News Archive

News Archive

92 Orphans on the „Much Work Farm“

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


by Robert Hartmann