I Don’t Believe in Excuses




by John Seale, Samson Opiyo, and Jacob Ochieng

Jesus Christ draws near to us in our suffering, and he remains committed even in our stumbling. He doesn’t just justify us and then nudge us aside, he welcomes us into his deepest heart. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and he loves us more deeply and totally than anyone else ever could. He involves himself in every aspect of our lives.

Sherly graduated from Ndoto’s sponsorship program in 2022 and went to France to work as a language assistant, an opportunity afforded to just 70 students out of more than 3000 applicants. She joins a small cohort of Ndoto graduates who have traveled internationally. She’s an entrepreneur in wellness and fitness. None of that was likely given her story.

When she was four years old, Sherly’s mother passed away. She and three stepsisters were living in a poor community called Manyatta, reliant upon their father who worked on the city’s privately-operated transit lines as a van operator. His route was fairly quiet outside of rush hours, and the earnings were meager. Providing for himself and four children proved impossible.

Sherly in 2012 at our office

From age 9 to 19, Sherly lived in at least 9 different homes. Two were relatives, and for a few months she lived in a one-time Ndoto girl’s dormitory. The rest were strangers, neighbors, and teachers who were willing to take her in. Sherly knew that there was no way that she would enroll in high school if she and her father had to do it alone. When she was in 8th grade in 2012 and about to begin her primary school certificate exams, she found out about Ndoto and applied for sponsorship. Even before knowing the exam scores, Ndoto could see her potential and how needy she was, and her application was accepted.

Sherly did do well on her exams, in fact, and Ndoto helped her get admitted to a highly-rated boarding school. Paying her fees in full, Sherly could continue to pursue her dreams. However, in 2014, another hurdle presented itself. Partway into her second year of high school, she was hit with a nervous system disorder called peripheral neuropathy. Half-paralyzed on her right side, Sherly required therapy and was out of school for the rest of 2014.

Ndoto has always sought to emulate the kind of deep and total love that Jesus shows us in our sponsorship program. Ndoto does not limit its generosity only to academics. We are a holistic organization extending broad support to at-risk families. Sherly’s case was another opportunity for Ndoto to go above and beyond in ministering to a student. Her doctor bills, prescriptions, and therapy were funded. Her needs were taken care of, and in 2015 we took her back to school.

Sherly in 2017, beginning her final year of high school

In need of a local day school, Sherly joined one of the best in the area, as Ndoto ensured that her potential would be reignited. Sherly resumed her 10th grade studies and in 2017, she successfully graduated. When she took her end-of-school exams in 12th grade she earned a B-, putting her in the top 7% of students nationwide. Ndoto saw her through, and as is our practice, we don’t automatically stop our sponsorship with high school like most others do. For high-potential students, we sponsor them to college.

Sherly didn’t go immediately, however. For most college students, Ndoto takes a partnership model, with the student paying some of the costs. Sherly was living as a housemaid with a family at the time, and the family failed to pay her on time and she missed the first two rounds of university placement as she couldn’t pay the application fees. The last round of university placement usually consists of the smaller and lower-tier schools. “Time was running out,” she recalls today. “I was disappointed with the fact that there were no more good universities left for me and I remember telling myself that I didn’t want to go to college anymore.”

A friend and benefactor intervened and got Sherly into the third and final round of university placement in 2018. The only course available to her that she could relate to was French. She wasn’t really excited about it, as it didn’t have an obvious career path, but God had his plans. She had enjoyed French as her foreign language requirement throughout high school, and she excelled in it, earning a top grade on her exams. So she enrolled at Pwani University, on the far side of the country in the coastal city of Kilifi, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in French.

Sherly visiting the Château de Tarascon

As she lives with her nerve disorder, Sherly has learned how to manage the pain. Cold weather and stress tend to aggravate the pain, and by avoiding overworking her right side she can manage well. Through God, yoga, wellness, and fitness, she has learned to listen to and respect her body. “All in gratitude,” she adds. “I feel it is disrespectful to ourselves and to God to live in zero optimism, zero hope, zero faith, and zero self-love. I believe now that if you want to do something you will surely do it.” Sherly graduated from Pwani in December 2022, but she attended her graduation ceremony virtually because she was already in France working.

President Emmanuel Macron of France visited Kenya in March 2019 and formed a bilateral agreement to include Kenya in the larger Assistants de langue en France program, which recruits some 4,500 young educators from 68 countries to teach 15 languages throughout France. Out of thousands of applicants, less than 100 Kenyans are selected each year. Sherly made it on her first try and flew to France in October 2022 to teach for seven months. She loved the experience, though being in France in winter was difficult as she had a lot of hard physical moments that she had to work through with strength training and massage therapy.

Sherly teaching English in a French classroom

“Now because of everything I’ve had to go through,” Sherly shared after the teaching program, “I don’t believe in excuses. It might be hard, frustrating, or tiring. But if you believe, if you have faith, then nothing is hard enough for you to give up on yourself. I try not to live in excuses; that’s where potential and beautiful things we’ve been gifted die. I love to show people that it can be done. I do believe that God has gifted me the ability to make broken and hopeless things into something beautiful, and God always sends his support to help me. We’ve been given a beautiful gift being born human – to me, it means we’ve been given power, power to change, to make things beautiful with the help of God. I hope I can help people in the future to transform from the inside out.”

Sherly doesn’t yet know what she wants her career to be like. Wellness and fitness is a big part of the picture, but she definitely wants French to be part of it as well. For now, she is back in Kisumu, but she will be headed back to France in September. Because of her experiences, she feels drawn to service for humanity and for the less-privileged. She hopes that she can be part of bringing more light, love, hope, and kindness to the world. Sherly is an Ndoto alumna with a transformed life thanks to the deep and total love of Jesus shown through Ndoto.

John Seale is Ndoto’s US Director of Operations. Samson Opiyo is Ndoto Kenya’s Director of Communications. Jacob Ochieng is an intern with Ndoto. He is an Ndoto-sponsored student who is studying Mass Communications at Egerton University.

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