Nineteen-year-old Andrew grew up knowing many sorrows. Neither of his parents were there for him. He saw his father beat and throw insults at his mother in a drunken stupor. He watched his mother withdraw and disappear from their home for days on end, leaving him and his younger sister Rose on their own.
“Sometimes both Dad and Mom would go away and leave us alone, so we would go to the street to beg friends for food. After getting food we would go to our grandparents’ home. But when Dad didn’t find us home, he’d beat Mom and demand for us so she always took us back.”
Going home was the most painful thing for Andrew and Rose. They hated the violence. Andrew soon got fed up and went to live with his grandparents. But Rose stayed at home.
They believed that their mother often went to work in distant places, but the children learned that she was having an affair.
In 1997, Andrew’s father died of AIDS. His mother had just given birth to a baby girl who was HIV-positive, but his mother was not aware of because she did not know that she was HIV-positive. The family was living in a rented house at the time and hardly had money for survival.
Andrew’s mom earned very little from selling secondhand clothes. His father had been a mechanic who had spent most of his hard-earned money in bars.
A ray of hope shined on them a year later when the church near their home began a partnership with Compassion. Luckily for Andrew, his mother took him to the church and he was registered. This changed his life.
He learned that God had a big plan for his life and many other life-changing lessons. For example, he used to bathe once a week until he learned the importance of bathing. The center staff also gave him soap and vaseline, which he never had at home.
More importantly, they gave him love and helped him see his potential. The center staff helped him discover and develop his talent in art. Their influence paid off, and today Andrew has a small business making and selling sculptures.
“The child development center has helped me to have a positive attitude towards work. I didn’t only study fine art but also learned to use it to get income. For example, during holidays, I make artistic designs on wood. I started this business in 2007 when we had little income at home.”
One sculpture goes for about $1.30. Andrew also learned how to use a computer and as such earns income typing work for university students.
Since Andrew’s father passed on, his mother had not checked her HIV status. One day staff from the church’s Child Survival Program organized HIV/AIDS sensitization training for caregivers and encouraged them to learn their status.
Andrew’s mother went for the test and, alas, she had the disease. When she tested her last born, the child was also HIV- positive.
The situation back home was difficult. The mother did not have enough money to look after the family. Consequently, she left home to stay with the man with whom she had an affair. She sent both her daughters to stay with their father’s family, a decision Andrew was against because those relatives were not supportive.
Shortly afterward, Andrew’s mother came home. Her health had deteriorated. Andrew pleaded with her to let his sister come back from their father’s family home. Sadly, by the time his mother agreed to this, Rose was pregnant and said she had been raped!
Andrew’s mother developed low blood pressure. Andrew turned to the center staff, who had now become his friends. They helped take his mother to hospital, where she stayed until she passed away in October 2009.
“I felt overwhelmed and went and talked to the staff at the center, and they assured me that they would stand by me.
“They started giving my pregnant sister nutritional foods like eggs and milk. They also gave our youngest sister supplementary foods. I knew I was not alone in this.”
Rose later gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
Andrew has become compassionate to others.
“In my culture, if the man doesn’t bring dowry to the woman’s parents, the children don’t count. But the way the center staff and my grandparents have treated me made me want to be compassionate.”
Andrew is now looking ahead with hope. His dream is to become a lawyer so that he can help the poor. Having given his life to Christ on his 12th birthday, he is passionate about the Lord and also wants to start a Christian foundation to help children realize their potential.
He also hopes to revive an abstinence club, which he is part of but which has been on the decline. He believes that one day he is going to make a better father and husband than his father ever was.
Compassion has changed his life and he is very grateful for all the love, care and support he has received.
“Sponsors have had a great impact into our lives and have supported us in many ways. Really, we could have died. I urge them not to feel tired when they are helping us. I know that God will bless them. I’d like to give the sponsors this verse — Lamentations 3:22-24. It inspires me a lot.”
Andrew grins as he looks into the distance, as if peering into a brilliant future that is his for the taking.