In 2007, Kenya experienced one of the worst post-election violence in the country’s history. Many lives were lost and many more destroyed. At the center of the chaos, children were separated from their families with some ending up on the streets. Among the many Kenyan families whose lives where forever changed, was the Liyala household. The economic consequences of the post-election violence left Mama Phoebe and her husband Liyala at crossroads. The loss of sources of income worsened the relationship between the couple and by 2009, domestic violence and poverty had taken a toll on Mama Phoebe who was forced to make a decision any mother would struggle with, giving up her children to live in a children home located in Kayole slums.
Heartbroken, Ellis Liyala and his little brothers Maxwell Ouna and Nicolas Biboh left the rest of their family members to begin a new life with strangers who ultimately became family.
Life at the home was comfortable as would be in a children home. However, the local authorities started to harass the owners of the home demanding illegal payouts which forced the founders to relocate the home to a rural town located on the Western side of the country called Kitale. The stars would align leading Kelly Shaughnessy and Ellis’s paths to cross. Touched by the vulnerability and need of the children at the orphanage, Kelly took up the challenge of raising funds to support the educational needs of all the students in the home including Ellis.
With the generous help of Kelly, Ellis managed to complete his primary education with a B+ and joined a secondary school. In 2014, Ellis graduated with a perfect score from high school and joined one of Kenya’s leading public universities to pursue a degree in Economics and Statistics. The financial help Ellis received from Light up hope enabled him to enjoy a normal campus life and made friends from all walks of life. Without the stress of having to raise school fees, Ellis completed his degree on time and graduated in 2019 with Second Class honors.
The opportunity to study at a university changed Ellis’ worldview which helped shaped his person. Over the years, Ellis learnt a lot from the friends he made and the people he grew up with.
“Looking back, I can see the difference Kelly and the numerous donors who supported me made. I was given the chance to charter a new destiny far from the broken dreams I had when my family broke up. Today, I am a different man from the little boy who left his family unsure of what the future held. I am a learned young man ready to reinvest in my community by applying the skills I learnt in school in community development.”Ellis Liyala
Today, Ellis is working for the organization as part of the WOVEN team. He is using his skills to improve the experiences the girls will have while at universities. He is a great inspiration to the girls as they can directly relate with him as a beneficiary of Light-up Hope.
“I am grateful for the opportunity Light-up Hope has given me. Working for the organization has further deepened my appreciation of what the organization is doing. I am looking forward to help light the path of other beneficiaries as a way of giving back to my community and helping in mentoring young, educated and skilled leaders of tomorrow.” Ellis Liyala.
Liyala has also managed to start several businesses which he partners with his younger brothers. Additionally, the Liyala family is slowly coming back together as Ellis and his siblings are working to reconcile their parents.
By Rebecca Magire