A Child Champion Courageously Lives Out Her God-Given Purpose

“Mama Ida” empowers kids in her Ugandan community to thrive. And at 85 years of age, she’s going stronger than ever.

BY ROBYN WILSON, CHILD CHAMPION, U.S.A. | PHOTOS BY DONNA ATOLA AND TY VAN RENSBURG


 

Ida has witnessed the difference it makes when children have champions to hold their hands, advocate for them, and encourage them to find their God-given purpose.

When one person offers a hand, can it rewrite a child’s future? What about one encouraging word? Or one powerful prayer?

Ida Wanendeya, lovingly known as “Mama Ida,” answers, “Yes!” Because at 85, she’s witnessed it time and time again — starting with her own life.

Growing up in a poverty-stricken community in eastern Uganda, Ida remembers how much her family struggled.

“I’ve seen what it means to be poor,” says Ida. “But I’ve also seen how lives can be changed if somebody holds your hand.”

When she was a child, Ida says most kids in her village didn’t have the chance to go to school. Many kids couldn’t afford school fees, while others had to work to support their families.

But Ida’s parents, who were teachers, made sure that she attended school. Her dad believed in education so strongly that he rode his bike through the village every evening encouraging parents to send their kids to school.

Each day, Ida walked 3 miles to attend the nearest elementary school. “If I was lucky, I’d get a bowl of porridge — that was my breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea,” she says.

Journey deeper into the hard places of Africa — watch this captivating video. Be sure to watch until the end because there’s hope on the other side.

A little girl raising her hand in a  classroom in Uganda

A child eager to learn at a school in Uganda

“I grew up in such difficult situations, but God always sent people to help me and hold my hand.”

One of her most memorable champions was her sixth-grade principal.

“He rode his bike 25 miles to my house,” says Ida. “He told my father that he saw great potential in me and that I needed to attend Gayaza High School — the best high school in the country at that time.”

Ida attended the high school, and after she graduated, she excelled in college. During those years, she realized that the difficulties she endured as a child helped prepare her for the future.

Children writing in notebooks in a classroom in Uganda

Students in a classroom in Uganda

“In university, I was a good athlete — nobody could win if Ida was in the race!” she says with a laugh. “When I used to walk 3 miles to school, I would complain. But that was God helping train my body.”

Sometimes the hard road is actually God working. Just open your eyes!”

Ida has witnessed the difference it makes when children have champions to hold their hands, advocate for them, and encourage them to find their God-given purpose.

You are a Child Champion, too! Join the Wall of Champions and inspire others to change lives with you.

Today, Ida is passionate about “holding the hands” of kids in Kisugu, an impoverished community in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. When Ida started working in ministry 20 years ago, her church, St. Stephen’s Kisugu, launched a vital program for children. Throughout the years, the church has established multiple schools to help children in the community receive an education. Today, St. Stephen’s Kisugu partners with OneChild to help more kids fulfill their God-given potential.

Ida loves inspiring kids with her story. Because throughout her childhood, she was blessed with caring Child Champions who believed in her, spoke truth into her life, and pointed her to God’s love.

I tell the children, ‘Don’t ever think that living in a slum will stop you. When God is with you, nothing can stop you from moving forward!’ I am a Child Champion because I believe each child is a God-given present to the world. Each child is brought into the world for a reason. And each one should have the opportunity to thrive and serve the Lord.”

Kanyogoga slums.

 

Ida gives all the glory to God for her church’s partnership with OneChild, which is helping even more kids receive the life-changing care that sponsorship provides like medical checkups, educational opportunities, crisis support, special family gifts, and encouragement from sponsors that gives kids the courage to dream.

“I get down on my knees and thank God,” Ida says. “This is close to my heart. I want to do whatever I can to ensure our partnership with OneChild prepares these children for the world.

“And because each community has different needs, I appreciate that OneChild looks at local needs and seeks ways to address them. My dreams are being fulfilled. God is answering our prayers!”

Another way Ida serves children in the program is by praying for each one fervently.

Looking for ways to pray for children in poverty around the world? Be inspired by a Child Champion’s prayer for kids in the Philippines in this powerful video!

“My prayer is that these kids understand that God wants to open ways for them to achieve their purpose,” she says. “I ask God to help them gain skills so they can serve Him. I pray that they will look back and ask, ‘How did I manage to get here? Is it because of what I’ve done?’ And they’ll say, ‘No! It’s because of what God has done.’”

Ida plans to spend the rest of her days bringing hope to kids in hard places.

“I firmly believe God put me on this earth for a reason,” she says. “And if I don’t use the resources that God gave me, I’m working against God. He brings each one of us into this world for a purpose.”

We all need to look into ourselves and ask what our purpose is,” says Ida. “Because if we’re living out our God-given purpose, lives will be changed!”

If you’d like to “hold the hand” of one more child, find a boy or girl who needs you today!

Child at St. Stephen’s Kisugu being registered using Bridgely

Sponsors helping kids at St. Stephen’s Kisugu are using a new app called Bridgely to connect with their sponsored children in exciting ways. Through this innovative platform, sponsors send messages, photos, and even videos to the Child Champions to translate and share with the kids. Bridgely is only available for a few church partners now, but we look forward to connecting all sponsors in the coming years!