My sponsorship beneficiary experience is one without which I would not be the Nelson people know today – thanks to the generosity of total strangers. Looking back, I cannot be more grateful for the life-changing opportunity I got through these sponsorship programmes that allowed me to reclaim my life and make something out of the destitute situation I found myself in as a child.Nelson Opany
Many children are born in very difficult circumstances where their families struggle to feed, clothe, house and educate them. For such children, hope for a better life is sometimes nonexistent and they feel condemned to poverty and despair.
Many years ago, this was the situation for my siblings and me. With our father retired from his welding and fabrication job in his mid-thirties on medical grounds, life became difficult. However, thanks to sponsorship programmes from the Rang’ala Family Helper Project run by the Kisumu Development Programme working with ChildFund Kenya and later at Starehe Boys Centre and School, my life was changed for good.
I lost my father at the age of 4 at a time when my mother was also ailing. She too sadly passed on two years later. My family got disintegrated, my siblings went to live with other relatives and so we never shared a childhood. Living in the village without any stable family source of income and an ailing parent made access to basic needs and education difficult. The fear of what would become of my life and that of my siblings was ever-present. Life was challenging without the presence, love and care of my parents.
The closest dream of what I wanted to become that I recall having as a child was to “work in a bank” as I imagined how much money was there that could help me get out of poverty. This dream however faded with time as I began to understand myself better and the things that brought me happiness. Due to my love for football, I at some point imagined myself as a professional footballer in Europe, but that was not to be. I also tried to join the military at least six times but that never worked out too. It was until my late twenties that I discovered my passion for communications that my heart rested on what I genuinely felt I loved and enjoyed doing.
My greatest obstacle to finding a dream I could keep was the lack of parental guidance. I didn’t have an adult role model to walk with and help me find my path in life. The fragmented family situation that brought with it the lack of a secure family environment also contributed in a big way to the delay in my finding and nurturing my dream.
Were it not for the chance I received to join school through the Rang’ala Family Helper Project, I honestly do not know how my life would have turned out. They gave me the chance that opened up my life to an entirely new future I never imagined. They put into Nursery School at the Rang’ala Baby Home while supporting my ailing mother back at home with food, and some money from my sponsor.
When I was ready for primary school, they helped secure for me a Standard one place at the prestigious Starehe Boys’ Center and School in Nairobi where for 12 years I completed my primary and secondary school education without having to pay a single cent as school fees. All these thanks to the sponsorship I received from the school. While in school my aunt who was taking care of me after the death of my mother a year after I joined primary school continued to receive financial and material support through my ChildFund sponsor back at home.
At Starehe, I got more than I could ever have imagined in my wildest dreams. From quality education to character development and unmatched opportunities to position me for a better life. It is while at Starehe that I discovered my strengths and passions, and this completely changed my life forever. To say I enjoyed my time at the school would be an understatement.
I recall writing many letters to my sponsors and receiving replies from them and their families. The ones I looked forward to the most were the Christmas cards that they would send together with pictures of their children playing in the snow. They made me feel like one of their sons who was living abroad. One Christmas I received some pocket money that my mother used to buy two sheep for me to rear. By the time I finished high school I had a herd of six cows from the two sheep. The most surprising thing is that some of these people were not very wealthy but sacrificed the little they had just to ensure a boy like me got a second chance at life.
These interactions fascinated me and gave me a desire to travel overseas to experience a different lifestyle from what I was used to. I thank God, that I have managed to so far visit at least 24 countries around the world. Looking back, I cannot be more grateful for the lifechanging opportunity I got through these sponsorship programmes that allowed me to reclaim my life and make something out of the destitute situation I found myself in as a child.
An ideal sponsorship programme, just like the ones I was privileged to benefit from at Rang’ala and Starehe, is one that provides an opportunity and guidance for a needy child to dream, learn, pursue and achieve their life ambitions while also helping to cater for the most immediate and pressing basic needs of shelter, food, clothing and medical care. It is also important that the program helps to restore hope and inspire the child through mentorship to rising above their present circumstances to achieve greatness for themselves, their family and community. A programme that teaches them as well that when they become successful, they too should help others enjoy the same advantages they did.
My sponsorship beneficiary experience is one without which I would not be the Nelson people know today – thanks to the generosity of total strangers. The next time you complain of bad food, old clothes or a leaking roof, remember someone somewhere doesn’t even have anything to eat, wear or a place to sleep. Instead of grumbling over what you have, be grateful and spare some of what you have for the less fortunate. It is in giving that we receive. May you be a cheerful giver!