Thriving Against All Odds
By Diane Elliot
I didn’t recognize the young man I sat down beside. We smiled at each other, and I extended my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Diane, what’s your name?” He smiled and said, “Stanley!” Then, my North American assumptions started. Isn’t that the way? We assume then we try to prove our assumptions.
Having been in Kenya for nearly ten days with Hope’s Promise, I had been meeting new people every day. I thought, however, that I had met all the children in our Hope’s Promise family home, so Stanley didn’t fit into my framework.
“Stanley, I haven’t seen you before. How did you come to join us today?” I asked.
All Hope’s Promise children, staff, and the American team were having an afternoon outing at a beautiful park, so I assumed that Stanley was one of the teens who was away at High School and just returned home, but he didn’t seem to blend in with the other children. He looked a little overwhelmed and out of place. He only took a little food from the buffet and looked uncomfortable with the amount of food the other children were happily eating.
“I was invited by Steve, who is my mentor in the Mathare Valley Church.”
Hm. Now I’m confused. Steve is one of our house fathers and is, in fact, an elder and mentor to many teens at the church as well. Why would Stanley be included in our Hope’s Promise retreat?
As we talked, Stanley proved to be a wonderful conversationalist. His English, impeccable. His thought process very mature and logical. His dreams, specific and bold. But there was one thing that I couldn’t compute; his clothes! Stanley’s tee shirt was tattered and his pants were too big and quite worn. All of the rest of the children in our family homes had cleaner clothes that fit nicely.
At the lunch table, I never did get all of the information I needed to make sense of Stanley. I was so taken by him that I was able to put my assumptions aside and soaked in the conversation and loved every moment.
Later, when talking with Steve, I found out the rest of the story. Stanley lost his father to AIDS. He lives with his mother in Mathare Valley and she, too, has AIDS with a very grim prognosis. Sadly, Stanley also contracted the disease at birth but is managing his symptoms with free medication from a local clinic. Dirt poor, Stanley’s mother could have never afforded an education for Stanley except for one small saving grace; Hope’s Promise sponsors!
While the main focus of our orphan care program is providing orphaned children with permanent placements with loving families, a small percentage from each sponsorship is used for our “orphan prevention” education program for children like Stanley. Because of his educational scholarship, Stanley can live with and help care for his mother, and still be able to grow, learn, dream and BECOME! Stanley has worked hard, and because of the opportunity of education, I have confidence that Stanley will find a good job, be a good worker, and finally, break the chains of poverty that have bound his family for generations! And, this is one assumption that I am excited to embrace!
If you would like more information about child sponsorship and help educate vulnerable children like Stanley, please contact [email protected]
Diane Elliot is an author, professional photographer, and former Development Specialist at Hope’s Promise. In 2010 she had the opportunity to write a book with Moody Publishing about the orphan crisis which broke her heart and refocused her trajectory. Today her life’s mission is to advocate for orphaned and vulnerable children around the world.