Receiving the Orphan - The Story of Nadia Uwase

December 21, 2023

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me"
-Matthew 18:5

In the quiet of the night, Nadia and Nick Uwase received a call from the local police station. After midnight, an officer arrived at their home holding a two-month-old baby, discovered alone and abandoned — a distressingly familiar occurrence in Kenya, where an estimated 3.6 million children bear the weight of orphanhood.

Nick and Nadia are all too familiar with this haunting reality. Both grew up as orphans in Kenya. From an early age, Nadia dreamed of creating a place for orphaned kids like her that felt more like a family. “I was that person who loves to be with less privileged people,” she says, her eyes shining. 

In 2009, Nadia went to work for World Vision in her home country of Rwanda. She first worked in administration, then in schools, then with genocide survivors. In 2012, Nadia married Nick, a community development leader in Nairobi with whom she’d worked during college. He, too, had a passion for the parentless, taking in children left without a family from the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

For six years, Nadia continued to work in Rwanda and commute to see Nick. But in 2019, she made two decisions: to return to Kenya permanently because the boys and girls Nick was raising needed a mother, and to start a company. 

Like most non-profits, additional funds were required as the ministry expanded. Quite literally, they had more mouths to feed. Believing that a profitable business could sustain their ministry, Nadia enrolled in Sinapis’ 9-week Aspire Launchpad in 2019—a training program for idea- and early-stage entrepreneurs that helps them build scalable business models while integrating their faith. With what she learned, Nadia launched Art Afrique, a company that today sells artisan baskets, coasters, purses, and other home decor items. In addition to employing 30 Rwandan women, the business is foundational to the work God has called Nadia and Nick to do for children.

“The class taught me a lot about marketing and bookkeeping, and how to maintain my clients, and about how to do my business in a Kingdom way.” Art Afrique has grown over time, and so has Nadia and Nick’s ministry. During the pandemic, the number of young people they took in nearly doubled. 

Today, 75 children, ranging from eight months to 21 years old, call Nadia and Nick “Mom” and “Dad.” 

“We are here so they can see how a family operates,” says Nadia. “When we see them starting to smile, when we see them doing things that they were not doing before, we really feel good.” 

The profits from Art Afrique also contribute to a weekly hot meal outreach that the Uwases, together with a small team, conduct for 250 people in Mathare, a nearby slum. Many who come for the meal are kids left alone at home while their parents are out looking for work. This community is notorious for exploitation and abuse, particularly among vulnerable children. “People misuse them, they rape them, … so when we go there, we are teaching them how to stand up for themselves, how to say no.” Their team also feeds an additional 300 homeless people each week. “Most of them are sniffing glue,” she says. “They are into drugs and all, so we go to feed them. As we feed, as we cook, we talk to them. We show them love. We do it hoping they will change and go to rehabilitation centers.”  

Nadia also encourages entrepreneurship in her children. Once they become teenagers, they learn soap-making, tailoring, and baking skills. They are starting to raise chickens, rabbits, and even turkeys. For those who receive sponsorships to attend high school or college, the income they earn helps cover transportation fees. 

Youth from the surrounding community have been coming to Tree House as well to learn about starting a small business. “Sinapis, for me, was a life-changing journey that touched my ministry and everything we’re doing,” Nadia reflects.

And the baby Nadia welcomed in the middle of the night? He will turn four in January. “We thank God. He’s an amazing boy,” she says of her son. “We go to church, and it’s like he has a register in his mind. When we get home, he’s singing every song.” 

The Uwases aren’t alone — nearly 74% of all Sinapis graduates create a community impact program through their business. This is local change led by local leaders.

To learn more about how Sinapis is pioneering a solution that gets to the roots of material and spiritual poverty, click here.