By: Jordan Cone   |   Posted: March 29, 2023

As a child, Doreen lived in poverty and was sponsored in Compassion’s program. Wanting to serve God and give back to her community, she now runs an organization in Uganda that saves girls from sex trafficking and abuse.

This Amazing Woman Rescues Girls From Sex Abuse

As a child, Doreen lived in poverty and was sponsored in Compassion’s program. Wanting to serve God and give back to her community, she now runs an organization in Uganda that saves girls from sex trafficking and abuse.

Written by Jordan Cone
Photos courtesy of Doreen Nambuya
Doreen talks with young girls

With bellies full of chips and chicken from their first experience at a fancy restaurant, the girls twirl around Lupins Africa to the beat of a local church’s worship team. The rehabilitation center is decorated for Christmas and the girls watch their feet as they dance, admiring their brand-new shoes and relishing the sound of their new dresses swishing around them.

Doreen Nambuya, founder of Lupins Africa, watches the celebration with a glowing smile. Christmas has always meant a lot to her, even when she was a child growing up in poverty.

Until she was 6 years old, Doreen lived in one of the wealthiest communities in Uganda. But the passing of her father changed everything. Doreen’s family – her mother and five siblings – were forced to move to a slum where they lived in a one-room home with no electricity or flooring.

For two years, Doreen went without an education. She spent her days breaking rocks and selling them to builders to help support her family – a task that caused her to lose most of her fingernails.

At night, she wept as she watched her mother go without so that Doreen and her siblings would not go hungry. Often, Doreen wore ripped clothes, which the other children made fun of. It was a problem her brother Richmond tried to remedy by stealing a dress from their local market, only to be caught and beaten for his efforts.

But despite these trials, Doreen always made certain she had a gift to present to her mother on Christmas morning – a kettle, a knife, a plate.

Hope Returns

Hope in Doreen’s family sparked when she was 8 years old. Her mother had enrolled her in Compassion’s program at their local church. Soon after, a couple in Australia sponsored her.

“I was dancing at home because hope had started rebuilding again,” Doreen says. “Having this opportunity to know that you’re going to go back to school and pursue your dream was above the roof.”

Through the program, Doreen was known, loved and connected. She received education and medical care. Her perspective of love was changed forever.

“Compassion loved me,” Doreen says. “From the teachers to the pastor to the director. I felt their love. And expecting letters from my sponsor every time with the words ‘I love you’ at the end – those are some words that seem light, but for me, the words ‘I love you’ meant a lot.

“I realized I am loved. Irrespective of the situation that I grew in. Irrespective of the hard life I’d had.”

She remembers Christmastime fondly as a child in Compassion’s program. Every year she would receive a Christmas dress and shoes – gifts that kept the fire of hope ablaze in her heart.

A Desire to Give Back

As Doreen grew up, she became passionate about the happiness of others and wanted to give back — especially to Compassion. But it wasn’t until her Compassion center showed the movie “Pay it Forward” that she realized how she could do so.

“‘How do I pay it forward?’” Doreen says she asked herself. “So I go to my math teacher and ask him, ‘How do I learn? What subjects should I do for me to give back to the community and help?’”

The teacher suggested a career as a social worker. “I had never heard of a social worker before that,” she says. “But when I applied for university, I only applied for one course: social work.”

Struggling to pay tuition, Doreen spent seven years earning her bachelor’s degree from Uganda Christian University – an accomplishment that should have taken only three.

As she applied and reapplied for her degree as required in her country, she started questioning God and, eventually, forgot about him. Life became even harder until she realized that a life without the Lord led to a dead end.

“I recommitted my life, and things started moving in a way I didn’t expect,” Doreen says. “I was going to apply again and one of my supervisors called me to his office. He told me, ‘Doreen, go and do your exams. You will pay the balance after. I’m putting my job on the line for you.’ When I went back home, I had no words for God. He had opened doors that I least expected.”

Finally, with her degree in social work, Doreen set out into the world and began working for an organization that served trafficked girls. But she increasingly felt the Lord calling her to start her own organization.

It would be three years before Doreen gained the confidence and opportunity to pursue her dream.

The Power of Partnerships

As she wrestled with hesitation, Doreen found encouragement from a friend: Jason MacGregor, associate professor of accounting and business law at Baylor University. She formed even more relationships at the Texas-based university, eventually connecting with the Compassion at Baylor student group.

Compassion began partnering with Baylor in 2020 with the goal of bringing about global human flourishing for children and families in poverty. The partnership has led to pioneering work like the Christian Collective for Social Innovation.

Inspired and hopeful, Doreen searched for a house where she could base her nonprofit.

“We look for a house and look for a house and look for a house,” she says. “Then one day, I share with a friend, ‘Becca, I need someone to give me rent.’ Just blatantly saying that with no belief or hope that I would get the money. I receive an email from her dad, Kevin, telling me, ‘Me and my wife have sent you $3,000 for rent.’ It was the best gift ever. The Holy Spirit just reminded me: Never doubt.”

71 Rescues and Counting

In March 2021, Lupins Africa opened its doors to girls facing sex trafficking and sex abuse. Some girls are survivors; others are rescued from situations that place them at high risk of exploitation.

Doreen has five staff members, including a social worker, trauma counselor, pastor and security guard. After working together for a year, Doreen discovered that the social worker and counselor on her staff were also in Compassion’s Sponsorship Program as children — all of them at different centers around Uganda.

a crowded street in Uganda

Together, this remarkable staff has rescued 71 girls. New cases come to Doreen’s attention almost weekly now. Each registered girl is brought to the shelter and evaluated for a specialized, individual rehabilitation program.

As the young ladies make progress in their rehabilitation, Doreen begins family tracing to find the safest place for them to live outside of the households where they faced abuse.

After visiting potential caretakers and communicating with local officials and police, Doreen arranges for an overnight visit. At the end of those visits, Doreen takes the child back to the shelter to make sure everything went well with the potential caretakers. If so, the girl goes to live with her new family. Doreen and her staff make follow-up visits.

“Sometimes we just visit abruptly,” Doreen says. “We don’t even tell them we are coming. We want this girl to feel safe. We want this girl to know that we still care about her.”

Doreen says 80 to 90% of the girls are not in school when they first come to the shelter. An English teacher at the shelter helps them learn to write and equips them to succeed in school interviews (English is an official language in Uganda). Currently, 25 of the registered girls are in school for occupations like hairdressing or cosmetology.

Along with the rehabilitation of abused girls, Lupins Africa also goes into surrounding communities and schools to educate youth on what abuse looks like and who to go to for help. In the future, Lupins intends to show movies that depict success stories of women who have overcome great obstacles.

“A Baby of Compassion”

Doreen continues to see God’s hand on her organization. In 2022, Compassion at Baylor partnered with another student group and raised over $1,000 to support Lupins Africa. And recently Lupins Africa became a registered NGO in the United States, meaning people in the U.S. can make tax-deductible donations to the organization.

Doreen says Lupins Africa is in need of prayer in all aspects, but especially for the spirits of the girls they serve and that God would bless their work and allow the organization to grow.

“As a baby of Compassion, Lupins Africa wants to grow big and extend beyond Uganda,” Doreen says. “We want to spread our wings into the furthest that we can go and help these girls.”

Donate to Lupins Africa

3 young girls wearing yellow dresses

If you’d like to support Doreen’s vision and work, you can donate to Lupins Africa on their website. Note: This will take you away from and to an external site.

3 young girls wearing yellow dresses