By: Eric Lema, Compassion Tanzania Photojournalist   |   Posted: July 07, 2022

Years after graduating from the Compassion program, Emanuel has built a family of his own, and they live free from poverty. Emanuel is now a professional welder thanks to the skills he learned at his Compassion center in Tanzania.

Alumnus Builds a Better Life For His Family

Years after graduating from the Compassion program, Emanuel has built a family of his own, and they live free from poverty. Emanuel is now a professional welder thanks to the skills he learned at his Compassion center in Tanzania.

Written by Eric Lema, Compassion Tanzania Photojournalist
Emanuel and his family

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.

Emanuel stands in his workshop
children play on the playground

The Welding Wonder

In 2017, when he was 23, Emanuel graduated from Compassion’s program as a skilled welder. Five years later, at age 28, he is married and has a two-year-old daughter named Reyna. His work as welder has enabled him to help support his two siblings, his grandparents and his mother whenever they need help. He has his own home, built with metal windows and doors that he made with his own hands.

Inside his three-room house, his proudest creation is his daughter’s bed. The curved headboard with decorative hearts was a labor of love for him — and a world away from his own childhood bed of a bare attic floor.

“My prayer was always for my son to have a better life than I did,” says Hosiana. “When I look at him now, I feel extremely proud and thankful to God. Emanuel can provide for his own family. He helps me when I need help, and he also pays for his sibling’s school fees.”

A well-known welder around his neighborhood, he works on his projects from the center’s workshop during the weekdays, the same place where he learned his trade. On Saturday, he teaches welding to youths aged 12 and above. Though most of them are still in school, he hopes the knowledge he provides will help them in the future.

“Welding gave me another avenue to a better life, and my hope for the youths in my class is for them to have the same,” he says. “In case they do not succeed academically, they will have something reliable to fall back to.”

With two years under his belt as a welding instructor at the center, Emanuel has become a role model to youths and children still at the center.

“I have known Emanuel since I was registered at the center,” says Theophile, a registered teenager. “I have seen the struggles that he had to go through to get to where he is, and I want to do that, or if possible, to achieve even more. I want to be a soldier, but I also want to learn welding. It will help me in my career, and it can also be a backup.”

Most of the children at the center come from the same background as Emanuel. With him as their teacher, they have someone they can relate to and look up to. “His story is there for them follow and create better lives for themselves and their families,” said Ahadi, the center director.

After building his own home, Emanuel now has his sight set on the future. He plans to build his mother a house and pursue his calling of teaching as an evangelist.

“The person I am today is because of the help and support I received from the center and my sponsor,” he said. “When my daughter wakes up from her comfortable bed, she always has enough food to eat.”