When Norah first visited the Gospel Revival Church in Kisumu, Kenya she could never have imagined she would find herself standing in a room full of women telling her story or how much her story would become a testimony for so many lives.
Originally from Uganda, Norah met her husband in Kenya and they moved to Kisumu to start their lives as a married couple. Together they opened up a thrift store and sold second hand shoes and clothes that provided an income that was more than enough for them to live comfortably.
Norah admits, “life was good then, we had all we needed and in the evening my husband and I would lay together and dream of our future, goals, and the family we hoped to grow.”
Before long, Norah gave birth to their first child, a beautiful baby girl. They named her Mary, after her grandmother, and watched her grow as she spoke her first words and took her first steps.
It seemed as though their dreams were unfolding before them, but Norah’s husband suddenly fell ill. Unsure of the cause, they quickly determined, after running tests on him, that his immune system was severely depleted due to HIV Aids.
As is standard practice, the doctor requested that she get tested also. The results were in and she too had contracted HIV.
Soon after their diagnosis, her husband passed away forcing her to close up shop and move herself and her baby girl to a home that she could afford.
Somehow, Norah had to pull herself back together as a newly widowed mother with no family support. The pressure was too much and it sent her into deep depression causing her to develop stomach ulcers, which required surgical attention.
During this time her in-laws came to visit and decided she wasn’t fit to raise her baby girl, who thankfully had not contracted the HIV virus. They took Mary back with them along with most of her husband’s property, feeling that she was not entitled to it sense she was a foreigner.
It had been some time since she had stepped foot in a church. She never really felt the need to attend, but her circumstances were to grave to bear alone.
As she stood in front of the widow’s support group and told her story, Norah thought she would feel shame and guilt. However, as she continued to explain how she no longer gets to see her daughter, how God has brought her back to church, and by the grace of God she was now putting her life back together, she was gripped by the love and care the support group was wrapping around her.
Gospel Revival Center is one of LIA Kenya’s partner churches. We have held several transformational development trainings, all of which Norah has attended. She has now become a community spokesperson or what we call a TOT (Trainer of Trainers).
To everyone she meets, Norah continues to tell her story of transformation and empowerment and how through the Gospel Revival Center she has developed new skills which now allow her to support herself, members of her community, and even send some money to help support her daughter. More importantly, Norah says, “ not everything is perfect but I’ve learned that I’m not alone, I have found God and I have found a community that loves and cares for each other.”
One of the programs that LIA is rolling out in the impoverished fishing community of Kisumu, Kenya, is the guardian program. In this program guardians of at risk youth are identified and the local church – and in partnership with LIA – servers to not only support them but empower them to uplift the children that are in their care.
Ruth is one of these guardians. As the sole provider for her five grandchildren, four boys and precious baby girl, it is no surprise that every waking moment is devoted to her children. Ruth, who’s gray hairs betray the youth in her face, lives on the outskirts of Kisumu in a community called Nyawita. Nyawita is one of the poorer suburbs of Kisumu town.
When asked about her grandchildren its clear that her primary priority is that they go to school and do well. Many of the residents in Nyawita do not have much more than an 8th grade education, and as a result work low wage, unskilled jobs. Ruth is adamant that her grandchildren have a better future so that is why her local church in Nyawita felt it was important to stand with her for the sake of her children.
“Its bad luck to say your age” Ruth says “and I need luck because I want to be around to see my grand children become professors”. So in her old age –that will not be mentioned—Ruth was equipped with economic empowerment and resource mobilization training through her church’s TOT. Through this training Ruth confesses her eyes were opened as she discovered how to work smarter, not harder. This not only allowed her more time with her grandchildren children but also helped her to start saving, eventually joining a revolving fund set up by LIA in her local church.
The revolving fund group is made up of other guardians of at risk youth in the community of Nyawita and although the purpose of the group is resource mobilization, they also there to support each other through the challenges of trying to raise children in Nyawita.
“My ambition is that my grandchildren never need to worry about anything other than succeeding in school. I invest my energy in them because they are the future and they deserve a future.”
Last April, we hosted our annual Spring Pledge Drive, where we asked the LIA family to commit to coming alongside LIA with a monthly gift that supported one year of an orphan and vulnerable children program in Kenya.
We wanted to take a moment and fill you in on some of the progress that has been experienced during the last six months. Read about two OVC programs in particular – Thika and Kisumu:
In one area of Thika, 75 orphans and vulnerable children and their families have been enrolled in the LIA church partner program. They are currently receiving support in the form of tutoring, educational supplies, food and much more. The program will continue to develop to help these families provide for themselves for the long-term.
Not far away, LIA is seeing the sustainable change in 75 families further in the transformation process. These guardians have been trained on income generating activities and have established savings and loan groups with revolving funds so that members have access to micro-loans to initiate their own businesses.
A truly beautiful picture of the stages of transformation and the renewal that comes from the church being empowered to serve it’s most vulnerable!
Similarly in Kisumu, a group of 104 guardians have been trained in income generating activities and are looking to start their own businesses. They too have formed savings and loan groups to support one another and provide micro-loans to guardians who are ready to start their own business. Five women in the area have already begun!
Take for example, Lorna. After receiving training and a micro-loan through LIA church partners, she started a hair salon and is not only providing for her two children, but she has even created jobs for two other women in her community!
In addition to those 104 guardians benefiting, there are 507 youth that are receiving food, medical support, tutoring, education materials and more. The foundation for long-term change has been laid and we are excited to see what God has in store for this program during the next few years!
Are you interested in learning more about how your generous support has helped to empower the ministry of LIA over the years?
We are excited to give you a chance to tangibly see and read about the transformational impact that has taken place throughout the communities we serve within northeast Africa. Our annual report highlights the growth of LIA organizationally as well as celebrating the progress and work of our empowered partner churches throughout 2008. Featured below is one of our “Stories of Transformation” found in our annual report regarding the Kisumu community in Kenya.
“Empowering Vulnerable Children
“The Kisumu community represents a vision of great poverty. The Nyalenda slum is an overpopulated area that suffers from an abundance of trash, which has the potential to cultivate many diseases. Still recovering from the violent outbreaks that took place after the elections in February of 2008, there is yet an unmistakable presence of joy that resonates in this community. Walking the streets you hear a multitude of voices singing and can sense the feeling of great hope despite the current situation.
One church in particular, Revival of Salvation Ministries, is a driving force in the community. With a very simple church building structure, utilizing the materials of mud and tin, the music, dancing and smiles have made this simple structure come to life. The children’s choir of the church is a collaboration of 60-70 children that are orphans or come from single-parent homes. The cheerfulness and delights that resounds from these children’s voices echoes throughout the community and serves as a representation of hope for the future.
In 2008, LIA successfully trained and equipped five local church partners to commence a full-scale street children and rehabilitation program in the Nyalenda slums. We couldn’t be more excited to join these pastors in serving to empower the vulnerable children of their community. “
**Want your very own copy of our annual report leave us a comment on our website with your name and address and we will send a hard copy version to you!
Follow us on the blog the rest of this week as we share “Stories of Transformation” from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as well as Rumbek, Sudan.