|   Posted: April 25, 2023

Learn more about the people, customs and culture of the East African country where your sponsored child lives.
Child smiling wearing Kenyan necklaces made of beads

Kenya’s Beautiful Diversity

Learn more about the people, customs and culture of the East African country where your sponsored child lives.

Child smiling wearing Kenyan bead necklaces

Kenya has an incredible diversity of people and geography. Its more than 40 ethnic groups live across savannas, the Indian Ocean coast, mountain highlands, the Great Rift Valley and lakelands. Vibrant in culture and beauty, Kenya also struggles with droughts and famines.

These poverty-related challenges are why churches in Kenya partner with Compassion. Sponsors help support and encourage Kenyan children living in poverty, ensuring they are known, loved and connected in their local churches through Compassion’s program.

Here are some facts about Kenya to give you a glimpse into the culture of the children who live there.

Kenya Fast Facts

Population: 57,052,004.
Capital: Nairobi.
Languages: English (official), Kiswahili (official), many indigenous languages.
Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Somalia and Tanzania.
Area: 224,080 square miles, more than twice the size of Nevada.

Landscape and animal scenes on safari in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya


Sixty languages are spoken among the more than 40 people groups of Kenya. Compassion’s partner churches in Kenya serve children from many different backgrounds.

The country’s largest ethnic group is the Kikuyu, which composes 17.1% of the population. The Maasai are another ethnic group, well known for their colorful clothing and nomadic lifestyle. They make up 2.5% of Kenya’s population.

Pesi, her mother, father, and her siblings Enock and Tasha are sitting outside their home. Behind them a wall decorated with beaded jewelry. Pesi and her mother are wearing traditional clothing

Other ethnic groups include the Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo, Kamba, Somali, Kisii, Mijikenda Meru, Turkana and others.

Life and poverty look a lot different for Kenyans who live in urban areas than in rural areas. Cities including Nairobi are home to impoverished communities where millions of people live close together in difficult conditions.

Wanja is standing outside in the alley of the slum where she lives. She is wearing a red shirt and brown pants. She is holding her youngest child. There are clothes hanging up on clotheslines behind her.


Over 80% of Kenya’s population identifies as Christian, mainly Protestant and Roman Catholic. Other Kenyans practice Islam and traditional African religions.

Children in Compassion’s program in Kenya go to centers run by local Christian churches. They hear the gospel and study the Bible.


Man and woman standing together, each holding a toddler

With so many ethnic groups, clothing varies widely across the country. Traditional Kenyan clothing includes a lot of bright jewelry, beaded headdresses and a red garment called a kanga.

Another garment called a kitenge is similar to a kanga but made from thicker cloth. Women often wrap kitenges over their chests, waists, or around their heads as scarves, or they carry their babies in them. Some men wear kitenges around their waists.


See what lunch looks like at this Compassion center.

Just like other aspects of the culture, Kenya’s food and drink vary widely by ethnic group.

Ugali, a cornmeal boiled into a thick paste, is a staple of Kenyan cuisine. Ugali is often accompanied by sauce, protein or vegetables. Because it can be made inexpensively, it is commonly eaten among even the most impoverished communities in Kenya.

Githeri, another common dish in Kenya, is a stew made of corn and beans with vegetables occasionally mixed in. Githeri is easy to cook — all that’s needed is a pot and a few ingredients! Learn how to make githeri with this easy recipe!

A bowl of githeri

Another popular Kenyan food is chapati. It’s a fried flatbread considered a special treat in Kenyan culture. It goes well with dishes like githeri or can be served alone. Try this recipe for Kenyan chapati.

For washing down all that delicious food, tea is a popular drink in Kenya and the country’s key export. In fact, Kenya is the world’s biggest exporter of black tea. Kenyans typically serve tea with milk and alongside a snack.


Livingstone is wearing black pants and a yellow shirt. He is running outside playing with a an old bike tire. He is outside his home in Gatina slums.

Kenyans play many sports, including cricket, soccer (which they call football) and basketball. But they’re especially dominant in long-distance running. The world records for both men’s and women’s fastest marathon finishing times are held by Kenyans.

The Food Crisis in Kenya

Since 2011, Kenya has experienced one of the worst droughts in the country’s history, leaving millions of Kenyans in need of humanitarian assistance — including more than 300,000 children suffering from malnutrition.

Compassion has responded by distributing emergency food and water to families across the country. Malnourished children receive food, vitamins and medical attention. Many families have also received drought-resistant seeds as part of income-generation projects.

Portraits of orphan, Collins, and his grandmother at sunrise in field nearby their rural home in Solai, Kenya

While it’s clear that poverty poses huge challenges in Kenya, it’s also obvious that Kenyans have plenty to celebrate. Their country’s vibrant cultures and diverse people groups endure despite their struggles, which local churches and Compassion centers are working to alleviate every day with the support of sponsors and donors.

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