Our friends at UCB recently visited Kenya to see Compassion’s work in action. They met formerly sponsored child and Leadership Development Programme graduate, Elly Chengo.
Here’s his remarkable story:
Can you explain what life was like for you 10 years ago? Can you describe poverty to someone who may never have experienced it?
10 years ago, I felt hopelessness and no determination. I had no belief in myself because of the kind of life we were living as a family. It was not an environment you would desire for a child. It was filled with people who were negative and didn’t see much in you. We would see people who had lost hope and had dropped out of school. They hadn’t made much progress so they had lost the bigger picture.
For people out there who think someone can never go hungry, it’s real. For people out there who can’t pay school fees, it’s real. For people out there who don’t believe that some people have no clothes to wear or shoes to put on, it’s real. When you put these things together, that is, in my own view, poverty.
Poverty is a lack of better choices in life. You are just trying to live, so you don’t have options. It is through poverty that someone can really give up in life. It is through poverty that someone can give up their God-given talent and skills because they feel they are not worth something.
What happened to change your circumstances?
Since then I have been able to build my self-esteem, determination and the belief that I could be somebody in life. As I look back I can see the hand of God in that. But the most important person who has really influenced my development was one of the Compassion project workers. I first met her 10 years ago. She taught me that through education and by believing the word of God, I could get out of the cycle of poverty and hopelessness that I found myself in. I have so much gratitude towards her.
Can you share more about your project director and what it was like to be part of Compassion’s sponsorship programme?
My project director’s name was Elizabeth Mudegu. She made me believe that there is hope in the word of God and taught me that there is no better hope than in the word of God. Put your hope in God, let God work Himself in you. He will work in you and you will know He has a big plan for you.
She taught me to be determined on the value of education. She taught me that my determination and hard work would get me somewhere. It is not only your teachers but mostly your hard work that will help you. She met me when I was in Secondary School Form Two. By then I wasn’t doing well in school, I was going to school to finish. She told me, “What is so good about finishing Form Four without working hard and doing your best?” By the time I finished Form Four I was one of the best students at that time.
She also taught me to believe in myself. She gave me an opportunity to grow and lead others and participate in events at the projects. At one point I was the praise and worship leader. She gave me responsibility to take care of people at camps or outings. She shared her life and how she had overcome things.
What have been some of the happiest times of your life?
One of the best times was when I graduated from college with a degree. My degree was Bachelors of Science in Agricultural Biotechnology. I studied at Moi University in Western Kenya.
Another good time was when I graduated from my Compassion project aged 22 and I looked back and at how God had transformed my life.
Also, constantly seeing how my mum takes care of me and helps me be the man I am today. She’s 65 years old now.
Tell us a bit about your current job and what life is like for you now.
Today I work as a Partnership Facilitator for Compassion.
What I’m looking to do right now is to impact a child’s life. My job is to reach out to children and reach out to church partners and work with them to transform the lives of children.
As a family we are also doing well. We’ve changed compared to 10 years ago. I’m looking to influence more change in my family. I couldn’t have imagined we would be where we are today.
Words and image by Ella Dickinson