-efficient stoves and solar cookers. The group makes solar cookers and hay baskets which they promote to improve the cooking environments in the home
  • Using waste plastic papers to make baskets, thus recycling waste to create better environments and also earn an income from the waste

4.  Food Security
  • Distribution of certified seeds to the senior citizen families and encouraging them to use modern farming methods.
  • Distributing vegetable seeds to senior citizen families and teaching them how to keep kitchen gardens by using multistorey gardens.

5. Promotion of a reading culture
  • Support  Early Childhood Development (ECD) with reading and writing materials
  • Provision of story books to improve the reading skills of the children. Currently a mobile library is operational
  • Distribution of reading glasses to senior citizens to enhance their reading capacities
  • Distribution of old newspapers (reading materials) to senior citizens to improve their readership and keep them informed

  • The school children are happy with the reading materials provided by FOTO. This is slowly  improving literacy levels thus a more empowered community
  • There is need for more reading materials to cater for the large number of schoolchildren
  • There are healthier and happier families as a result of healthy living, safe drinking water, healthier cooking environments  and improved nutrition
  • Most community members will not drink any water unless they are sure that it has been pasteurized or treated, therefore, less incidences of water borne diseases. he use of Water Guard has significantly cut down on the incidences of waterborne diseases in households where it is used. Distribution of water guard in schools has also reduced significantly the stomach related illnesses which were very common as a result of children drinking water from rivers.
  • The elderly citizens and vulnerable children have improved food in their households as a result of having been given certified seeds to plant and having been given sukuma wiki seeds planted for them in multi storey gardens. They have also been taught to plant the gardens on their own and many are doing this with a lot of success.
  • Many senior citizens can now read, sew, weave baskets, count their money, read messages in their cell phones and see whatever they want to see and they are happy about this. 
  • More safe water packages to the senior citizens: there are over four thousand senior citizens in Nyakach and so far, we have been able to reach just about 150. Therefore there is still great need.
  • More certified seeds to improve food security, especially to the senior citizens and green houses in every location to help train the community on benefits of farming for sustainability
  • Capacity-building on WASH programs and business management.
  • Library books to schools.
  • Community resource center
  • Market for finished products

Many girls are not able to go to school because their grandparents cannot pay their fees at secondary school. Therefore many girls drop out of school and are married because of the poverty levels of their grandparents who are their guardians. FOTO aims at solving this problem so that the girls can live full happy lives and reach their full potentials in life.
The Organization plans on starting an education center within the community where the children from poor homes and those under grandparents care can go to school from pre-unit to primary  school. Those who have dropped out of school can be trained on courses like dress making, carpentry, mechanics, art, farming, etc. FOTO hopes to set up a girls high school especially for bright needy girls within the community.