A little girl in Kenya, inspired by a teacher and encouraged by her Child Champions, pursues her dream to become a teacher. Today, as an adult, she helps transform kids in her community.
When Irene Nyavula first set foot in Neema Hope Center in Kenya in 2008, she felt anxious and wondered what to expect. Little did the 9-year-old girl living in poverty know that this was where her dreams would take root, grow, and bloom, leading her to a fulfilling career as a teacher.
Irene and her five siblings lived with their mother in Jilore, a village in Malindi, a coastal town in Kenya. Most members of the community depend on casual labor and small-scale farming of vegetables and fruits to earn a living.
Irene and her siblings were brought up by their mother after their parents divorced. In addition to Irene and three of her older siblings, they also lived with three cousins and their grandmother.
Her mother, Furaha, who then had a small grocery shop, was charged with providing the basic needs for nine people under her roof. This was a big burden to Furaha as she only earned the equivalent of $3 a day from her small business.
As Irene began attending the program at the Hope Center, she was provided with meals, education, and clothing, and learned about the love of Jesus through her Child Champions.
Encouraging Dreams Early On
The Hope Center had a TV set, and the sponsored kids had a scheduled time to watch a local kids’ series that aired every Saturday morning. As they watched the show, Irene was impressed by a character called Teacher Pendo.
As the series winded down, Irene’s pastor at the Hope Center, Daniel Chai, asked Irene what her dream was. She immediately said she wanted to become a teacher like the character on the TV show.
Daniel then assured her that she could become just like Teacher Pendo. He then told the other kids that from that day on, Irene would be referred to as Teacher Pendo.
“I remember that day like it was yesterday,” says Irene. “I had never thought about my dreams before, until that day. It is now that I know it was an awakening that I received on that day.”
She was in the sixth grade at the time, and she wrote a small note detailing her dream of becoming a teacher, what she needed to do to achieve it, and what she would do upon achieving her dream. Ten years later, Irene still keeps the little note as a reminder of the goals she had set back then.
“I wrote down my dreams so that I could be motivated to work hard,” Irene says. “I wanted to help change the situation at home, so each day that I read the note, I was reminded of the promises I had made to myself.”
While in the seventh grade, her Child Champions helped Irene develop her leadership qualities. She was appointed to lead other kids at the Hope Center and was also appointed as a member of the Hope Center committee, where she would speak for the other sponsored kids.
‘A Calling Is Bigger Than a Career’
Irene continued leading at the Hope Center until she graduated from the program in 2019. After high school, Irene proceeded to college to pursue her desire to become a teacher.
Despite her passion for teaching, not everyone in her community supported her.
“I was happy to join college and pursue my dream,” Irene says. “Unfortunately, most people tried to discourage me from studying it because they deemed it as the least-paying career and wanted me to chase after something ‘bigger’.
“It was hard for most people to understand that a calling is bigger than a career. I didn’t know it then, but I now know that I stuck to it because it was a calling.”
Today, at 22, Irene is a qualified high school teacher and teaches at Jilore secondary school, where she attended high school.
She says most people wonder why she chose to teach at a school in her village.
“It is easier to succeed in life and lift yourself out of a hard place, but it is something else to succeed and go back to help lift others out of the hard place,” Irene says. “That is why I chose to teach at Jilore secondary school.”
She hopes that by teaching and assisting more kids in Jilore who face many challenges, they can look up to her as a role model and a testimony that their dreams are valid.
Bringing Light Into a Child’s Life
Irene says most kids in her community struggle with poverty and lack basic needs. Poverty has pushed many kids to drop out of school, and some turn to drug and substance abuse. Most of the kids also lack Child Champions to help them dream and hold their hands as they walk to achieve their dreams.
“As a teacher, I strive every day to help bring light to a child’s life, I help them identify their dreams, and I also help untap hidden potential in them, just like it was done to me while at the Hope Center,” Irene says.
When not in school teaching, Irene spends time volunteering at the Hope Center. She takes the time to talk to and encourage the youths in her community to dream bigger and pursue their goals in life.
Irene’s hope for every child in a hard place is that they can courageously follow their dreams.
“Your dreams are valid, and everything is possible, so put your mind to it and never stop pursuing it,” she says. “Believe in your dreams and let no distraction water it down because you are capable of so much.”
To the Child Champions who help kids achieve their dream, Irene says, “Words are powerful. I learned to speak positively from my Child Champions, and I am forever grateful to them. Thank you so much for the strong affirmations that you teach and speak into the life of kids in hard places. It goes a long way in helping them chase their dreams.”
Irene is also thankful for her sponsor, Tobias, for his financial support and the encouraging letters and prayers she received from him.
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