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Atoo Sifa – A Voice of Praise for the Lord

By TWR Africa Staff
Africa, Burundi, Congo, Democratic Republic (DRC), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, S&E Africa
5 July 2022


Atoo Sifa team with Pamela Omwodo (General Manager, Sifa FM Station) to the right. [image courtesy of TWR Africa]



In 1976 TWR (Trans World Radio) Kenya, planted its roots in this beautiful country filled with a rich treasure of history and culture. Since then, this TWR national partner has gone from strength to strength. Under the leadership of the national director of TWR Kenya, Bernice Gatere, they established a network of FM outlets throughout the country, known as the SIFA FM network. The Swahili word ‘sifa’ means ‘praise’.

The latest of these FM stations, Atoo Sifa 90.7, was born during the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic. After receiving the FM licence in 2017, a fundraising campaign was set in motion and construction of the building began in early 2020. But then COVID-19 hit. The team did not give up, however, and overcame many challenges to complete the work. Pamela Omwodo, General Manager, Sifa FM Station – Kenya, temporarily relocated from Nairobi to Kakuma - a town in north-western Turkana County - for six months, during which she facilitated interviews and training of staff and presenters. Her sacrificial service paid off when airing of programmes in English, Swahili and the Turkana language started on 12 October 2020, followed by the dedication of the station one month later.

One of the main objectives of this station was to broadcast into the Kakuma refugee camp, one of the world’s largest of its kind, situated on the outskirts of Kakuma town. The camp was established in the early nineties, originally to serve refugees fleeing from the Sudanese civil war in which more than two million people were killed and an estimated 20 000 young, orphaned boys, known as ‘the lost boys of Sudan’, fled the country, walking more than a thousand miles. Tragically, about half of these young children died along the way, but the rest made it to Kakuma, where they found refuge.

Today, the camp supports children and families from a number of different countries, including South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Uganda and Rwanda. Kakuma means "nowhere” in the Swahili language, but close to 200 000 refugees and asylum seekers now call it home. It has become a bustling community with small businesses, schools and churches.

Atoo Sifa also ministers to the local population of Kakuma, largely comprised of nomadic tribes from the Turkana community.

In less than two years since their launch, this station has built up a vast listenership, both in the local community and the refugee camp. A refugee from Burundi, who started a small shop at his home in the camp, became a faithful listener. His radio is constantly in the shop, tuned in to Atoo Sifa. He told a visiting TWR team, “When customers visit the shop and hear the broadcasts playing, they want their own radios, so that they can also listen to the programmes.”

Currently the staff comprises of the Station Manager, Joshua Nalanda, and four presenters, of which one is a young intern. One of the highlights of the week is when Bible Stories Alive airs on Saturday mornings. Young children from local churches, who are also listeners of the programme, are invited to the studio. After the broadcast, they ask fellow young listeners to share what they have learned from the lesson that morning. Children respond via text, WhatsApp and phone calls, which makes for a lively session of on-air interaction. Other programmes include Christian youth programmes, African traditional Christian praise songs, and many more.

As a testimony of God’s faithfulness and the excellence of the work done at Atoo Sifa, this young station was awarded the 2022 AJEA Annual Journalism Excellence Award for Best Prime Time Bulletin.

Let us praise the Lord for this open door into the hearts of the desolate people who once lost everything they had. May God turn their sorrow into joy.

How can you pray for Atoo Sifa? Joshua shared the following prayer requests:
  • Pray for expansion of their coverage and reach – they hope to get a stronger signal into parts of Uganda and Turkana west.
  • Pray for resources to build staff quarters. Security at the station will be increased when staff stay on the premises.
  • Pray for a provision to buy a car. Currently they commute with a motorcycle. The station manager has to make several trips to transport the rest of the team from town to work each morning and night. It is too far from town to walk.
  • Pray that the Lord will use the broadcasts of Atoo Sifa to transform the lives of the community so that lasting fruit is produced to His glory.


Images: (middle, right) A presenter in the Atoo Sifa studio. [image courtesy of TWR Africa]

Sources:

https://www.unhcr.org/ke/kakuma-refugee-camp

https://opecfund.org/news/we-call-it-a-camp-but-it-s-really-a-city

https://www.unicefusa.org/mission/emergencies/child-refugees-and-migrants/kakuma-refugee-camp

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-lost-boys-of-sudan-12-years-later-02-04-2013/

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