It usually started with a headache. When Joshua Miago felt the familiar ache spread across his forehead, throbbing behind his eyes, he knew it was happening again. The malaria was back.
Next would come a fever. But the worst was the chills. As Joshua lay on the damp mattress he shared with his four siblings, he would pray that this time the diarrhea wouldn’t come. Their small shanty on the edge of the garbage dump didn’t have a bathroom or running water. And the humiliation of using a neighbor’s bathroom — it was all just too much.
Growing up in the Dandora slum of Kenya, Joshua never wondered if he would get malaria. It was how often. And how bad it would be this time.
“The many times I have had malaria, it always felt like a death sentence,” says Joshua. “I would get it three to four times a year. [I saw] firsthand many friends lose their battle to it.”
For those living in Dandora, malaria was inevitable. Their homes did little to protect them from mosquitos, especially during the rainy season, and few could afford mosquito nets or malaria medication.
But when Joshua was 10, his mother enrolled him at a Compassion center in their community. There, he received medical care, food and clothing. The day he was sponsored by Beth Bell, though, was the day his life truly changed.
“In her first letter, she wrote, ‘Joshua, welcome to our family. We love you very much,’” says Joshua. “I was a smart kid. However, I didn’t really try as much as I should have. When Beth came into my life and wrote letters asking me how I was doing in school, praising me when I sent her my report card … I can’t explain the value of those words.”