Out of the Slums of Kenya

I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, in a slum, right next to a large dump site — a horrific place. People bring their dead babies there.

view of a slum in Kenya

View of a slum in Kenya

We were with five people and we all shared one bed. Our house had an metal roof, but with many holes in it. In April it rains heavily in Kenya, so everything got wet very often. Many times we slept while sitting in a dry corner of our house.

Whenever it rained, the water came up ankle deep in our house. That was the most difficult time for our family.

We were often hungry because it was very hard to find food. I started to look for edible food in the dump site. My mom often asked for help from friends.

But many people in our neighborhood were bad people. I had two sisters, and my mom was afraid they would be raped and killed one day. So she looked for help and built a home on an empty plot from the government.

Again, our house was made of metal sheets, but it was never completed, so we had to use a lot of plastic bags to fix it. The plastic could not keep the rain out of the house. We had to make holes in the plastic in order to prevent the house from collapsing under the weight of the water.

The new place we lived in was very muddy and looked more like a living place for goats. There still was hardly any food or clean water.

Whenever we got a glass of clean water, we considered it as a real miracle. We ate only dry corn. By that time, we all had stopped going to school. Everybody tried to survive on his own.

My parents started having problems in their relationship. My dad beat my mom daily for a year.

But when my mother heard about Compassion, we went to a church and enrolled in the child sponsorship program. Then everything started to change.

smiling man sitting on the ground

We were able to go to school and I received containers of oil and food. I could bring some of that home, and I received healthy food at the child development center.

In school, we used a family name. The school fees were paid for the family. Compassion paid for the fees, so all of us suddenly could go back to school.

Compassion gave me a school uniform, and I got shoes and socks. I used them carefully and gave them to my brother.

After awhile, my whole family started to change. It was like a ray of hope.

My mom started to sell vegetables in marketplaces and later opened a small shop. I got a sponsor, a special lady who showed me the true love of Christ.

During moments that I did not do well in school, I often read her letters. They really encouraged me and inspired me.

My father had left us alone to die. So I thought,

“How can my sponsor really love me?”

At the Compassion center I got my first Bible. I was taught about Christ, and that He loves us in whatever place we are. Through Him we can change our lives! It’s through the love of Christ that this woman loved me.

I did well in school and went to high school. I did that well too, and was able to go to university.

If I hadn’t gone through these things, I may not have come to know Christ. I remember saying,

”God, I truly know that You love me. You are alive.”

Through the Leadership Development Program I was able to start dreaming again. I received hope and faith for a good future. I could become a leader in the community, and I learned skills and leadership principles.

My Purpose

It’s important to ask yourself what your purpose is. What does God want to do with your life?

Malaria is a big problem in Kenya. If in a poor family somebody gets malaria, the costs for the treatment is so high that it keeps children from being able to go to school. I want to learn and research about this disease.

Malaria is so big that it negatively influences our economy. With so many sick people, we have a lot less working hours in our country than needed.

God blessed me with brains to learn about malaria. I started looking for a study about the molecular basics of diseases. Not just malaria.

I learned that the Radboud University in Nijmegen (The Netherlands) has a trial vaccine against malaria. That’s why I contacted them and why I am working with them.

man sitting at desk

It’s my dream to develop a vaccine against malaria and to make it available to the poor.

My brother died because it took the doctors too long to figure out what kind of disease he had. That’s not necessary and has to stop.

That’s why I’m here. This is my story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joshua Miago is a Compassion alumnus and Leadership Development Program graduate. He currently lives in The Netherlands and is working to create a vaccine to fight malaria. He shared his story with Martijn Moens from Compassion Netherlands.

30 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Joseph mbugua thiga September 4, 2022

    My letters

  2. Njenga July 30, 2011

    I am so proud of you brother! Yes go for that dream and it will come true very soon! We have a lot of work to do in our country and God is definitely equipping us as graduates of the ldp program to change our world! Baraka!

  3. Jennifer Gitiri July 28, 2011

    Am so proud of you and remember that God has already gone ahead of you.

  4. Sherry W. July 25, 2011

    Joshua – I just returned from a trip to Uganda. Each day, I became so aware of the devastation that malaria can bring. I told people there about the Compassion grad working on a malaria vaccine! There is such a pressing need for this. May God guide and bless you in this quest. You would be helping to save the lives of so many. I also sponsor a student in Mathare. He will be inspired by a Compassion student reaching for such a high goal! Asante sana, Sherry

  5. Nathalia July 22, 2011

    This story is so inspiring for me because when you were little you lived next to a dump and now you are working to make a vaccine for the poor. You are very special because you are not selfish and you care for the poor. May God Bless You Forever, Joshua

  6. Debbie Beghetto July 22, 2011

    Beautiful story…. this man surely have great talent and have great hope for his people in Kenya to fight against Malaria. May God continue to bless him and his family with great love. Thank-you for story and I pray for you. Keep up the good work!

  7. Nancy Young July 21, 2011

    What an inspiration this story was to me as an advocate and sponsor. My mom sponsors a child in Kenya and I know she will be blessed by reading this, also. I am so glad you took the time to tell it. Praying for you as you work on the Malaria problem.

  8. Silas Irungu July 21, 2011

    Hey Josh, you are a living testimony to many people, and its great to see your determination and the progress you have made so far.
    God will open your mind to new ideas and become the agent of change our society truly craves for.


  9. Teena July 20, 2011

    yes, thank you for sharing. May God continue to use you…

    I am blessed by your story. We are in contact with another LDP graduate from Kenya named Maurine. Her sister passed away this past May of malaria. We are in the U.S and in a safe place but this is still real to me….. I want to raise awareness….


  10. Joshua Miago July 19, 2011

    Thank you all for the love and the prayers. It has been great to read all the wonderful comments, I am encouraged. Its also a blessing for me to hear my story inspires you, may the Love of our Lord keep you, may His grace and peace be with you all.
    Ndio! Yesu atosha (Yes! Jesus is enough)

  11. Celia Solano July 19, 2011

    You are in my prayers Joshua, you and everyone in Kenya! In Jesus name I declare VICTORY in what ever you set your mind to do God bless you today and ALWAYS!

  12. Marjorie July 19, 2011

    Thank you for telling your story. I pray God’s blessings on you as you seek to work towards a result for malaria. I pray God will lead you and be close to you for the rest of your life.

  13. rachel July 19, 2011

    I love it when God works and we get to see a small glimmer of it! Thank you for the faith you have to follow.
    My husband is in mathare valley now with a team from our church…this is his 2nd visit. We also support a young boy there. What a blessing it was for them to see each other this week and work along side each other at the school. Often times we let the world convince us tasks are too hard, or likely, not possible, but with God, ALL things are possible. After sharing a photo of his trip, my neighbor also asked to sponsor a child in the valley, so he was able to arrange that before he left with the mission team. The darkness is everywhere, but THE light will come. Keep serving our Big God with your whole heart….I’m proud to be serving alongside you in prayer and the Lords work.

  14. Nicole July 19, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have been immensely impacted by it.

  15. Erika July 18, 2011

    Praise God.. such an amazing story.

  16. Mike Stephens July 18, 2011

    Yesus Atosha! I saw it on the back of a taxi van in Tanzania, one of my favorite phrases “Jesus is Enough!” Keep perservering!

    I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

  17. Christine July 18, 2011

    Thank you, Joshua, for sharing all these difficult details with us. You are an inspiration in being so true to God, His Word, and to His call. I will pray for your research, for you, and for your family. I am sorry about your loss, and that your father broke your family’s heart. So hard to read. God is such an awesome father, isn’t he? He steps in and fills us with love, making it easier to forgive those who have hurt us.

    God bless you! Thank you, again, Joshua.

  18. Joshua Miago July 18, 2011

    So true @Jan He is a good shepherd. @Kate Thanks it His story am just a part of it. WoW @Cheri God bless you for what you are doing in that girls life. My project is just next to the one in Mathare valley….I will be in Kenya in August and half of September :).
    Thanks Jill, for the prayers I really do appreciate. I know God hears his people. Blessings to you Nina, I am humbled by God’s grace. Ben bro… Asante sana. @rjb what the devil meant for harm God meant for good.
    Thanks Olly God bless you, I know you will challenge many.

  19. Robin July 18, 2011

    Joshua – This is an incredible story. It brought tears to my eyes to think that Compassion and a caring sponsor brought you to know God and you’re an amazing example of how a child’s life really can change completely! You are now full of hope when it seemed there was none. I have just written my sponsored children each a letter and I pray that they see a glimmer of that hope that you saw. Thank you for sharing your amazing story, and I’m sure your sponsor is so incredibly proud of you!! This makes me remember exactly why I’m a sponsor as well! Thanks for the encouragement today.

  20. Laura Dorsey July 18, 2011

    thank you so much for writing your story, this allows people to see what God is doing and have the opportunity to see that they can be a part of His work there! Thank you for sharing the hard things, I cannot imagine and I am in awe of what God has done to raise up such a strong man from the background that you have had. You are a leader and a man that will touch many many lives, I am very grateful for the example that your life sets for me and for others. You have an understanding of the people who live in desperate circumstances that no one else could, but you write in a way that helps us to stop being so blind to it. I am so sorry about the death of your brother. How much you honor his life in what you are doing now! Wouldn’t he be proud of you! May I add a thought about your father? please forgive me if this is the wrong thing to say to you, or if it causes pain. I wish that your father had been strong enough to stay with his family, to do all that he could to protect them. And if your father is alive today, I wonder if he wishes that he could have as well, maybe he lives with the guilt-maybe satan is very ready to destroy him with condemnation because he was not able to be the father that he wanted to be? I am only conjecturing here, only God knows his heart, but because of some abandonment issues in my own family I have come to realize now, at 50, that we really are all sinners-parents included. We all desperately need Christ, need His grace to be able to be and do what we are not strong enough to on our own. If your father is alive today and knows what his son is doing-I can’t help but believe that he is so proud and glad that you are strong in a way that he was not. Is this possible? Hugs for you, praying for you. What an amazing young man you are!

  21. Olly van Der Flier July 18, 2011

    We were so very excited to hear recently about what God has done in your life and thrilled now to read the details of your story.
    You inspire me in my task to encourage and challenge God’s people in Ireland to sponsor a child in Jesus’ name.
    Thank you!

  22. rjb July 18, 2011

    Tom is right. God will help you accomplish the dream He has placed in your heart. Sometimes God will use a tragedy (like your brother’s illness and death) to spark a vision and great blessing.

  23. Ben Mwangi July 18, 2011

    Am so proud of you brother. Indeed God is at work through you and through many other sponsored children all over the world. This is the greatest miracle. And it has all been possible through our sponsors who God has used to bring change in the world…We are His hands and feet…long live the “Compassion gang”

  24. Nina July 18, 2011

    Thank you for sharing your amazing story. It is an encouragement for sponsors. God is truly with you and is using you to help others, for His glory. May God richly bless you and your family.

  25. Jill Foley – Compassion Family July 18, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing your story….praying right now for you – that God will bless your research and work as you fight against malaria.

  26. Cheri Duchrow July 18, 2011

    Joshua I pray that God guides you and your research and connects you with the right individuals to enable you to move forward with your dreams of fighting Malaria. Your story is so inspiring and speaks about being a faithful servant. I sponsor a girl in Kenya who lives in the Mathare Valley and I will be going to see her in September. She has a faithful heart and wrote that she wants to become a doctor so she can help others like people are helping her. She inspires me to do more. Thank you again for sharing your story.

  27. Kate Sanderson July 18, 2011

    What an inspiring story.

  28. Jan July 18, 2011

    Thank you for telling your story. May God continue to bless you and your family. You are an inspiration to others.
    God loves you so very much, He gives hope for a better future.

  29. Tom Jones July 18, 2011

    Never give up. A vaccine can and must be found. God bless you and your family.

    1. Joshua Miago July 18, 2011

      Tom, thanks for the encouragement….. Means a lot to me. Blessings

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