Just Believe

We are proud to present this inspirational story by Silvano Assanga, a Compassion alumnus.

I lost my father at the age of 4, and it was predicted that we would end up in the streets as beggars. He was our sole breadwinner, and he did not leave much to be inherited upon his death. We did not have well-off relatives, either. The thought of attaining higher education from such a background was therefore not real back then.

It is now real. In August 2010, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi. Having pursued my studies from such an institution, I consider my story to be one of luck and God’s love.

When Compassion began recruiting needy children in Western Kenya, my aunt pleaded with them to consider me for the program. I was staying with her and she informed them that I was a needy case.

My mother depended on hawking bananas at the market to fend for her family of seven children. I was therefore enrolled in the program and my sponsor, Ashleigh began helping me through Tear Fund in New Zealand.

Ashleigh later got married to Andrew, and their support and prayers have enabled me to be what I am. As a sponsored child, we never met face to face, but they trusted me with their resources like their favorite child. They have not only financed my education up to university, but they are also concerned about my future progress.

man in tie embracing a young man in graduation gown

Like my biological parents, they have kept close ties with me. Such trust, such concern, such love is hard to come by in our society. It is what makes me feel that my story is worth telling.

I was only 6 when Ashleigh became my sponsor. She was a nursing student. She chose to better my life by sparing part of her pocket money for me.

It may not have been much then, but it saved me from heading to the streets as a beggar. That is what encouraged me to become one of the top students in primary school. I studied hard in knowledge that my life depended on it.

Since my aunt whom I was staying with was illiterate, she also encouraged me to work hard so that I could read and write letters for her. I grew up inspired that since so much was being invested in me, much would be required from me too.

I realized how lucky I was when I visited home during weekends and holidays and learned that my siblings and other village mates were having problems with school fees. They could not even afford text books and stationary.

In our family, the siblings depended on my mother, Pauline. She had to hawk bananas and divide the meager earnings between food and school necessities. I was therefore a special child since my uniform was always new, and I never missed classes due to lacking certain items required at school.

In other schools in the village, students had to share old textbooks. A class of 40 or 50 pupils could have less than 10 textbooks.

That was not the case in our school. Thanks to our sponsors, we had enough books, which we shared with other pupils. We had everything we needed to concentrate on our education.

Unlike other students who used to rush home at lunchtime and come back late in the afternoon, the child development center organized a lunch program for us, too!

Such care enabled me to perform better in my studies. From a family of seven – five brothers and two sisters, only my eldest brother and I managed to proceed to secondary school.

I am now the first one from the family to have attained a university education! I can picture myself spruced in graduation attire, receiving my diploma in the presence of my tearful mother and friends. I still recall the long prayers she used to say, asking God to uplift her family.

She never failed to pray for my sponsors. To her, they were my parents from a distant land. They were not materially wealthy. They helped because they were rich at heart! There were considerably well-off people in our society, but my help had to come from distant lands!

There were some obstacles on my path, too. Even though my sponsors maintained their support when I joined secondary school, the development center introduced a new policy that required parents to share education costs. I had joined a prestigious high school in our area, but I had to drop out due to my inability to pay the fees.

I enrolled in another school whose academic performance was not as superior as the previous one. The school lacked adequate facilities and furthermore, I was still required to pay some fees.

Against my expectations of passing highly, I ended up with a grade of C+ in my final examinations. I considered it a big disappointment. The grade did not reflect my true academic ability. Most of my friends in my previous school had better grades and proceeded to universities while I faced a rough end of life at home.

A year after completing secondary school I was departed from the development center for claims of being undisciplined. It seemed to be the end of my ambition of becoming a journalist. And I could not write to my sponsors anymore.

Even though I still loved reading and writing, pursuing higher education became a mere dream. I began helping my mother in her bread winning efforts and worked as a hawker, an assistant in a research institution, and a part-time teacher among other undertakings.

I bought books from my small wages and converted my room into a library just to retain my academic mood.

man in graduation gown embracing another young man

Celebrating with brother Wilberforce

“Silvano,” my mother would say whenever she saw me preoccupied in the “library,” “your addiction to books is not in vain. You will go to college one day and you will not even believe it.”

I believed the words were merely meant to uplift my spirits. My dismissal from the development center had closed college doors for me. I wrote articles for a local daily, the Kenya Times, just to keep my journalistic skills alive.

I also wrote poems and short stories, some of which were published in overseas anthologies.

While I was working on my stories one day, a thought struck. What if I searched for my sponsors? Would they be willing to assist me?

I decided to write to Compassion’s head office in Colorado Springs. It was a long letter in which I narrated my story and requested them to contact the sponsors on my behalf.

A long period of silence followed. I kept checking my e-mails but there was no communication. The silence led to my conclusion that my efforts were unsuccessful.

I was however shocked one day when I opened my inbox and saw the e-mail. I could not believe it. I reread it several times in order to prove that it was from my sponsors!

Compassion had alerted them to my desire to communicate, and now I was reading their e-mail!

When I showed it to my mother, she was not amazed as I expected. Instead she held my hands and prayed. Then she spoke assuredly:

“I knew you would unite with them one day”

That was in early September 2004. August, six years later, I graduated from USIU with an aggregate GPA of 3.75 (magna cum laude). I was also the second-best student in my journalism class.

When I graduated, my mother and my friends were present to celebrate with me. My sponsor came too. Andrew had flown in to witness the great event.

I know that the only way I can express my gratitude to my sponsors for helping me as a child and for reconnecting with me to support and encourage me even more is through hard work. Currently, I am an Intern at USAID in Nairobi. And I keep praying and working hard for success.

On behalf of the children you sponsor, thank you for loving us and giving us opportunities to succeed.

17 Comments |Add a comment

  1. abisai amatalo April 25, 2011

    It is indeed a true story;for u loved reading. Your sponsors have shown that love for humanity transcends racial barriers.

  2. Maureen Kearns March 3, 2011

    Silvano, you’re writing is so beautiful. You are an encouragement to all of us who sponsor children in the hopes and prayers that our sponsored children will have a bright future as you have ahead of you. Our little boy from Bolivia writes of how hard he works in school to do his best. Our little girl in Kenya also writes of working hard to do her best. Our prayer is that their future will be as bright as yours and that they will continue to love the Lord. Education is so critical in improving their lives and the lives of their family. With God’s help they’ll do well, and we love writing to them and getting their letters. What a joy it is to read of the happenings in their lives and their love of God and His importance in their lives. Again, thank you for sharing in such a beautiful way. It’s very obvious from your writing that journalism is your calling – you write beautifully and eloquently, and with much heart and soul.

  3. Silvano January 16, 2011

    Thanks for your comments and encouragement. May the Lord of Hosts – whose vaults abounds in wealth untold bless you all in heaps.

  4. Carole Hickman January 12, 2011

    Oh, thank you for your wonderful story. I never get tired of hearing success stories like your own. Congratulations on a job well done and for never giving up!

  5. Macklower Abisai January 10, 2011

    Silvano this is really inspiring, your focus, determination and prayers have brought you this far, yours is a reference story for many families that spent less than a dollar a day, grappling with bills to take care of their shelter, health, food, clothing, schoolfees and other basic needs.Such a focus catapulted humble personalities like Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln to great heights!!! After training her disciples in Holy Laws, Humility and service to others Christ sent them to do the world. Verily Verily I Beseech you Silvano, Behold our people need Inspiration, go ye in to the world, preaching and publishing that everything is possible irrespective of ones background!!!!!!!

  6. Dr Johnstone January 10, 2011

    This Gods great work ..
    we are proud of you. its your turn to give back to the society.

  7. Prof. David Akombo January 9, 2011

    Silvano: Where there is a will, there is a way. Bravo and congratulations.

  8. Andrew & Ashleigh January 8, 2011

    Silvano we are so proud of you. It has been such a blessing for our family to share in your journey. Like you, we are so grateful to God for his provision. We know that God has an amazing plan for your life and we are privalleged to see it unfold.

    Thanks readers for your lovely comments – isn’t it great how sponsorship of a child can change lives. We hope SIlvano’s story can encourage opportunities beyond the initial child sponsorship and for people to have faith and know that the Lord will provide all that is needed when he lays someone on your heart. God truly provided for SIlvano.

    Silvano has omitted to say that his family is now benefitting from his hard work both financially and socially.

    We are now looking forward to see Gods plan for our second sponsored child – this time a girl in Indonesia?

    Thanks Compassion you all do a great job – God Bless

  9. Frances Michaels January 8, 2011

    What an inspiring story! Thank you for sharing this and I know God will continue to bless you on your life journey. You have overcome much and it has made you a strong person. Congratulations to you and to your sponsors for the achievement!

  10. Kristen January 7, 2011

    What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it with us! God bless you!

  11. Lisa January 6, 2011

    That is awesome. Congratulations, Silvano. And God bless your sponsors.

    Your story reminds me of one of our United States presidents — Abraham Lincoln. When he was unable to attend school he read books. He gave himself an education by becoming an avid reader and writer. He had a parent die when he was very young. Despite all his challenges, he persevered and became one of our nation’s best presidents.

    You remind me quite a bit of Abraham Lincoln!

    I pray that you find much continued success in your life and that God uses you to inspire others.

  12. Megan – Faith Like Mustard January 6, 2011

    Oh, thank you for your wonderful story. I never get tired of hearing success stories like your own. Congratulations on a job well done and for never giving up!

  13. Rhiannon Dowding January 6, 2011

    Thank you for sharing your story of encouragement. We sponsor two children, one in Rwanda and one in Bolivia. I pray for them and hope to be a source of strength for them. Our letters take a long time to get to each other and I would rather email direct. What a blessing to finally meet your sponsor! May God bless you in all you do.

  14. Michael Patterson January 6, 2011

    This is a great example of why I love Compassion’s LDP program, and the integrity of Compassion’s staff for following up on Silvano’s request to contact his previous sponsors. Compassion’s willingness to go the extra mile for kids is what sets Compassion apart from other organizations. I have seen it time and time again. Great story!

  15. JD January 6, 2011

    Silvano — although we, as sponsors, do this wholeheartedly as worship to our Lord and expect nothing in return, God chooses to bless us through amazing sponsor children like you, who in return teach us, lead us, inspire us, and love us.

    What a beautiful story… we’re very proud of you!

  16. Linda January 6, 2011

    Thank you for sharing this gripping story with us! I’m rejoicing with all of you! God bless you all.

  17. Juli Jarvis January 6, 2011

    What wonderful photos and and a delightful post! I just attended our LDP girls’ graduation in May — we had sponsored her since she was 8. It was the first time we met, too, and we were both so thrilled to finally be able to hug and spend a few days together. Congratulations! I love your determination and staying power! I’m so proud of you and your sponsors! I hope to be able to converse with my girl, too, on e-mail some day. Right now, we have a language barrier and I doubt if she has internet access, but I fully believe she will write when she can, as I was very eager to give her my e-mail address when we met. I miss her letters already.

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