Inspired by a mentor and with support from his sponsor, a OneChild program graduate in Kenya navigates the path to his dream career.
“The Hope Center is the bridge that I needed to help me walk to my dreams,” says Michael, a OneChild program graduate in Kenya.
When Michael joined the program at Emarti Hope Center in Kajiado, Kenya, in 2008, he wasn’t sure why he was there or how life would turn out.
On his first day at the Hope Center, he recalls crying after his mother left.
His first day, like most kids’ first day at school, was filled with anxiety. And unlike other kids at the center who lived in the community around the church, he had just moved there.
The Hope Center had just been set up at the church, and as the pastor and other leaders went around the community registering the kids who live in poverty, they walked into Michael’s eldest sister’s home.
After an assessment of her home was done, she was found to have qualified to enroll her child at the center.
Unfortunately, her oldest child then was 2 years old and too young to join the program. But she quickly proposed having her youngest brother, Michael, who at that time was living with his mother 30 miles away, join the program.
This meant that on the days that Michael had to attend the program, his eldest brother would drive him to and drop him off at his sister’s place.
A Maasai Childhood
Michael is from the Maasai ethnic community, who are traditionally known to be herders.
In traditional Maasai communities, it is not unusual for a man to have multiple wives and many children. Michael is the youngest of 20 children in his family. His father had four wives, and his mom was the third wife. In his childhood, Michael’s family lived on a huge piece of land, and they built houses on a central part of the property.
The four wives had separate, traditional Manyatta houses, which are made of sticks, earth, and cow dung. The cow dung is mixed with earth to form a thick paste of mud that is used to make the walls and roofs.
Michael recalls stories he was told in his childhood that depicted his father as a rich man. He says his father owned over 500 cattle before most died during a severe drought in the early 2000s.
Help in Hard Times
With the large family to take care of and most of the cattle gone, Michael’s father faced a difficult time providing for his family. After his father died in 2007, his older siblings took it upon themselves to help their mother care for Michael.
That’s when he was enrolled at the Hope Center.
In 2013, some sponsors came to visit Michael’s Hope Center. On the day the sponsors visited, Michael, his elder sister, and his mum were among the people receiving the guests. Little did Michael know he was about to meet his sponsor.
One of the visitors was Karol, who had become Michael’s sponsor shortly before visiting Kenya. The two had never met in person. Michael recalls that day like it was yesterday.
“I had a T-shirt that had a message on education, and she liked it,” he says.
“I remember my mother and sister had a conversation with her, and I was so excited to see her. She brought me a gift. It was a backpack that had books, pens, and crayons.”
In the years that followed Karol’s visit, Michael enjoyed writing letters to her, and he says they built a strong relationship.
Gifts That Grew
With a sponsor, Michael not only had his school fees paid, but Karol also sent birthday gifts and family gifts annually.
With the money he received as a birthday gift, Michael and his family, in consultation with the Child Champions, would settle on items to purchase.
He mostly bought goats or sheep with the larger percentage of the money and bought items like clothes with the remainder.
He managed to buy over 10 animals as birthday gifts when in the program.
Over the years, the animals multiplied and in 2019 Michael was able to sell some goats and buy a cow for himself. He currently has over 18 sheep and goats, and a cow.
While in upper primary school, he wanted to become a journalist because he says he enjoyed writing compositions, and he excelled in language studies.
But all that changed during his second year of high school.
A Mentor Steps In
During a school holiday when Michael was attending a youth conference at his home church, he met a man who had come to the conference as a motivational speaker.
From the talk the man gave at the conference and a conversation Michael had with him later, Michael knew he wanted to become a surveyor, like the man. A surveyor is a professional who uses specialized tools and instruments to map different types of land and properties.
“I admired how he was introduced during the talks. I also admired his confidence and I saw that he was passionate about what he was doing in life, so I knew I wanted to be like him,” he recalls.
So, they exchanged contact information, and throughout high school, Michael remained in touch with the man, who later became his mentor.
During school breaks, he made sure to meet with his mentor. And his mentor would take him into the field to survey land, so Michael had a chance to watch him in action.
All this time, Michael was sharing his new dream with his sponsor through letters, and Karol encouraged him to work hard in school and pursue his dream.
Going the Extra Mile
A year after Michael graduated from high school, Karol reached out to OneChild to inquire about him, and she learned he was still struggling to find a college to pursue his dream.
Inspired to have Michael achieve his dream career, Karol offered to pay his college tuition in 2020.
Currently, Michael, 25, is completing his diploma in cartography and GIS (geographic information system). He already has a certificate in land survey. He is a licensed drone pilot and has taken a course in remote sensing and GIS drone image processing.
Today, he is grateful for the sponsorship that allowed him to dream and live up to it.
“I am so grateful, today I know, and I am proof that sponsorship helps transform lives,” Michael says.
“Karol, thank you for taking a chance on me, and believing that I can be whatever I want in life, and for encouraging and supporting me.”
Michael hopes to pay it forward by coming alongside kids in his community. He has also joined hands with other graduates from his Hope Center, who now speak to the kids there to encourage them the way his mentor once inspired him.
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