Emanuel’s Early Years
Emanuel had only heard about the small town of Karatu from stories. Whenever his mother came to visit him at his grandparents’ home, he would ask her about the town she lived in. He hoped she would take him to see it one day. When that day came, he couldn’t wait to start their journey.
When they got to Karatu, his mother took him straight to a Compassion child development center at the local church where they were greeted by staff. That was the day Emanuel was registered into the Child Sponsorship Program.
“There was another Compassion center already open in Karatu, and I had seen how much it was helping families,” said Hosiana, Emanuel's mother. “When I went to ask if I could register Emanuel, they told me it could not accommodate more children, but there would be another opening close by. As soon as it did, I took Emanuel there.”
Like the more than 200 other children who were registered that day, Emanuel’s life situation was dire. Though the distance from his grandparents’ home to his mother’s home in Karatu was not far, Emanuel could not live with her. His grandparents cared for him and his two cousins. Keeping the three children clothed and fed was always a challenge for his grandparents, as the family’s small maize farm only produced enough harvest to last them for a few weeks.
After being registered, most of Emanuel’s needs were by met by his center. He continued living with his grandparents while his mother moved to another town to find work.
Emanuel was so overjoyed at starting school that his lack of a real bed was far from his mind. The bare wooden beams of the attic’s floor did not seem to poke his ribs as much as they normally did. Little did he know God was sending someone to help him throughout his Compassion journey: his sponsor. On his birthday, his sponsor sent Emanuel a financial gift.
He immediately knew what to buy.
“The center staff told us I had received a gift. The director asked me what I wanted, and I said a mattress,” said Emanuel. “When I got my bed, I could not wait to go to sleep that night.”
A Surprising Interest
Toward the end of his primary education, Emanuel went to Karatu to live with his mother. Her marriage had ended, and she had decided to move back. Her years living away had not improved her income as she had hoped, but she always managed to put food on the table.
In secondary school, Emanuel worked hard to pursue his dream of being a teacher one day. “I was drawn to teaching by one of my teachers at the center. The way he treated us and cared for us made me want to be like him,” he said.
To become a teacher, Emanuel had to pass his lower secondary exams to join upper secondary education, then complete a university degree. He saw himself as a teacher in the future; he had never considered other possibilities.
At age 19, after completing his lower secondary education, Emanuel discovered a surprising new interest. Close to his home, there was a welding workshop where some of his friends worked. “We were always encouraged to learn a vocational skill at the center,” he said. Remembering his teachers' words, Emanuel decided to join his friends.
When his exam results came, Emanuel found that he had not achieved the marks needed to join upper secondary school. But that did not deter him from his dream. He was still determined to be a teacher — he just had to take the longer route. With help from his center, he found a college where he could get the certificate needed to pursue his degree.
Meanwhile, he continued to learn about welding. During his college holidays, he attended the newly opened welding workshop at his center to develop his skills.
However, after one year at the college, disaster struck. Emanuel's dream of becoming a teacher was cut short when the government abruptly canceled his learning program.
“I felt lost because teaching was the only career I wanted. However, my teachers at the center encouraged me to not give up and advised me to shift my focus to welding,” said Emanuel.
For the next two years, Emanuel continued to learn and practice his skills at the center. Whenever he had difficulty making something, he went to a skilled welder to ask for help. At the end of the two years, Emanuel had learned how to make windows, doors and door frames, gates and beds.