My name is Peninah Esianoi Pashile. I was a sponsored child at Imaroro Child Develoment Center in Kenya. I would like to share my story with you and hope that it will be an inspiration and encouragement to all who are dedicating their time and resources to releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Your work is not in vain; your acts of compassion are changing the world day by day.

I was born in 1982, the fifth of seven children in the household. I was born and brought up in a remote village of Empuyiankat in Kajiado district, Rift Valley province in Kenya.

My father is a polygamist, married to three wives with 24 children. My father and his wives have no formal education.

As a girl in the highly patriarchal Maasai community, my chances of attaining an education were dim. Girls in my community are raised to be submissive and dependent upon men all their lives.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriages of 13-year-old girls to men decades older than them characterize the lives of 99 percent of Maasai girls. A gender-oppressive culture, few and understaffed education facilities, and long treks from home to school and back across the vast savanna plains full of wild animals are some of the challenges girls in my community endure to access education.

I started school at the age of 6 at Imaroro Primary School. My enrollment to school and the Compassion program was the defining event of my life.

The only reason I was chosen was because my mother had five girls and two boys, and at the time of our registration, my elder brother was too old and the other was too young to enroll. This left my parents with no choice but to take me to fill the one slot given to my mother’s household.

Compassion introduced me to Christianity, and enforced compulsory Saturday and Sunday Bible classes. The Maasai tribe is known worldwide for maintaining their culture and traditional way of life as well as resisting modern and western life, including Christianity.

I wonder what would have become of me if I was not enrolled in Compassion and now leading a Christian life? But I find clear answers in the lives of my former playmates in the village.

Like them, I would have spent my weekends not attending Bible classes but singing and dancing to morans (Maasai warriors) at the village as required by culture. I would have spent my evenings not doing homework or preparing for the next day at school, but making beaded jewelry for self-decoration.

Other than Bible education and other support offered by Compassion, correspondence with my sponsors was the major source of inspiration to me. Their love and commitment inspired me to excel in education and to pursue a career in social work.

I prayed to God to one day meet my sponsors in person. Now that I am in the United States, I will be meeting them in the near future, God willing.

At the age of 13, immediately after primary school, I almost lost the chance of furthering my education. The Maasai culture demands that girls at that age be circumcised and married off to much older men.

So many of my sisters went through this horrifying experience, and I was not going to be an exception. Having done well in my primary-level national examination, and with a strong passion for education, I talked to my mother and a Compassion social worker.

I told them I did not wish to go through FGM and that I wanted to continue with school rather than get married. The Compassion social worker sent help from a women’s group fighting against FGM and early child marriages in the district, who talked to my father and got me admission to Moi Girls Isinya, a boarding high school offering refuge to many Maasai girls.

Compassion International and the women’s group financed my education at this school. This move opened the doors to my future.

I enrolled in university in 2001 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work. My dream is to bring about lasting change and advocate for the voiceless girls and women in my own Maasai community.

Today I live in the USA in the state of Maryland and am in the process of applying to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in public health.

Those of us who owe our success to the good deeds of Compassion always say a prayer asking God to bless the hearts of all those behind this ministry. There are challenges and times when expected results are not forthcoming, especially in terms of unmet numbers and statistics. However, lives are being changed.

  • 25 Comments
  • Print This Post Print This Post
  • Add a Comment

25 Comments Add a Comment
  1. jennifer
    Nov 5, 2009
    at 8:31 am

    Thank you for sharing this amazing story. It’s hard to comprehend that these practices are still going on in the world.

  2. Nov 5, 2009
    at 8:44 am

    What an amazing story! Not only does Compassion free children form poverty, in Christ’s name, but in this case, from a horrifying cultural practice.

    Inspiring story.

  3. Nov 5, 2009
    at 8:52 am

    Stories like these are so encouraging and inspiring. Thank you, Peninah, for sharing!

  4. Nov 5, 2009
    at 9:22 am

    There’s just nothing that can match a first-person testimony. Peninah, thank you so much for sharing yours. Thank you for describing the contrast between your experience and that of your sisters and most girls in your community. I felt chilled, reading what they went through, what others are still going through. Thank God for providing a way for you and for some of the others!

  5. Nov 5, 2009
    at 10:08 am

    Thank you so much for sharing! It’s amazing to hear the work of Compassion.

  6. Nov 5, 2009
    at 11:01 am

    Thank you for sharing. This story was inspiring and so encouraging to see and read. Those that choose to sponsor a child should be encouraged that God truly is at work and that lives are being changed. Thank you for your story Peninah.

  7. Julie
    Nov 5, 2009
    at 1:52 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is so amazing to hear. May the Lord use you “to bring about lasting change and advocate for the voiceless girls and women in my own Maasai community.” Peninah, I pray for the Lord to really use you in this way!

  8. Mark Stillman
    Nov 5, 2009
    at 9:51 pm

    What a tremendous testimony! Thank you for sharing, and God’s blessings to you in all you do!

  9. Nov 5, 2009
    at 9:53 pm

    Peninah – thank you so much for sharing your story. We just returned one week ago from a month long trip to East Africa and the pictures of Maasai people are very fresh in our minds. We talked to several young men and heard their stories but had no opportunities to speak to women. You are the voice of women we longed to hear. I know God put your story in our sight today for a purpose. I pray that your studies will prepare you for the work God has waiting for you. God bless you and keep you!

  10. Amy Wallace
    Nov 7, 2009
    at 9:18 pm

    This is so encouraging to me as a sponsor, to know that I am making a difference in the lives of my sponsored children. I’ll keep you in my prayers, Peninah, as you work to be the voice for the women and girls in your community!

  11. Michelle
    Nov 8, 2009
    at 9:08 am

    Peninah – Your story opened my eyes. I’m so happy that Compassion has been a part of your life. May you be a voice for Maasai women and hopefully save many others…. God bless you and your dream! :o)

  12. Stephanie Green
    Nov 8, 2009
    at 4:10 pm

    Peninah,

    I live nearby in Virginia and your story is an inspiration. I wish you all the best in graduate school. May God bless your efforts and may they bring lasting change to the lives of girls in your Maasai community!

  13. Barbara M.
    Nov 9, 2009
    at 2:32 pm

    Peninah, Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I am curious. I sponsor a Maasai boy and am wondering how he views the female gender. Do the old traditions still have quite a hold on the Maasai? How will this young man view women, I wonder? Do the children attend the projects and become involved in all that is offered and yet still hold to tradition? I understand each child would be different, of course, but in general. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this.

  14. Kristin
    Nov 9, 2009
    at 3:17 pm

    thank you so much for sharing your story!
    God works in INCREDIBLE ways!
    praying that God continues to bless you in amazing ways on your journey, Peninah!

  15. Peninah
    Nov 10, 2009
    at 4:12 pm

    Thank you all, I am glad that my story is inspiring many of you to continue the good work of reaching out to the children in need. it is a noble thing to do to humanity and to the kingdom of our Lord. Am encouraged.
    To Barbara M, the culture is slowly wearing away and the men and young boys are beginning to appreciate women more especially when they go to school and with support of projects like Compassion. you can write me an email then we discuss this more.

  16. Barbara M.
    Nov 11, 2009
    at 10:35 am

    Peninah, Thank you for your comment. I would love to send you an e-mail. How would I go about doing that?

  17. Peninah
    Nov 11, 2009
    at 6:25 pm

    Barbara M, my email is esianoi@yahoo.com

  18. Oliver James Crisson
    Nov 18, 2009
    at 10:17 am

    thank you so much to be willing to share this story.it really is inspiring to drive others to help and encouraging to continue giving.i havent gotten a letter back from my little girl so i was getting a little [actually quite] discouraged.thank you so much

  19. Keith Halliday
    Jan 6, 2010
    at 10:56 pm

    Truly inspiring! I think this would have been very difficult to go against family and Maasai traditions. What an inspiration to me and other sponsors. Hopefully,girls in your family and community will get the same opportunity in the future based on your success.

  20. Mar 6, 2010
    at 8:07 pm

    What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing it! I cannot wait to see what God does with our sponsored children!

  21. Iva
    Mar 7, 2010
    at 5:08 am

    Hello Peninah,

    Your story shows such great courage. I applaud you for standing up for what you believe in and grabbing the opportunities that God gave you.

    I am not a US citizen. I have lived in many countries throughout the world, and I constantly hear people ‘missing the old days’, and complaining about the globalization of the world and how every great culture has lost or is losing itself.

    Yet your story shows that there is a great cost to rigidly maintaining a culture. From what I gather from your story, the Maasai girls do not have a voice.

    Would you dream to ‘save’ more girls from the Maasai traditions, or to start a change from within the tribe? It is a very difficult subject, I appreciate that, but I would love to hear you on it.

    I currently have a semi-adopted (long story) Zulu cousin in South Africa who is trying to avoid going through the circumcision ritual, and he is receiving lots of conflicting advice because if he doesn’t do it, then he will we rejected by his tribe. Did you feel this rejection?

  22. M.Stolz
    Mar 7, 2010
    at 10:20 am

    Goodness this brake my heart…
    Dear Peninah, I´m so glad you could use your education to miss out on FGM, it´s horrible to read that 99% of the girls still have to go through…and feel scared for our spnsored child, now only 8… I come from South Africa and know al too well how strong Kulture pull in Africa…those things Europeans/Americans may never be able to understand. I pray for God´s wisdom to lead you … and I pray for a little girl as onld as my oldest child, may Jesus touch her heart and also send the right people in her village so she won´t have to miss out on all the other things that life have to ofer…other than beeing Married to a man your fathers age!

  23. Juliana kasura
    Apr 4, 2010
    at 12:59 am

    Nakerai,
    thanks so much for sharing your story. I wish u did this when we met in eldoret as interns (worlvision) It is true compassion has realy transforemed many. I worked as director in one cdc in the interiour parts of maasai land, and i tell you it is in that organization that I got closer to God and my love to work among children in poverty increased day by day. in my past working areas, i was always experiencing “workers development” but in compassion it was “children development” Gog bless compassion

  24. alicia
    Jul 13, 2010
    at 2:59 pm

    I have a master of public health!! I pray that all goes well and you can work to help change others’ lives. It’s good to know that our sponsorship is not in vain.

  25. Laurel
    Dec 10, 2010
    at 10:57 am

    Sian, your story is so amazing! I just happened upon this in looking for you on facebook! I wish we had had a chance to share and hear eachothers stories like yours in the OLC class. Your experiences will take you so far and allow you to really reach out to those in need in a way only shared understanding can. I hope to learn much more from you during our studies together and work together in the fight for a better world for all in the future!
    With much inspiration and love, Laurel

© 2008-2014 Compassion International. All Rights Reserved.
ECFA Charity Navigator BBB