Warning, some readers may find the content of this blog distressing.
There was a time when Vivian had a family. When she and her sister were loved by their parents.
“I lived with my mum and my dad in a community called Ungalamatede Rocha. It's kind of a slum neighbourhood, but we were happy,” Vivian recalls.
“I remember my dad used to carry me on his neck and I loved it. My dad used to walk to the nearby ironsmithing community, so we went together with my dad. My mum was a small businesswoman who sold small food stuffs and clothes.”
Vivian was one of the first group of children to be registered at a Compassion project in Tanzania and her life, though modest, was good.
One devastating night
But it all changed when Vivian was only nine years old.
“I remember waking up one night and found my dad hanging himself. I didn't know what was going on and decided to go to jump to the bed where my mum was lying.
“I tried to wake her up so that we could find help for my dad. But my mum didn’t respond.
“I decided to go outside and called the neighbours for help. When they came inside, my dad was dead. My mum was also dead.”
Orphaned, Vivian and her sister went to live with their aunt. But it was an extremely difficult time.
“[My aunt] neglected us. She didn't provide for us with food, even if the Compassion project was able to support us with food… She used the food for her food business. And sometimes we had to sleep without eating because there was not enough food in the house.
“And if we asked, she would kick, she would beat us and say horrible things to us – that I didn't have food for you, I'm not your parent, I can't take care of every need that you have.
“We sometimes had to go to other houses to ask for food. And our neighbour was so kind to support us... Sometimes we went to the project and ate there.”
Homeless at 13
One night, when Vivian was 13 years old, Vivian’s aunt came home drunk. She beat her and her sister, then kicked them out of the house.
“That night she said I don't care. You can go anywhere… You can go to sleep on your parents’ grave, I don't care about that.”
In that desperate moment, there was one person who came to their aid. A maid that worked for her aunt took the two sisters to Compassion’s local church partner that night.
“I remember it was so cold … and we were crying because we didn't know where to go. We didn't know if the church could receive us, or if we could find anyone in the house, at the church,” Vivian recalls.
“But the project's social worker was there and received us.”
The Compassion project’s social worker called the pastor of the church, explained the situation and asked if the girls could stay the night at the church. The pastor agreed.
The next day the project worker, the church pastor and church leader approached Vivian’s aunt to see if she had changed her mind. She hadn’t.
Vivian and her sister were now homeless.
God’s people mobilise
Compassion’s church partner began searching for a home for Vivian and her sister. The project’s social worker agreed to take the two sisters into her home. And slowly, things began to change for Vivian and her sister.
“So, we started to live with the social worker. I was 13 years old and my young sister, she was nine years old,” tells Vivian.
Vivian and her sister started to receive the love and care they didn’t get from their aunt.
“We were able to eat, get a good place to sleep, have someone who we could talk to, someone who was there for us and concerned about our school performance, about our health, about everything that we needed,” Vivian recalls.
Support from Vivian’s Compassion sponsor
“My sponsor trusted me, believed in me,” Vivian also explains.
“She used to address me as her first born, so that gave me a sense of belonging. Maybe somewhere I have a family. I have someone who loves me. I have someone who looks to me and sees that I am valued. I am worthy.”
“The death of my parents was the end of my life, but the programme was there to help me.”
Vivian was able to continue her studies and she began to excel.
“I did well on my secondary school and was selected to join university in another region. And the social worker was there with me, to support me packing for the trip to university. To support me to prepare my mindset on that new journey.
“My young sister continued to stay with the social worker while I was studying.”
After three years, Vivian graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Social Protection. She ran her own small business for a while and is now working for Compassion Tanzania.
“I am able to know myself. I know that I can stand by myself. I can be depended on by other people…I have two years of working experience [at Compassion Tanzania] now. And I'm thankful for that,” admits Vivian.
These days Vivian confidently says, “I am a born-again Christian. I am a Compassion graduate and I work for Compassion Tanzania as their administrative assistant.”