A Safe Place to Turn

A Safe Place to Turn

By: Brandy Campbell, with Elizabeth Karanja in Kenya   |   Posted: March 12, 2008

Compassion offers a haven for an orphaned boy in Kenya
Paul is one of the more than 20 million African children orphaned by AIDS, war and famine. Through the support of the Kiserian Baptist Church, he was able to reenroll in school, and he prays that he will be a doctor one day.

Colorful beads and bits of glass glitter on the mud floor of Paul's home. He and his older brother squat on the floor, scooping up the colorful pieces and threading them onto metal wires. Their hands expertly twist and shape the wires into bracelets and earrings.

Later that afternoon, Paul takes the finished ornaments to the market, an hour's walk from his home, where he joins dozen of Maasai families who spread their goods on faded red blankets. Tourists will drop a few cents into Paul's hands in exchange for his work. If he empties his basket, he will buy rice and bananas for dinner. But if the heat drives the tourists back to their hotels, dinner will be a slice of leftover bread.

NO STRANGER TO SADNESS

Paul was just a toddler when he learned to make the colorful Maasai ornaments. He learned his colors by sorting through beads, and his earliest math lessons began at the market. But when Paul was 4, his mother grew ill. In their remote village, there was little access to medical care. The few pennies they made in the market barely could buy food. Disease took Paul's mother's life without a diagnosis, a doctor, or medicine to ease her pain.

Tragedy would visit Paul's home again when he was 12. That year, his father was in a car accident. His injuries were minor, but infection set in. Paul had to stand by again and watch a parent die.

Since Paul and his family were squatters living illegally on a plot of land they were left homeless after his father's death. Paul dropped out of school. He was passed from family member to family member, each one unable to feed and clothe another person.

"AFTER WHAT SHE HAS DONE &"

Paul could have easily joined the millions of street children in Kenya. But in the midst of the tragedy, there was stability. When Paul was 8, his father enrolled him the KiserianChild Development Center(KE-352). The staff ministered to the boy after his father's death, and through the support of his sponsor, Paul reenrolled in school.

"Compassion gave life to Paul, and to our whole family," says Peter, one of Paul's brothers and his current guardian. Once Paul was enrolled at the center, his sponsor's support began paying for his school fees and supplies. This relieved the financial pressure on Peter and allowed him to enroll in a vocational program, where he is working on his teaching degree.

Peter says he hopes that this degree will allow him to care for Paul and the rest of the family. "Compassion is helping me to be able to care for my family," continues Peter. "Our whole future is changing."

Paul dreams of one day meeting his sponsor, to thank her for the life-changing support she has offered. "After what she has done, if she cannot come see me, I hope to go to her land and say thank you for giving me education and love, for looking out for me," says Paul. "Most people do not know how it feels, but getting a gift from your sponsor lifts you, encourages you that someone loves you no matter what you are going through. This makes me realize that God had a purpose in my life. "

THE POTENTIAL TO EXCEL

Now 15, Paul is at the top of his class. He excels in math and science, but he is also a gifted public speaker and a poet. The staff at his child development center says the transformation Paul has undergone is miraculous. This once grieving child is now a glimmer of hope for the future of Africa. Paul says he wants to be a doctor when he grows up so that other children won't be orphaned like he was.

"If it weren't for Compassion, I would just be a herd boy, and I wouldn't have the chance to go to school," says Paul. "But now, I think I will go to college and be a doctor. I want to help the Maasai people, to bring cures to my tribe."

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