The Power of Hope Through Education – Ambrose’s Story
I vividly remember the 2007 July day – hot and dry, without much breeze, but with a communal buzz of passersby and a heavy scent of lingering exhaust fumes. The people of this small Kenyan town did not have much access to modern transportation – especially that with clean emissions. Most of them were farmers and either walked or paid public vehicles to carry them. Anything motorized usually sputtered smoke and tossed fumes as an unavoidable torture to the human senses.
During this time of year, the people of Sub-Saharan Africa were experiencing drought. Community members were gathered in town for small business, waiting for the rains to come and the time to re-launch their new farming season.
I waited outside of the market. I don’t know why, but on this day, I did not want to go in. I stood on the makeshift sidewalk, observing… waiting… lost in my own world. A young boy of approximately 9 years old approached me. Though he stood on the opposite edge of the street, his eyes gently locked with mine and his unspoken story whispered straight to my heart.
Ambrose was steadfast. He engaged with my camera lens, in a friendly showcase of playful martial arts moves. His attention shifted from the lens to my eyes and back to the lens again. Dialect was not needed to speak the language between us.
When my Kenyan partner came out of the store, I was eager to tell him about my new friend. He urged me rather boldly to “let this go”…”Kenyan street children are liars”, he said with such an absolute unshakable conviction that it felt cold and shook me. “He will deceive you.” With that, his intentions were clearly laid out: I was expected to follow him to the vehicle and go home.
But I couldn’t. I could not get this sweet, little boy adorned in a torn and faded pink jacket out of my mind. I couldn’t let go of the innocent play we shared – and of the overwhelming love I felt filling my heart – I felt as if an angel stood there with me and brought this boy and I together.
“I can’t leave him”, I said.
I could see the irritation in my partner’s eyes. “I have to learn more.”, I persisted.
With a grudge powered resistance, my partner began to converse with Ambrose, “the street boy”. His first question was going to prove me so wrong… maybe the second…
We were soon in the car, myself, my partner AND AMBROSE – traveling into rough territory where we would check out if “this street boy” was telling the truth. (I had no reason to doubt him).
Our vehicle bumped through the town’s rocky terrain and splashed through whatever stagnant puddles remained along the way. The path was so narrow that at many turns, we brushed up against tall, twig like cacti. They scraped the sides of our car featuring unmistakable screeching as the auto paint was unapologetically scratched from the car.
As we rocked down the last leg of the pitted earth road, a cluster of dirt floored shanties revealed themselves. Several people stood outside watching the unusual sight of a car rolling through their alley ways. I was told to be guarded as I exited the car. Women and children stood still, captivated by our appearance. I looked into each person’s empty eyes and a sense of their desperation became mine. My heart broke for these people – even more so, it broke for my new friend.
“Here is where I live” he said. (translated for me). “I live with my crippled grandfather.” I peeked through the large gaps of 11 X 11 room, walled with deteriorating wood planks. The sunlight streamed through, highlighting the glittering flying dust and a dirt floor. Nothing else. This was Ambrose’s home. “My grandfather is crippled…” he paused. “He goes to town to beg. I care for him. I cook and I wash his laundry.”
“What do you want Ambrose? Do you have a dream for yourself?” I asked.
He leaned against the wooden planks and looked up into my eyes. “I want to become a doctor” he answered. I could hardly see. Tears were at their capacity; any more and they would spill down my cheeks!
We returned to town with Ambrose and took him to the store to purchase much needed food. I visited with him daily (for the time that I was in the area). We purchased a bed for himself and his grandfather and soon, we had a sponsor! Ambrose got his wish; he went to school.
Today, this precious child is a young man. He is in his final years of education, studying with every ounce of passion and drive in him to become a teacher. Yes, his career choice changed. Ambrose said it best: “I want to reach the youth who face challenges much like what I faced in my young life. You saved me. I want to save them.”
Ambrose’s story beautifully captures the essence of how gaining access to love and education can change a life and a community. The act of love, of listening and caring – and the gift of education empowered him to unlock the treasure trove of hope.
Literacy is more to our children than simply teaching them how to read; it opens up a new way of living. It provides a path to hope and dreams – to God’s plan for them – that otherwise may not ever be realized.
The seeds of HOPE are planted in the fertile soil of education and a loving support system. We use simple, personal ways, like playing with the children, feeding the hungry, putting shoes on the barefooted and clothing those who are dressed in threadbare material to demonstrate love for soul, here and now. Our prayer is that no child shall ever be forgotten.
Healing IS possible. It starts with a vision. It is followed by prayer and action. And… it culminates with renewed life … more than we could ever have imagined.
Your support makes a big difference!
A MESSAGE FROM AMBROSE:
“I know that I am the way I am because of God Matanya’s Hope and my sponsor, Isabel.
I could not imagine that I could reach this far. As a child, I did not know the importance of education and also being closer to God. Right now, I feel blessed and I pray that my story will be used to help the people who have lost their faith an hope in life.”
Ambrose Lanoko 2017