Unlocking Potential

By Donna Atola, Kenya Field Content Specialist, with Robyn Wilson   |  Photos by Donna Atola

A Child Champion overcomes educational barriers to advocate for and equip kids in Kenya.

OneChild celebrates Child Champions who faithfully work in our Hope Centers across the globe. The ministry works in some of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world. OneChild is committed to bringing children hope in the hardest places on earth — no matter how remote or difficult. Courageous Child Champions in the field make this a reality.

Here’s the inspirational story of Emmanuel Mangaro — an incredible Child Champion in Kenya — who is helping young people break the cycle of poverty and thrive …

Even as a young child, Emmanuel had one dream in life — to become a teacher. He knew what it was like to grow up without a Child Champion to guide him, mentor him, and encourage him. So, he was determined to become a teacher and Child Champion to help kids in his village reach their full potential.

But Emmanuel wondered if his dream would ever come true.

Like many families in Sosobora, a remote village in Malindi, Kenya, Emmanuel’s family couldn’t afford tuition, so he was not able to pursue a teaching degree. Most people in the area survive on less than $2 a day, which they earn from humble jobs like selling charcoal or groceries or small-scale vegetable farming. The little money earned is usually used to purchase food and drinking water. There is little left over for school fees.

“I am not scholarly because I never furthered my studies beyond high school,” explains Emmanuel. “Despite thirsting to further my studies, I lacked the money for school fees. This hindered me from joining an educational institution.”

But despite the hardships Emmanuel faced, he never stopped trying to better himself. And he refused to let poverty define him.

The Journey to Becoming a Child Champion

Since Emmanuel couldn’t afford higher education, he decided to tap into his creativity. He enrolled himself in inexpensive courses to learn informal skills like farming, carpentry, and brick making. He also joined a savings group, which are usually made up of 15-25 people who save money together and take out small loans from those savings to improve their lives. Emmanuel also travelled to the town of Malindi with other group members to attend vocational training. During workshops, he learned how to make liquid soap. He also attended financial discipline classes.

Emmanuel was able to master all the skills quickly and implement them creatively. He believes this success was God’s revelation of his gifts.

“After missing the chance of becoming a teacher, I decided to trust God and do everything humanly possible in order to be a role model in our society,” Emmanuel explains. “I knew that, in order for the children to look up to me for mentorship, I had to be extraordinary!”

Having identified his gifts, Emmanuel’s dream of helping children was stronger than ever. But he still lacked the platform to do so.

“I wondered how I would unite the children in my village and teach them the skills I had acquired because most had dropped out of school and never attended church,” says Emmanuel. “Little did I know what God had in store!”

The Opportunity to Change Lives

Emmanuel’s dream of serving children became a reality when OneChild set foot in his village and partnered with his local church.

“When the announcement was made in church that OneChild was opening a Hope Center in my village, I thought it must be a God-send!” says Emmanuel. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve and mentor children.”

Before OneChild partnered with the church, Emmanuel recalls that children in Sosobora not only lacked hope — they barely had enough to survive. The living conditions in the impoverished community were extremely difficult. Most families could barely afford two meals a day. They didn’t even have electricity or decent clothes.

As Emmanuel helps kids learn valuable vocational skills like making pillows from banana plant stems and old cloths, they will have the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and flourish.

Most children lost the passion to complete their studies and dropped out of school at grade three. This led to child exploitation and labor since most children between ages 15 and 17 ran away to Malindi to look for casual jobs which only paid about $3 a day. Some kids were so discouraged that they turned to violence and substance abuse.

“The norm then was that kids wanted to be like their parents, and most judged success by what their parents had achieved,” says Emmanuel. “If someone saw their parents or a neighbor doing all right, yet they had dropped out of school, the children would give up on their education, too.”

Emmanuel explains that most kids in his village hardly had any role models growing up. Those who dared to dream gave up due to the hardships they endured. All of this, says Emmanuel, was caused by a lack of hope and Child Champions in his community.

“I quickly volunteered to join the team at the Hope Center because apart from seeing my dream come true, there was an urgent need to guide these kids,” says Emmanuel. “I want to help children in my village realize their God-given potential and hold their hands as they journey towards achieving their dreams!”

Emmanuel says that opening the Hope Center in his village has helped shape the society. With the assurance of food, clothes, healthcare, and clean water, children are excited to go to the Hope Center and improve their lives.

“Children love to come to the Hope Center because of the meals offered,” says Emmanuel. “They also get to meet their friends and play games, and they have spiritual lessons that they enjoy so much.”

Families have witnessed the positive changes that have occurred over time since their kids have been registered with OneChild. Because of these changes, many parents and children are now attending the local church. According to Emmanuel, the community is so grateful for the Hope Center that the number of congregants at the church has doubled since 2008. Now, families see the Hope Center and local church as a light in the darkness.

An Innovative Mentor and Child Champion

Today, at 42, Emmanuel is so respected in the community that he has been elected to be the chairman of the committee that manages the Hope Center. He also spends most of his time as a volunteer, equipping young people with valuable skills.

One unique way that Emmanuel has helped kids in his village break the cycle of poverty is by starting an agriculture club, which 13 young people from the Hope Center attend. First, the group started by farming tomatoes, okra, and Irish potatoes. Through this activity, the students learned about agriculture, and the crops were used to prepare meals for children at the Hope Center.

 

“I want to help children in my village realize their God-given potential and hold their hands as they journey towards achieving their dreams!”

 

However, the next planting season brought serious challenges. The weather was not favorable, and the vegetables did not do well — most dried up before they matured, which left the students discouraged.

Despite the setback, Emmanuel never gave up. “We human beings are special creatures — God gave us the ability to find solutions!” he says. Emmanuel quickly invited the students to a meeting. Together, they created a plan. “It is very important to listen to the children’s voices,” Emmanuel explains. “It gives them confidence to know that their Child Champions listen to them and that their opinions count. This has improved our relationships with children at the Hope Center. They are now confident voicing their opinions.”

Together, the group decided to try banana and watermelon farming, which suits the tropical climate in Malindi. The boys in the group, who were 14-15 years old, were excited to try this new activity because they loved farming.

However, Emmanuel discovered that the girls, who were 10-12 years old, did not enjoying farming. They found it to be very tiring, which left them discouraged.

So, Emmanuel remained flexible and worked with the girls to find income-generating activities that they would enjoy. He decided to teach them how to make liquid soap, which they could sell and earn a profit. He also helped organize liquid soapmaking classes for seven Hope Centers across Malindi. This activity also provided much-needed soap for the Hope Centers so children and staff could wash their hands and stay healthy.

Emmanuel also taught the students how to make lipstick. To make the lipstick, they used food coloring, petroleum jelly, and coconut oil. The cost to produce six lipsticks totaled $1.65, but the lipsticks can be sold for $12. Students can use the profits to help their families, who live in poverty, make ends meet.

Another innovative idea that Emmanuel came up with was to teach students how to make bed pillows. The group collected parts of the banana plant stem from the banana plantation at the Hope Center farm and dried them. Then they sewed linens, taken from old pieces of cloth, before stuffing the linens with the dried fiber. The stuffed linens were then placed inside soft gunny sacks and sewn up.

“The beauty of all these income-generating activities is that all the ingredients used to make these items are easily accessible,” explains Emmanuel. “I also chose to teach the children simple ways of making these items because I wanted to capture their attention. The goal is to ensure that they master these skills, which will help them earn a living in the future.”

As a Child Champion, Emmanuel is also teaching students the importance of saving money. “Now that they have learned the skills — and we anticipate that the skills will help them earn a living — it is not wise to spend all the money,” says Emmanuel. “It is important to save money so I thought, ‘Why not talk to them about financial discipline?’” Emmanuel even helped the students open a savings account with members of the church as cosigners. Because of Emmanuel’s dedication, students in the village of Sosobora now have hope and are eager to fulfill God’s plans for their lives!

It’s also exciting that last year Emmanuel was recognized by the Malindi cluster as the most innovative Child Champion in the area for his creative ideas.

Emmanuel says that God, through OneChild, gave him a chance to better his community and by serving children, he has become more knowledgeable. “I learn from the kids at the Hope Center because apart from them being interesting, they are so knowledgeable!” says Emmanuel. “They are a source of blessing. I have received grace by serving children. My family has found favor and flourished in ways I can’t explain. I can attest to the many positive changes that have occurred since OneChild set foot here!”

A Message to Sponsors: You Are Child Champions

Emmanuel also wants to send OneChild sponsors a special message of gratitude for all that they do and remind them that they are amazing Child Champions too. “My life is fulfilled and at peace knowing that through OneChild sponsors, I have been able to touch the lives of children in my village,” he says. “To all sponsors, thank you for selflessly sponsoring children in need! You are changing your child’s life. May God bless you!”

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