Kelvin Mwikya was wrongly convicted of robbery with violence in Kenya, as a result of corrupt officials and family members. Unfortunately, this is all too common in Kenyan society. On 26 February 1994 during his time in prison Kelvin became a Christian, reading his bible daily. In time, the bitterness and resentment towards his family and the officials faded.
Kelvin remained shocked by the conditions of the Kenyan prison, where even bibles had to be used for toilet paper. Kelvin committed to provide prisoners with the essentials they needed,
starting with the small step of giving toilet paper instead of bibles.
After his release from prison, Kelvin used his wages to buy toilet paper and soap to take back into Kenyan prisons for the benefit of the prisoners. He also bought two mattresses and opened his small bedroom to ex-convicts with whom he was in touch.
Philemon - Prisons
In 2002, Philemon was officially founded as a Kenyan charity.
Kelvin's first action was to address the very basic needs of prisoners, through the provision of toilet paper, soap, food and clothing. As Philemon grew, Kelvin started more ambitious interventions, such as business skills classes with participants learning skills such as financial management, stock-keeping and costing.
Philemon - Community
Philemon established the first half-way home in Kenya, accommodating residents on a six-month program. As of January 2011, approximately 150 released prisoners have passed through the half-way house. Residents learn skills such as carpentry, metalwork and tailoring in the social enterprise businesses of Philemon.
Philemon assists ex-offenders to go on and find employment, for example, by helping residents to obtain ID cards. Former prisoners who have returned to their communities are invited to join self-help groups for mutual support, microfinance and spritual growth.
Kelvin's work got noticed, both by local churches who wanted to help and by government officials, who asked him to help them address the inherent failures of the system.