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92 Orphans on the „Much Work Farm“

The second career of the former runner Kip Keino, who was honoured on January 9, 2003 with the Fair Play Award in Paris for his social activism.

2003-01-10

For decades, Kipchoge Keino (KEN) pretty much went unnoticed. But when the omnipotent Kenyan super sport functionary Charles Mukura accepted a bribe of $ 50,000 from the Olympic organisers and the whole affair came to light, he suddenly became the man of the hour. At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and in Munich in 1972, he won two gold and silver medals each for the 1500 m and 3000 m hurdles. Until recently, he had lived the life of a farmer, and in his role as vice president of the National Olympic Committee he only held a distant memory of the heyday of his career. He was known as one of the most diligent “beggars” in the east African country, making it possible for the national teams to be able to fly to the large events. Following the ethical disaster of Sydney, his big moment came and his big heartedness was made known to the sporting world, as well. He was unanimously elected as the new president of the National Olympic Committee.

On January 9, 2003, Kipchoge Keino, who according to his passport was born almost 63 years ago “at the five and dime store”, but has said that he is actually four years older, received the Willi Daume Medal from the International Committee for Fair Play in Paris for his social activism. “That is my greatest honour so far,” he said on his farm in the mountains. “Kofi Annan is supposed to be there” (the General Secretary of the United Nations). Everyone is now talking about Keino. It was just in November that the International Athletics Association IAAF bestowed him with the newly created Primo Nebiolo Award, for his quality as a “legend”. Now that his hair is grey, one of Kenya’s most beloved citizens has a late second career. He really was re-discovered by the current Vice President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, during a visit a few years ago. The two of them had served together for a long time on the IOC Athletes Commission. But, “Kip never told me what he had built up there.”

It is an impressive life work. At the moment, he and his wife Phyllis are raising 92 orphans. All are adopted. “We are the largest family in Kenya,” he likes to say. The activism of the family (they have seven children of their own) began in the mid 1970s, and already seven of the children they have raised have graduated from college. Bach’s visit finally brought a certain security to the planning of the social enterprise. The IOC Solidarity Funds, Daimler-Benz, and the German Bank Association (der Deutsche Giro- und Sparkassenverband) have supported them with 5 and 6-digit dollar donations.

Although the Keinos own three farms around the country town Eldoret in the northeast of Kenya, they had always lived hand to mouth, and still do. Alone the cost of schooling gobbles up a lot of money. They have now opened the Kipkeino Primary School. With richer parents paying the maintenance, the orphans can attend for free. From the beginning on, it was considered to be one of the best schools in the district. They even have 25 computers, a gift from a US American company.

Keino’s farms, especially the oldest, "Kazi Mingi", which means „much work“ now receive numerous visitors. The name decorates them as well. The British ambassador is planning a visit soon, the German ambassador belongs to his circle of friends, last April the entire IAAF council paid their respects, and Jacques Rogge, the new IOC President, plans on stopping by in the spring.

For more than two years, the host is also a member of the IOC. Bach and Prince William of the Netherlands vouched for him. “My knees were shaking when I was elected. I know where I come from.” Yes, his mother died when he was a baby, as a youth he excavated latrines and wells, he was able to go to school at age 12, but at 16 he had to leave again due to a lack of money. Only after his running abilities led him to a job with the police, had he reached the first step in his career. Kip, as he is called around the world, has made something of his life. In his more and more frequent interviews he is sure to make two statements in the microphone: “ We share everything that we have,” and, “We come with nothing, and we go with nothing.”

by Robert Hartmann


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