Tag Archive: sponsor a child

A Kenya childhood: Growing up without clean water

By Samuel Irungu

Today, Sam Irungu works as a software engineer for World Vision USA. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren)

Growing up in rural Kenya, Sam Irungu knew the daily struggle of collecting dirty water from the early age of 5. Today, he works as a software engineer for World Vision!

He attributes this change to God: an answer to his mother’s prayer to redeem the life of God’s children for a better tomorrow. Hear about his journey!

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When you see children healthy: Love them, respect the greatness that lies within them, and wish them well. This is because you never know where they will land.

This is a true testament of my life’s journey that leaves even me wondering how on earth this came to be. But I call to mind that God has a plan for me — a plan for a better tomorrow that my mother used to pray for.

I grew up in Lower Subukia, a remote rural village in Kenya’s Rift Valley, brought up in an area that receives scarce rainfall because it is located on the leeward side of Mt. Kenya. Drought and famine frequently hit the locals of this land.

Traditionally, it is the responsibility of women and children to fetch water. Children from as early an age of 4 to 5 are trained using small containers on how to fetch and carry water. They would accompany adults in this noble mission. Fetching water is done early in the morning or late in the evening so that whoever is fetching the water is protected from the scorching sun. They can then have the remainder of the day to either till land or run other chores like cooking for the family, fetching firewood, or even looking after domestic animals such as goats, sheep, and cows.

Fetching water is a daily activity that would overly consume time depending on the water point. During dry spells, we would on some occasions go five miles one way. This would definitely take half of your day. By the time we were back home, our bodies were exhausted to engage in any other activity or house chores.

Growing up with my five siblings, we would — in turns during lunch time or evenings — go to the river with our animals so they could drink from these water points. My mum would ask me to carry water containers so we could bring some on our way back as a means to multi-task.

Returning to his previous home in Kenya in 2014, Sam draws water from a water well. (©2014 photo courtesy of Sam Irungu)

There were two ways in which we would carry water. The most common was where we would tie a rope to hang the 20-liter (5.28-gallon) containers on our back where the rope would go over our head. Or we would use commercial or homemade wheel barrows where we could push two or three 20-liter containers. This seemed an efficient method preferred by boys and men since it required enough energy to push the wheelbarrow uphill. Girls and women shied from this method and opted for the former.

However, the carrying water from the back or head had its own short comings. Girls and women often complained of backaches and headaches. I recall my sisters and I having impression marks on our forehead due to this daily repeated activity. This also would trigger migraines if we would place heavy water-loaded containers over our head. The method is dirty because of mud at the fetching point or dust as we walked home carrying them.

I remember growing up and being cautioned not to drown while drawing water. Bathing at the river, which is a health hazard, was the order of the day, or even washing clothes by the riverside.

I remember very well how many families had Saturdays dedicated as a day to wash personal clothes, especially school uniforms. It was the standard, especially for kids, to have a full body bath only once a week. Twice was uncommon or done by few adults who maybe had to work in offices. Washing the feet, head, and hands before going to sleep was a daily routine in many families. This was for two obvious reasons: to not soil beddings when going to sleep and also to prepare for school in the morning.

©2014 photo courtesy of Sam Irungu

My family was living this way when humanitarian organizations including World Vision started projects to find alternative ways of supplying water. They were funding boreholes and drilling wells or building water reservoirs from high mountain elevation points. This also involved laying out pipeline infrastructure to close water points for human and animal consumption.

Since some classrooms were not cemented and the elementary school had tree seedlings that needed to be watered, it was mandatory for all grade three classes to bring to school at least 3 liters of water to water school plants or to sprinkle in the dusty classrooms after sweeping. This was intended to mitigate jigger infection (a type of parasitic sand flea).

Taking water to school alongside your books was cumbersome. Any student who failed to oblige would be sent back home to bring double the amount. This was considered a violation of the rules.

I am forever thankful that through well-wishers and international organizations like World Vision, today boreholes and wells have been drilled near our neighborhood that reduced the amount of time we would spend in a day to get just 80 liters (21.13 gallons) of water for our households.

I grew up believing that this was the way of life. But after getting the opportunity to travel to the city when I was 10, I had a different experience and yearned for a better life than the one I had lived in the hot valley of Lower Subukia. My home was dusty and the scorching sun took a toll on our water resources.

Tragedy hit when I lost my mum and dad in my teenage years of 13 and 14, respectively, due to poor living conditions. This brought another variable into a hard livelihood equation that in some ways made me realize that for us to survive as a family, we needed a change of life. My older brothers sought employment in the cities. My sister dropped out of school to find a job in Nairobi. With the help of generous donors — the angels sent my way by God — I was able to go to boarding school.

When I took my final high school national exam, I earned an average grade of B+. So I qualified to join Maseno University, one of the major public universities in Kenya.

All my life, I dreamt that one day I would become a software engineer. I ended up majoring in education science, focusing on mathematics and computers, but never gave up on my dreams.

Using government funding through loans, I was able to meet my education expenses until I graduated with a bachelor’s in education science. After I graduated, I did two years as a high school computer teacher in Kenya, then headed out for further studies abroad at Eastern Oregon University.

Of course the rest is history after I landed here. My heart to give back and help others in the community I grew up in has been a very personal goal I am passionate about. This has contributed to why I am here at World Vision. The projects being undertaken to reach out to some of these communities are very personal to me.

Sam pumps water from the new kind of well that World Vision installs in communities after drilling for water. (©2014 photo courtesy of Sam Irungu)

On my recent trip back to Kenya, I witnessed a sustainable project by World Vision still being undertaken in my home area. Piped water and a reservoir have been mounted in major water points for clean water consumption by humans and animals. This has reshaped and redefined the way of life for communities.

I am always thrilled to see how lives can be turned. Without a decent way of living, no clean water, no education, or sustainable employment, my life was on a downhill path alongside my siblings’ and the fellow neighbors I grew up with.

I can only attribute this change to God above, having answered my mother’s prayer to redeem the life of his children for a better tomorrow. This is exactly what happened. Working here at World Vision is a true testament of the fervent prayers of an upright woman who had a strong faith of seeing and making a better tomorrow.

To God I give all the glory and honor he is due. He has proved faithful.

Support people like Sam, where World Vision focuses in long term sustainability of the community which elevates them from poverty. You can help turn a child’s life better and filled with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to World Vision’s Clean Water Fund today!

Perseverance Is Her Story

By Michael Czobit | Photography by Michelle Siu

Yui near her home in Jatujak.

A soon-to-be formerly sponsored child in Thailand earns a degree despite family illnesses

Yui’s university classes started at 8 in the morning and ended at 4 in the afternoon. Work started at 6. Sometimes, her shift would be just a few hours. Other times, Yui would be at the 7-Eleven until 2 a.m. Then in the morning, back to class. Depending on the day, she’d also make the time to take her grandmother to the hospital for hemodialysis, which was needed three times a week. “I was very tired,” Yui says. “I felt discouraged, depressed, stressed. But I didn’t lose hope.”

It’s February 2015, and I’m sitting at her home in the Jatujak community in Bangkok. Yui, 21, is actually a nickname. Her first name is Pairin. She tells me how she had found ways to cope. She’d read manga (Japanese comics), talk to friends and listen to rock music. “I am happy that you are here today,” she says. “I am glad that I can tell you my story, because telling you my story also encourages me. Telling you about my hardships, my pain, is relieving.”

She no longer works at the convenience store, and a few months earlier she finished her degree in finance and banking studies. Her reaction to earning her degree is understated. “Life as usual,” she says. But don’t be mistaken: Yui was happy. I could understand her anticlimactic reaction—she had worked so hard and still, there was more to do—but I disagreed with her assessment.

Yui had recently passed on a job at a bank and was now waiting to hear back about another in the finance department at a Thai brewery. She was hopeful about her prospects. Why she wanted one job over the other came down to two factors: location and hours, both favourable at the brewery, which would allow her to continue to care for her 70-year-old grandmother, Ampai.

Yui’s parents separated when she was born and she has lived with her grandmother ever since. Yui’s uncle, his partner and his daughter also live at the home. But caring for Ampai, who has struggled with several illnesses, including diabetes and failing kidneys, has mostly been Yui’s responsibility. Thankfully, her uncle has a job that covers the majority of Ampai’s medical expenses.

My own grandma had hemodialysis when I was young. My family took care of her; although it was a group effort, my mom did the majority of the care. The countless appointments and worries can be overwhelming. I always admired my mom at how she carried on during those years, and I knew that what Yui had managed, caring for her grandmother while attending university and keeping a job, required extraordinary effort. But I had no doubt about her strong feelings for Ampai. “I love my grandmother very much,” she says. “I don’t want to leave her by herself.”

While Yui grew up, Ampai was the family’s breadwinner. Yui’s grandfather died soon after she was born, and to support her, Ampai worked as a street sweeper. So yes, hard work runs in the family.

Yui and her grandmother at their home.

Also while growing up, Yui became sponsored by a Canadian through World Vision’s sponsorship project in Jatujak. Before her granddaughter’s sponsorship began in March 2006, when Yui was in Grade 7, Ampai wasn’t earning enough to buy Yui’s school supplies, uniforms and books. That changed, and in more ways than just materially speaking: Yui learned. She participated in educational field trips and day camps. She took part in leadership and health workshops, including one about HIV and AIDS that, too, changed her life.

It is never easy to speak with someone about health issues, and when I share personal information about someone or her family, I always ask for permission, which Yui gave me. In 2009, Yui’s father, Ampai’s son, learned he was HIV-positive. This news scared Yui. Her knowledge about the disease was limited and her father’s status strained their relationship. Two years later, in her first year of university, Yui attended an HIV and AIDS workshop held by World Vision. It was a revelation. “When I received the training, I learned how to live normally with my father, how to spend time together,” she says. Her fear went away and their relationship improved. She says she is now close with her father and that their bond has been renewed. (World Vision has also supported Yui’s father with medical assistance.)

In all her time as a sponsored child, Yui stayed committed to her education. She desires a job so she can support her grandmother, and she dreams of paying off a school loan and buying a home that sits on non-government-owned land. Through her sponsorship, which lasted into her first year of university, Yui, participated in a bachelor’s degree project that paid for her books, uniforms and some home expenses. “I want to thank the sponsor for giving me an education,” she tells me. But I know that as much as she has received, Yui has already matched, and in many ways surpassed, it in her own efforts.

In her last years of schooling before university, Yui had taken a vocational course in accounting where she learned about the stock market, which sparked her desire to earn a banking degree. Just as she has never invested in the stock market looking for a quick buck, she earned her success with perseverance. Not easy to accomplish, and impossible not to admire.

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2016 issue of Childview Chinese-English edition.

Support children like Yui, who deserves the opportunity to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and filled with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to World Vision’s Education Fund today!

Jhumri Biswal is a beauty with a vision for the disabled

By Impuri Ngayawon Shimray and the Media team, World Vision India

She is a finalist of the Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired, 2017

Out of 46 contestants from all over India, Jhumri Biswal, age 20 from Bhubaneswar, is one the 12 shortlisted finalists for the first ever Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired to be held at Mumbai in January 2017 by the National Association for the Blind (NAB).

At the tender age of eight Jhumri was hit by a truck and sustained a head injury. The blow to the head lead to a breakage of an optical nerve and after a few days, Jhumri lost all sight. Once home, Jhumri was taken out of school, because she was “blind.” Jhumri was happy in the beginning because she could miss the drudgery of school, but soon realised that her class mates were moving on and were learning and experiencing new things. Blindness restricted her mobility and that affected her playtime, going out, hanging out with friends, and having fun. Sadness and depression started setting in and the feeling of being left out and always being dependent on others ate into her. Jhumri’s parents understood this and felt helpless.

She believes this contest will give her a platform to share her story and show others that disabilities need not be limiting.

A local health worker suggested Jhumri join the local school that taught blind children through Braille. This was a life-changing experience for Jhumri, because it gave her a channel to learn new things and grow. She continued to learn through the tactile writing system for two years, after which she returned to regular school to continue her education. Braille books were available for students till grade seven. But after that, she had to depend on an audio recorder and a Braille typewriter that she received from World Vision’s outreach program. Her sister would read the chapters from the book and Jhumri would make notes on the Braille typewriter. Her speed at typing also grew in these years.

With her interest in knowledge and the zest to learn more, Jhumri was motivated to participate in community activities, especially on the issues of rights of special children. She participated in World Vision India’s “Our Voice Assembly,” a platform for children with disabilities to come together to talk about the issues they face, learn their rights and entitlements, identify challenges; and advocate for themselves. Jhumri was part of many consultations of children with disability at the state as well as national level, where they came up with recommendation, which were then sent to various political leaders. Jhumri is one of 2300 children with disabilities that are part of “Our Voice Assemblies” across 18 states in India.

Jhumri was later chosen to represent the voices of children with disability at the World Vision Triennial Council in Tanzania. In Tanzania, she highlighted the apathy of the current educational system towards disability—about 99% of children with disability don’t go to school because of lack of study material, disabled-friendly spaces and trained teachers.

But these barriers did not stop Jhumri from continuing her education. She is pursuing her graduation (3rd year) at Ravenshaw University in Cuttack. In early 2016, she heard of the first ever Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired organised by the National Association for the Blind (NAB) and wanted to participate. She believes this contest will give her a platform to share her story and show others that disabilities need not be limiting.

Jhumri is looking forward to the finals in January 2017 and while she may win or not win, she is already a winner with a vision!

This article by World Vision India originally appeared in the Huffington Post under the following:

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/world-vision-india/jhumri-biswal-is-a-beauty-with-a-vision-for-the-disabled/?utm_hp_ref=in-

Support children like Jhumri, who deserves the opportunity to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and filled with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to World Vision’s Education Fund today!