Safe Haven of Learning

Safe Haven of Learning

By: Brandy Campbell, with Elizabeth Karanja in Kenya   |   Posted: February 09, 2009

Compassion Provides Opportunities and a Refuge From Urban Dangers
Bernard Mwangi walks through the slums of Korogocho, near the house where his mother ran a dangerous home business.

Most children are eager to leave school at the end of the day. But for Bernard, that last hour always seemed to fly by too quickly. When he left school, he dragged his feet as he walked through the bustling streets, dreading what he would find when he arrived at the one-room cinderblock home he shared with his parents and five brothers and sisters. 

Home was not a safe place for Bernard. The only job his mother could find was selling liquor that she brewed in their kitchen. As night fell, the house filled with her customers, and Bernard had to fight for space near the lamp to do his homework. He fell asleep most nights to the sound of drunken fights and woke to the smell of liquor spilled by his bed.

Bernard grew up in the slums of Korogocho, one of the largest in Nairobi. The conditions inside his home mirrored those outside on the muddy, garbage-filled streets. In Korogocho, the majority of families live below the poverty line, making just U.S.$1 a day. Unemployment has bred a potent mix of crime, drug abuse and alcohol abuse. Many girls resort to prostitution, spreading HIV throughout the community.

Finding a Haven

Bernard had no safe place to retreat until he found Compassion. When he was 10, he was registered at the Korogocho Child Development Center (KE-371). Suddenly he had a peaceful place to do his homework after school. He could play with his friends without being accosted by local gang members. 

"I became so engaged in the program, and there was no time left for me to mingle with any of the gangs," says Bernard, now 25. "Most of my friends who weren't in Compassion are right now either dead, have lost hope, or are hospitalized because of drug abuse. One of my best friends, whom I studied with, already has three children. He is jobless and still in drugs."

As Bernard progressed in Compassion's program, he became more determined to forge a life different from his peers. He began leading Bible studies and was soon recognized as a leader at his church. Bernard studied hard in school and was accepted into Compassion's Leadership Development Program, which covered the cost of his college education. 

"To me, university was a dream until I got the scholarship. Sometimes I wonder, why was I chosen from all of the students in Korogocho? But I believe the Lord works in miraculous ways and Compassion is my miracle."

Delivered From Poverty

Bernard is close to completing his education degree, and he plans to return to Korogocho to teach in the community where he grew up to rescue children just like himself from poverty.

"The one thing I pray is that I can meet the children of Korogocho and bring them to Christ," says Bernard. "I pray that God will manifest Himself to them just like He did for me. Their hearts may be hardened now, but I know that God is faithful. He will deliver them from the jaws of poverty, just like He delivered me."

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