He Grew Up Hungry. Now He Fights Hunger With Science.

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: When Collins Bugingo left a comment on our blog recently, I knew I had to email him to hear more. Collins ended up telling me his whole story. I was blown away. Though he was often hungry growing up, he’s getting his doctorate in plant pathology to fight hunger!

A man stands in a gray shirt in front of snowy hills, smiling at the camera.

My name is Collins, and I am from southwest Uganda. I grew up in a family of six people: my mom and my five siblings. I recall that I was a little boy with no shoes. My dad passed away from yellow fever when I was 5 years old. I only have a few memories of him.

My mom didn’t have a formal job. She worked in our garden to grow what we needed to eat. But we experienced hunger because we depended on the small piece of land as the only source for food. I recall seasons when people stole everything we had harvested. That made it hard to save seeds for the next season and much harder to have enough to eat.

That’s when a pastor from a church enrolled me in Compassion.

A green mountainous valley with dirt roads and a church in the foreground.

Collins is from a beautiful mountainous region of Uganda, where most people earn less than a dollar a day as subsistence farmers.

Before Compassion, we couldn’t go to school because my mom couldn’t raise the tuition. But when I joined Compassion, I joined school. They met my scholastic needs like books, pens and other household items. I looked forward to center days organized by Compassion for a much more decent meal that included meat and rice.

When I was younger, I fell sick a lot with illnesses like malaria. Thank God, Compassion met all my medical needs. We didn’t have a decent house. Our house was semipermanent and made of mud. But Compassion provided for things like a septic tank, a decent toilet and hygiene necessities like soap. We also received food supplies once a month.

I encountered the Word of God at the Compassion-assisted center. I learned who God is through reading and understanding the Bible. In 2009, I made a personal decision to follow God. My sponsors would also share the Word of God with me. I remember my sponsor from California, Megan, shared Proverbs 3 with me:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

She kept encouraging me with words like these. She always believed in me and never stopped telling me how smart she thought I was. This brought me a great self-esteem that poverty and living without a dad had robbed from me. We looked at ourselves as the least in the neighborhood, but receiving such words of encouragement kept me moving.

In 2013, I got a scholarship to go to university through Compassion.

A man in a white lab coat and gloves looks at plants in a greenhouse.

I decided to study agriculture because my mom never stopped complaining of plant diseases and pests as she tried to grow crops. I knew in my heart learning about this would help other people in the long run. In 2014, I graduated with an associate’s degree in crop production, and in 2016 I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and rural innovation.

After graduating, I applied for a scholarship at South Dakota State University and got it. I finished my master’s in plant science in 2018.

Now I am studying for my Ph.D. in plant science and plant pathology at Montana State University.

A man's hands hold seeds above small potted plants.

I’m working on research toward providing an understanding of a disease that occurs in lentils and causes billions of dollars of losses to growers globally.

My long-term dream is to work in agricultural policy. God willing, I would like to work for international agricultural organizations like the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization to ensure that scientific knowledge has a synergistic interaction with policies. My key focus is on food security and how we can formulate and implement policies to help small holder farmers like my mom.

I want to make sure that the policies that are made in agriculture will help people at the grassroots level. Growing up, my mom had completely no idea about the middlemen who take a big portion of the profit of what she grows. I want to improve the market for these small holder growers.

Now I have asked myself how I can give back.

A man in a grey sweater sits on a bench in front of snowy hills.

Compassion gave me a foundation. They believed in me. The times I have struggled, I have said, “God, you chose me from afar. I will depend on you for even more.” Now I am giving back by paying for my siblings’ schooling. I am also building a decent permanent house for my family.

And just like someone helped me each month, I now send money each semester to help someone else. When I was in college, I started leading a group called Kisoro Missioners Fellowship. We identify students who performed well in high school but have no financial resources for college. We pool our money so that they can attend school. And our first beneficiary has completed a bachelor’s in social sciences from Makerere University.

Two new women have enrolled this year, and it blesses my heart to see someone’s need met. I can’t even imagine how many more things God will allow me to do.

Today, my heart flows with endless gratitude.

I am so glad my story can reach so many other selfless sponsors. Thankfulness is all I and the other alumni are filled with.

We are so thankful for Collins’ story.

A man in a grey sweater looks off to the side, mountains behind him. Though he grew up in hunger and extreme poverty, he will now be the one ensuring others have enough to eat. He will be the one ensuring that others can get the education they need.

Thank you for the HUGE part you are playing in making stories like Collins’ happen, and stories like the one unfolding in your sponsored child’s life!

Collins’ story and the video below embody so much of what we’re thankful for. For the parents who are working so hard despite unimaginable difficulties. For the churches who are loving their littlest neighbors. For the little ones themselves who have so much potential. And for compassionate people like you — who make stories like these possible!

Watch A World of Gratitude and subscribe to Compassion YouTube for more stories.

Photos by Louise Johns and Chuck Bigger. This story was originally published November 20, 2019.

40 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Niyonzima Gad Mugabo July 10, 2021

    Wawoooo dear brother Collins ! I’m happy for you are that far keep chasing your dreams and
    Stay blessed as u continue to be a blessing to Many others whose life is not different from your childhood life.

  2. aston dakers November 2, 2020

    Thank you for sharing your story Collins and what God is doing through your life. May the Body of Christ be strengthened through it as the Lord uses you as a living epistle before the world. See you Home one day.

  3. Jabez January 27, 2020

    Way to go Collins! What an incredible story! All the best for the future, I am sure your mother and siblings are proud of you.

  4. Elizabeth Grace January 22, 2020

    Glory be to God 🙂

    Is it possible to get in contact with Collins?

    The Topic of Food and plants interests me so much !

    1. Sierra January 22, 2020

      Elizabeth, that’s a great question! For privacy purposes, we are not able to give out Collins’ contact information. Thank you so much, though, for taking the time to read this blog post and for your interest in this subject!

  5. MBABAZI BELTA MEDRINE January 17, 2020

    Wonderful story .I bless the Lord for your achievement and how far he has raised you.thanx for sharing

  6. Nancy J. Kinyanzwa January 17, 2020

    What an inspiration. Thank you Collins for pouring your heart out. May the good Lord bless you even more. As a servant leader and trend setter you are bound for greatness.

  7. Lacey January 11, 2020

    Loved reading this. Thank you!

  8. Joshua Bizimungu January 10, 2020

    I bless the name of the Lord. Am a beneficiary of compassion too and surely we have come from far. I graduated with an associate degree in electrical engineering and now am paying for myself for my bachelors degree. I have seen Collins grow and I have a story to tell too. If it wasn’t compassion some of us would have passed ON but it kept encouraging us through the devotions that we always had.

  9. Lynn January 10, 2020

    Collins, you are such a wonderful person. I’m grateful I met you while you lived in Brookings. I miss you. Take care, friend.

  10. Sharon January 8, 2020

    Collins, you are a blessing from God. He did see you from afar and chose you for a blessing, and to be a blessing to others. So proud of your commitment and hard work. I pray God’s hand to be on you always–guiding you and lifting you up.

  11. Laurie January 7, 2020

    What a beautiful story!!!! God bless you and your family! You are an amazing young man, and I know God has a great plan for your life!

  12. Juli Jarvis January 6, 2020

    Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  13. Monica Flesher January 6, 2020

    What a beautiful story, Colin’s heart is a heart after God’s heart. May God continue to watch over him and BLESS him.
    Peace and Grace be with you always.?

  14. Susan Piper December 2, 2019

    Colin, your story is that of thousands of children still living in poverty. I thank Yahweh for giving you a great sponsor. I love Inyasi in Tanzania and try my best to make his life better. I will never forget when I sent him money and he told me he bought a mattress. May Yahweh have mercy on us that live in the United States as we have so much. Colin, we are all so happy that you did well for your life and will now be trying to make others do well in their agriculture. Thank you for giving your life in service to others

    1. Shannon December 2, 2019

      Your post is so sweet and kind! Thank you for your kind heart to bless your sweet Inyasi! We are honored to have you in our Compassion family and pray abundant blessings over your relationship together! ?

  15. Gilbert Mfitundinda November 29, 2019

    Thank you Collins for sharing your story. I am so proud of you. I appreciate your desire to change the status quo of your family in particular and the world as a whole. As people who received kindness from others, we indeed ought to give back. I wish you the best in all that you are doing. Happy Thanksgiving.

  16. Janet Crowe November 27, 2019

    It is difficult to express the love of children and their well being is so very important. I have trouble talking about Umuhoza without crying. She means so very much to me, and it is so very wonderful to see her grow from a little three year old who looked defiantly at the camera, but when you looked at her hands she had them wrapped around the bottom of her dress. Here was a girl defiant, but afraid. She now smiles without feeling defiant, she loves to share what she is doing. All that speaks so well of Compassion.
    Recently I went to Casting Crown’s concert and joined many other people to help get more sponsors for the Compassion children. I had no idea how many levels of support there was. We had a wonderful night and received many new sponsors. Being a part of this is a blessing to me. P.S. I too went to Mt. State in Bozeman, many years ago.

  17. Melissa Day November 27, 2019

    What an inspiring story! I am thankful I have the ability to sponsor a child in the Dominican Republic. God indeed does work all things together for good and His glory! Collins, May God bless your life changing work.

  18. Chad Jackson November 27, 2019

    I am so thankful for compassion and pray for the entire program to reach children in Jesus name.I am so very blessed to be able to give back a pray for my child Yaison.Christ has changed my heart and given me a brand new look on life.

  19. Amy Von Alt November 26, 2019

    I am so proud to be part of such a wonderful organization and to be surrounded by such big hearts! Every child deserves a chance to know Jesus and to escape poverty. I am grateful that I am able to provide that for Kalis and his family!! God bless.

  20. Carolyn Cooper November 26, 2019

    This Thanksgiving story has made me once again, reflect on the many ways that serving Compassion has blessed me. I sponsored my first child about 30 years ago, and since then have sponsored many more. I have been so blessed and I am so thankful that I have been able to visit each and every one of them and have stayed in touch with them over the years. My own children have sponsored also, and have been to visit their sponsored children. My favorite Compassion true story is not about one of my own sponsored kids,though each one has been successful and given back to their community. It is about a poor little shoeshine boy in the Dominican Republic whose Mom brought him to a Compassion project in his town 30 years ago or so. Tony took advantage of everything that was offered to him in Compassion. Today, he is the country leader of Compassion and in charge of a large staff and over 60,000 sponsored children! I believe 100% in Compassion and talk about my first hand knowledge wherever I go. God has blessed my speaking up and I have found almost 200 sponsors over the years. It has also been my joy to lead groups
    to meet their sponsored kiddos and to translate for them I will keep speaking up for kids in the country of my heart, the Dominican Republic, until the day I die. To God be the glory!!!

  21. Amy November 26, 2019

    I am happy to be able to sponsor a child. Actually this is the second time I’m sponsoring a child. I’m excited to know more about Sam, and her family. I grew up from a poor family and had to work hard so we can have food on the table, I can really relate to the stories of these kids. That is why I decided to sponsor so I can help even in a small way. Also to share the blessings that God has given me and my family.
    I hope that I can continue doing this in Gods will.

    1. Christina November 26, 2019

      Hi Amy! We appreciate your support and partnership! Thank you for sacrificing and choosing to invest in the life of a child in need!

  22. Teresa Welborn November 26, 2019

    Thank you so much for sharing Collin’s story. It is so encouraging to hear how God is working in the lives of our families abroad. Adwoa is my little gem from Ghana. I so look forward to meeting her some day and am so thankful the Lord strategically placed her in my path. My greatest desire is for to always know she is Loved!!!, not just by me, but mostly by her father in heaven.

    1. Christina November 26, 2019

      Teresa, thank you so much for all the love you have for sweet Adwoa!

  23. Wanda Huckaby November 26, 2019

    May God continue to bless you to pass forward the blessings that you have received. Many will see the love of God through your obedience to allow him to work through you.
    Continue the good work.
    God Bless

  24. Gerty Uwanawimana November 25, 2019

    Such a wonderful testimony that shows the love of God manifested through love and compassion.
    May God bless you Compassion and all the sponsors, for all the lovely work you do. I know a few relatives who have benefited from your program. You are literally being the hands and feet of Christ!
    Thank you for covering Collins’ story, I know him personally and he’s a blessing to have as a friend?
    Komerezaho Collins!

    1. Christina November 26, 2019

      Hi Gerty! All glory and honor belongs to God! Thank you so much for your support of our ministry!

  25. John Giuliani November 25, 2019


  26. Diane marl November 25, 2019

    I am so honored to be a part of compassion and friends which allows me to be part of Stacy’s life. God has blessed me and I’m able to bless others. May God bless me someday to be able to meet Stacy in person. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

    1. Christina November 26, 2019

      Hi Diane! We’re honored to partner with you in this mission! Thank you for all the love and support you give your sweet girl, and I pry that someday you’ll be able to meet Stacy in person!

  27. Donna Koontz November 25, 2019

    Praise and Thanksgiving to God for what He is doing through Compassion and its sponsors. Collins story is so inspiring and I pray God’s continued hand upon him and thank him for his faithfulness to God in what he has been blessed with.

  28. Nancy Sherwood November 23, 2019

    What a wonderful true story. God certainly is good. I would love to go see Glend, but I am 88 and my husband is not in very good health. It has been a blessing for me to be able to do what I have for Glend. He is such a sweet boy and appreciates what ever I can do. God Loves him aand so do I.

  29. Judy Gordon November 23, 2019

    What a blessing to see our sponsored children doing so well and giving back to others in their families and
    in their communities! Sponsoring a child is one of the greatest blessings of my life. I don’t miss the money from my budget one bit. I feel like it is the least I can do because I have been given so much. I want everyone in the world to know the economic security that I have. If those of us who can help will do so, maybe this “pie in the sky” concept can become a reality. We must always put God first and let his love shine through us. Our love cannot fail to make a difference. Why? Because God is with us, even at our darkest, bleakest moments. If we trust in Him, we will see a ray of light peak through. The candle of hope and light that we lit, with our support of children in desperate need. will ignite another beam of light, and soon God’s influence, through His son Jesus, will extend around the world. Then we will see a great difference, not a perfect world, but a better world. Then one day, Jesus will return, and those who love Him will go Home with him. AS His children, we will have made a difference. What a wonderful day that will be!

  30. Joan Birmingham November 23, 2019

    This story truly blesses my
    heart. l’m so thankful that
    God allowes me to play a small
    part in a child’s life

  31. Laura Evans November 21, 2019

    Oh, praise God! What a beautiful testimony! Sponsoring Brithany in Ecuador has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I am planning on taking a sponsors’ trip very soon.

    1. Mackenzie November 21, 2019

      Laura, thank you so much for your sponsorship of Brithany! We would love for you to have the opportunity to meet her in person! God bless you! ?

  32. Teresa Preston November 21, 2019

    I sincerely feel blessed to be able to support a child – In my area the economy is very bad due to lack of coal mining, however God continues to bless me to provide for my family. I can’t wait for the day when I will be able to see my little girl and I look forward to going on this journey as she grows and develops into a beautiful young woman.

  33. Nina November 20, 2019

    This is a great story! I also went to Montana State University – MANY years ago – and also in their Agriculture Dept., but for Animal Science!
    This is what all sponsors wish for their sponsored children – for them to be productive members of their family, community, country and the world, and to pay it forward to others who need help.
    Thanks for sharing!

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