How Healing One Girl’s Heart Is Healing a Whole Community

Even Mariam’s mother had given up hope for her daughter’s survival. Then came a gift.


A woman holds a girl on her hip, standing on a dirt road.

Mariam is something of a celebrity in her Ugandan community.

Everyone wants to share the story of the 6-year-old’s incredible transformation. To her neighbors and fellow sponsored children, Mariam is a reason to hope — even when the future looks about as bleak as it can get.

“I Am Finished.”

Mariam was a toddler but wasn’t toddling. Nor was she speaking or growing like her sisters had at her age. But her parents couldn’t afford to take her to a doctor to find out what was wrong. They worked hard digging fields for a nearby farm owner — one of the few jobs in their rural community — but had little to show for it.

When they had finally saved enough money to get to the nearest hospital and run tests, they discovered that Mariam had a congenital heart defect that would end her life unless she had surgery to fix it.

“I didn’t know what to do,” recalls Mariam’s mother, Harima. “I knew I had no money. That day I cried. I came back home crying and took the papers I had received to my neighbor. I just told him, ‘I am finished,’ because I knew I couldn’t treat such a condition.”

As Harima tried to carry on despite the apparent death sentence for her daughter, she heard that a church in the community was starting a program to help children. But she and her neighbors were suspicious. As Muslims, they worried that a Christian church would require them to convert in exchange for helping Mariam.

“But because I was desperate, and I knew my daughter was dying and I was very helpless, I decided that I had no option but to go to that church and get help,” says Harima.

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A woman walking towards a house holds a child in her arms.

So she carried Mariam to the church, where the staff assured her that their family wouldn’t have to convert to receive help through Compassion’s child development program. They wouldn’t have to do anything at all besides register Mariam in the program.

“As a Christian-based organization and center, we believe that we’re not here to work with only born-again Christians,” says Brian Namanya, Director of Mariam’s Compassion-assisted center. “We have to work with the entire community. Whether you’re born-again…a Muslim, a witch doctor, anyone — we’ll support you.”

And they supported Mariam in a big way. The Compassion center staff accompanied the family to the hospital for the operation, which was a success.

“When they gave us the medical bill to bring back to the church, all I could say was, ‘My God, my God,’ because the bill was so big,” Harima says. “I couldn’t imagine anyone footing the bill.”

But the bill was paid — thanks to people who gave through Compassion.

Now Their Joy Is Restored.

A girl who received a charity gift of heart surgery in a blue floral dress holds a doll and laughs.

Mariam’s recovery has been remarkable. She’s playing outside her home with a doll she just received at her Compassion center. It’s one of her only toys, and she’s enamored with it — dancing and laughing exuberantly. She appears closer to 3 years old than 6, the result of stunting she experienced before her heart surgery. But that doesn’t matter to her mom, not now.

“Mariam is now able to run,” Harima says. “She can dance. She enjoys herself. Whatever she was not able to do then, she is able to do now.”

Mariam’s transformation has inspired their entire community, according to Harima. “The whole village is grateful for what was done for Mariam. People ask, ‘Is this the same child?’”

And the neighbors are no longer suspicious of Compassion’s program. “Every day we receive numbers of Muslims coming to ask to be put in the program,” says Brian, the center Director. “And this is because of Mariam.”

Charity Gift Heart Surgery: A woman sits on the ground, smiling, with a girl sitting next to her.

But no one is more grateful for Mariam’s health than her family. “Joy” is a word that comes up often in conversation with Harima. She repeatedly expresses thanks for the people who gave the money for the surgery that saved her daughter’s life.

“I can say that our joy as a family has been restored,” Harima says. “Because Mariam had been helpless and we were all concerned, we had all lost our joy. But seeing her come back to a normal life has made each one of us happy.”

You can bring joy to a family waiting for a miracle. Give any amount toward lifesaving surgery for a child like Mariam!

Give Now! ›


Photos by Emily Turner.

5 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Avatar
    Kathy Stowik December 29, 2019

    I truly believe God says to love one another, no matter what our personal beliefs may be. What a beautiful story of love, from a Compassion International church that gave money to save this young Muslim girl’s life!

  2. Avatar
    Michele Herron December 16, 2019

    After getting my packet from Compassion yesterday, I left it on the table while I prayed on it. My other Compassion sponsor child didn’t work out, so I was a little frustrated. Then, I watched a movie called Living Hope about a Helping Ministry in by Cape Town, Africa. I said aloud how I would love to do that. Today I turned over the packet and saw I was given a child from Africa. God is SO Amazingly awesome. He truly answers every thought. Thank you Jesus that I get to spread your love through this program! I am truly blessed!

    1. Avatar
      Shannon December 17, 2019

      Michele,
      Thank you so much for sharing this kind comment! It is truly beautiful to hear how God knows just who needs to be placed in our family! We are honored to know you will be sponsoring a sweet child in Africa! Prayers for your new relationship together!

  3. Avatar
    ElLois Betts December 7, 2019

    It’s amazing how big our God is and the love He puts into people’s hearts to donate to Compassion and other organizations.

    I support a little one in Uganda via another organization. I saw her photo and my heart wept for her. God told me I had to help. So I support her and her gogo (grandma). It was thrilling to see her, in just a short 4-6 months, grow into a lovely little girl rather than a frail, ill, dying little girl.

    I use to be a pediatric ICU nurse and I know how life-saving these relatively simple operations are. But to someone such as Mariam’s family and religion (Muslim) showing God’s mercy is the ultimate gift.
    I just pray that those (Muslims) in Mariam’s area realize how great our God is and come to Him. Not just for life, but for eternal life.

  4. Avatar
    Martha Lowrey December 6, 2019

    Our GOD says to LOVE one another , not just the like you but all we are all GOD’S children . I have a little Muslim boy compassion gave him to me , I wouldn’t care if he had purple stripes and spots all over his body he is my little boy .And I love him .

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