He was a 25 year old young man who was stuck in the cycle of poverty and ready to make a change.
Rodgers is one of 25 children who we have cared for over the years and one of the first to transition into independent adulthood since Light Up Hope was founded. Rodgers has a life story that paints a clear picture of how disenfranchisement affects a person across their lifetime.
Poverty, loss and trauma deprive a person of their basic human rights: ability to work so that you will not starve, ability to take care of your children, access to education and opportunity. Every one of the children that Light Up Hope supports have been disenfranchised by poverty before they reach adulthood.
As a young boy Rodgers lived in Nairobi with his older brother, his mother and alcoholic father. His father’s alcoholism eventually landed him in jail and left his mother no way to provide for her two young sons, Rodgers and Vincent. In desperation she abandoned her boys on the streets of Nairobi and returned to her village. Rodgers learned at a young age how to survive on the harsh streets of Nairobi. There was no parent to teach him how to be successful in life until Rodgers found shelter, fellowship and care at Hands With Hope Safe House in Nairobi, and entered into a relationship with our partners, Fred and Alice. At the safe house he was cared for and attended school but he struggled to find his place in the structure of the Kenyan education system. Rodgers is a survivor – so after dropping out of school in February of 2013, he left the safe house and took charge of his life. He found training and a job making mandazi (a fried bread that serves as a common and inexpensive snack in the Kenyan diet) in a village called Bomet. We caught up with Rodgers on our recent trip to Kenya in April.
Rodgers explained to us that despite his will to be successful and his desire to work hard, he was trapped in a situation where he had little chance of bettering his life. Rodgers was spending his days in a small makeshift kitchen frying mandazi; it was hot, smokey and tireless work. He woke up very early every morning to prepare the mandazi for the breakfast crowd and worked late into the day. He was earning enough money to pay rent and buy food but he was surviving on less than $1 per day and finding it near impossible to save money to fulfill a dream of starting his own small business and earning enough to help support his mother and eventually a family of his own. With consistent work and a lot of patience he was able to save a small amount (about $65) until he received a call from his mother that his much younger siblings needed school fees and asking Rodgers to help her. So he did help and then his entire savings was gone. Once again he was disenfranchised by the cycle of poverty. He was discouraged by the gap between where he would like to see his life be and the limited power he had to change his situation.
Stories like Rodgers’s are all too common for children who grow up impoverished, as orphans or street children. Light Up Hope’s Empowerment Programs are designed to come alongside young adults with compassion. When working with a young person who has aged out of our residential program we are striving to identify opportunities that will help them gain the power to move towards the life they desire. After discussing his situation with Rodgers we offered him an opportunity to make a change. He needed time to think about if he should take another chance at education, he knew that during his 6 months training in an empowerment program he would not be earning money and would not be able to assist his mother during that time, but his potential for increased earning power would be greater after his training. We left Rodgers in Nairobi uncertain if he was ready to try again to make a change. We received his phone call a week after we returned to the States, he told us with excitement in his voice, “I’m going to do it”!
When working with a young person who has aged out of our residential program we are striving to identify opportunities that will help them gain the power to move towards the life they desire.
In Rodger’s case we identified the best empowerment opportunity was connecting him with an auto mechanic shop in Kitale that was willing to apprentice and train Rodgers in hands-on experience fixing cars and motorcycles. Light Up Hope paid the training fee of $500 and are paying for his room and board as he received the training needed to earn a higher wage. It is still up to Rodgers to work hard and believe in his potential. It will be a challenge because most of his life he has been taught that the worst to come is just around the corner. The courage Rodgers shows to take another chance in life and not give up inspires us. He has our in-country partners cheering him on by his side, and he has us praying and cheering for him from across the ocean.
Will you join us in praying and cheering for Rodgers? Will you use the power you have to help keep our empowerment programs funded? You can do that today by making a DONATION in any amount on our website.