Overwhelming poverty was a way of life for Maureen and her family. More often than not, the time between meals wasn’t just hours, but days. Maureen was born into abject poverty in the Kariobangi slums in Nairobi. Her family of six lived in a small, single-room home with a dirt floor and leaky roof.
Many times Maureen would cry on her way to school, expecting to get in trouble because her books and clothing were wet. But a leaky roof was the least of her problems. Immense hunger was a daily occurrence. Describing her hopelessness, Maureen explains, "I’ll never forget one day, when hunger was too much for me to bear, my sister and I decided to go to the Korogocho slum market garbage heap.
We collected the yellow vegetable leaves that had been thrown by the traders, as well as rotten avocados and bananas. We took them home and thanked God for providing food to us." Her life took a dramatic turn when, at age 7, Maureen was invited to join the Kariobangi Child Development Center. Regular, well-balanced meals were a huge blessing. “Lunchtime was great at the project. I always took a small paper bag with me to carry home food for my siblings,” Maureen admits.
She was also given the opportunity to attend school without having to worry about paying for books, uniforms or school fees. In high school, Maureen was chosen to become part of the Leadership Development Program — a breakthrough that transformed her life. She is now a fourth-year student at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, pursuing a degree in education and majoring in English and literature.
Maureen is the first in her family to attend college. "Compassion made all the difference in my life," says Maureen. "It changed me from a statistic of 'There goes another life,' to 'Here is a changed life.' Children from Kariobangi often have no hope and cannot overcome the challenges that they face daily. But Compassion has brought hope to desperate children like me."