By: Kevin Ouma

As a teacher and head of education at a nonprofit, Compassion program graduate Michael works to bring hope and education to Kenya’s future: children.

How Sponsorship is Changing the Future of My Country!

As a teacher and head of education at a nonprofit, Compassion program graduate Michael works to bring hope and education to Kenya’s future: children.

Written by Kevin Ouma
Michael holds a photo of his younger self.

At 36 years old, Michael still vividly remembers when he was 8 and wondering what life held for him. He’d just moved from his mother’s home in a town called Meru to live with his father in a crowded urban settlement east of Nairobi.

This was a new chapter in Michael’s childhood. But his father’s income wasn’t enough to support a child. He’d worked as a courier driver for a newspaper company, but around the time that Michael arrived, he retired and couldn’t meet his boy’s needs alone.

So when he saw a notice for Compassion’s sponsorship program at a local church, he didn’t hesitate to register Michael. Soon his 8-year-old son was shopping for a school uniform — a new experience for him.

“All my clothes and shoes before then had been secondhand clothes,” says Michael. Church staff took him and other children to a uniform shop, where they were measured. Their new uniforms — complete with shoes — were paid for by Compassion’s program.

If moving to live with his father was Michael’s new beginning, the visit to the uniform shop was a turning point. Something in his heart changed that day — and his life was never the same.

Michael had begun to believe poverty’s lie that he was worthless. But now, he caught a glimpse of a better future.

“There is a nonverbal way Compassion makes you desire a better life,” says Michael. “Someone buying a school uniform for me in a shop made me want a better life for myself.”

The Value of a Sponsor

At the Compassion center, Michael enjoyed activities, gained important life skills and made new friends. But his most memorable moments came as he heard Scripture stories, learned how much God loved him and developed his faith in Jesus.

“What I remember most about my time in the program were the camps — you never left camp the same person,” says Michael.

Another invaluable part of his time in the program was developing a friendship with his sponsor — someone not much older than he was. Michael was one of the first children at the center to be sponsored, and he even met his sponsor in person!

“I met my sponsor when I was 9 years old,” says Michael. “Seeing a young person supporting a child across the world showed me that I am not limited by age.”

His sponsor stuck with him, writing and sending letters regularly until Michael graduated from the Compassion program. Michael is eternally grateful for the impact in his life — and has a message for sponsors like you.

“You can never fully understand the impact of your sponsorship on a child,” he says. “It’s even beyond what you think you do.”
Michael recalls the impact his sponsor left in his life.

Growing a Dream

Growing up in a densely populated neighborhood lacking infrastructure and basic resources, Michael saw very little to hope for.

“As a boy, you knew that you were either going to be a footballer or a criminal,” says Michael. He had friends whose fathers were gang members and, later in life, some of his friends joined gangs. He was determined not to be like them.

“I knew early enough that I wanted a different life for myself.”

While Michael saw many examples on the streets of what to avoid, he saw examples of what to look up to at his Compassion center. He received strong guidance and encouragement from the center staff. One moment remains a strong memory: After taking his final primary school exam, he was not happy with his results. But the center director noticed and sat down to encourage the disappointed boy.

“He was the first man to begin speaking into my life. I did not do well in my final exam, but he reminded me that life is not a sprint.”

Those words gave Michael a different perspective when he went to high school. Upon graduation, he became a part-time teacher at the church, where he stayed until 2012, when he went on to join a teachers’ training college.

“The chance to teach at the church was the first step to my becoming a teacher,” says Michael. “I did not have clarity on what I wanted to do with my life, but that opportunity changed the course of my life.”

Teaching Children, the Future of Kenya

Michael in his dream role as a teacher.

Now, at 36, Michael sits behind his desk at a high school in Kenya where he serves as head of education and deputy director of Edukenya, the nonprofit organization that established the school. Edukenya works to give disadvantaged children an opportunity for education.

He works with children in Mathare, an urban informal settlement like the one he grew up in. He works every day to impact children, to help them believe there is a bright future for them, to encourage them that God knows them and loves them. He knows from his own experience that this belief can change their lives.

Joining the sponsorship program was a life-altering opportunity for Michael. And as he serves children facing similar challenges, he hopes to see their lives changed, too.

“I was valued and accepted at the center. Compassion formed the man I am today,” says Michael.

Create a Ripple Effect

Children celebrating letters received from their sponsors.

Encouraging one child today can change many lives tomorrow! Write to the child you sponsor.

Children celebrating letters received from their sponsors.