A Boy’s Childhood Dream Comes
True, Even in a Hard Place

Photos and story by Donna Atola, Kenya Field Communications Specialist

A OneChild sponsorship program graduate achieves his dream career thanks to the Child Champions in his life.

Emmanuel Mwangala as a child in his Hope Center in Kenya.

“To be able to dream is a gift from God. But to have a community that believes in you and your dreams, holds your hand, and challenges you to do great, is a blessing that I never take for granted,” says Emmanuel Mwangala.

Emmanuel, 22, is a promising young journalist and budding computer programmer.

As a child, he and his four siblings and their parents lived in Mongotini, a small, impoverished community in Malindi, Kenya.

His father worked as a tour guide in one of the hotels along the coast before he lost his job and had to burn and sell charcoal to earn a living. His mom owned and operated a small vegetable stand in the village.

Emmanuel says neither of his parents made a lot of money, but with the little they had, they gave their children the best.

The best, according to Emmanuel, was when his father decided to register him in the OneChild sponsorship program at Grace Hope Center when he was 8.

“My dad, just like other parents, wanted the best for me, and I believe this is what led to his decision to have me join the Hope Center,” he says.

On his first day at the center, Emmanuel recalls crying when his father handed him over to a Child Champion there.

“I was a shy little boy, so the sight of new people and my father leaving me with them had me so anxious. So I cried so much,” he recalls. “I think I also had a phobia for tall people, and I remember this particular Child Champion who received me was so tall, so that added to my day-one troubles.”

Emmanuel receives a gift from his Child Champions at his Hope Center.

But before long he found the people at the Hope Center to be amazing. His anxiety was soon replaced with joy, love, and laughter thanks to the Child Champions who were kind and worked hard to ensure the kids felt safe and loved while at the center.

Hope Center Nurtures Kids’ Creativity

The Hope Center held a lot of activities that allowed kids to discover and nurture their talents. One of the many activities included art. The center provided spaces for kids to learn and practice poem recitation, music, dance, drama and acting, and public speaking.

Emmanuel says he loved English and science while in primary school. When a chance to join one of the activities at the center came up, he opted to try poem recitation and public speaking.

Little did he know that the activities his Child Champions urged him to participate in would prepare him for his future.

“We would have internal competitions of public speaking and poem recitations at the center, and we would at times compete with other centers and churches. In the beginning, I found it challenging because I was shy, but my teachers urged me on,” he recalls.

“I slowly gained confidence and sharpened my written and spoken English and Swahili. Shortly after, I was made the leader of the drama club, thanks to my teachers at the center who saw the talent in me when I never thought much of myself.”

Emmanuel credits his success as a journalist to his Child Champions, who encouraged him to dream.

As he worked with his Child Champions to sharpen his skills, Emmanuel says he hadn’t thought deeply yet about what he wanted to become in the future.

He says whenever he was asked what his dreams were, he would say he wanted to become a doctor.

“All I knew is that everyone in my class wanted to become a doctor. It was easier to pick becoming a doctor because that is the only career we had heard of, so I unconsciously would say that was my dream,” he recounts.

However, as he grew up, he heard rumors that becoming a doctor depended a lot on whether someone excelled in mathematics. Unfortunately, numbers were not Emmanuel’s cup of tea. That new realization discouraged him from thinking about pursuing medicine in the future.

Finding a Fit in Journalism

But while in high school, Emmanuel had an awakening. Since primary school, he loved learning English, and his teacher at school made the subject so interesting. So when he entered high school, he was good at languages and his teacher, Tom, guided and helped him maintain top scores in English.

Emmanuel takes photos for a story he is working on.

Tom was also in charge of the journalism club, and he encouraged Emmanuel to join it.

So at 14, Emmanuel joined the club.

“That was the first time that I knew apart from becoming a doctor and a teacher, one could also become a journalist,” he says.

Unfortunately, no one from his community had ever pursued journalism, so they had no reference point for that career. But that did not discourage Emmanuel; in fact, he says he became even more active in the club.

In addition to journalism, he discovered an interest in computer studies while in high school. He says he spent his extra time in the school’s computer lab which allowed him to sharpen his skills. While in his second year of high school, his teachers allowed him to train other students because he had mastered programming.

At the time he was completing high school, Emmanuel was torn between pursuing journalism or information technology. But when the government placed him in journalism at a public university, he was elated to be able to pursue his dream career.

His joy was further intensified after one of his uncles became a broadcaster on a national radio station.

Emmanuel talks to a group of kids who are in the journalism club.

In addition to listening to his uncle on the radio, Emmanuel says he also enjoyed watching and listening to investigative stories on radio and TV, and that motivated him to want to become an investigative journalist.

Child Champions Powerful Mentors for Kids

Today, as a journalist, Emmanuel works for a radio station and runs his own blog site. He also teaches young people in his community how to do coding and computer programming.

Emmanuel also visits Hope Centers in Malindi to help teach and support the journalism club members.

He says that his dad and his teachers at the Hope Center and in school were his biggest champions and mentors. From that, he learned how powerful adults are in the lives of the children around them.

“I remember how when asked whom we wanted to become when we had just joined the center, kids would point to Child Champions,” Emmanuel says. “That’s all most of us knew, and we admired them. So I hope that Child Champions globally can realize how influential they are in the lives of kids.”

By helping kids realize their gifts and talents and allowing them to dream, Child Champions greatly help kids realize their purpose in life which helps them chart the right paths, he says.

Emmanuel also attributes his love for God to the teaching of his Child Champions. And he knows how to look for career opportunities thanks to the confidence instilled in him when he was young.

“It is easy to miss an opportunity in life when one is shy and with low esteem, yet this is what most kids in hard places go through,” he says.

“The schools do well in having the kids attain good grades. However, there are a thousand in the school, with few teachers, so there’s a low chance that a teacher will follow up on a student to help them build their confidence,” he says.

“But I am lucky my Hope Center followed up on each one of us.”

At the Hope Centers in Malindi, kids find Emmanuel to be kind, loving, gentle, and fun. His hope for kids in hard places is that God guides their steps toward achieving their dreams.

Help thousands of kids, like Emmanuel, receive life-transforming care by giving to the OneChild Partners Fund.


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