by John Seale
with reporting by Samson Opiyo
To be perfectly honest, there are times that it’s hard to tell the stories of Ndoto. There is a temptation to sugar-coat stories of hardship, and look for satisfactory endings and inspiring journeys. After all, when you’re running a ministry that relies on the donations of generous supporters, you’d much rather tell stories of overcoming adversity while glossing over the ugliest details. Perhaps many donors would rather be shielded from the harsh realities of life in a developing country’s slums.
At times, however, there are situations that appall even our Kenyan staff, many of whom grew up in at-risk households themselves. The story you’re about to read isn’t representative of God’s design for this life. In John 9, Jesus’ disciples ask him why there is a man who has been blind from birth. They assumed that somebody must have done something wrong to be punished such. Jesus didn’t view it as punishment, however. The man was an opportunity for God to show his power. As Jesus says, we must do the good works that God lays before us to do.
|Frighton, in 2021 outside our office|
Ndoto sponsors bright and needy students. There is an annual application process for sponsorship, and the integrity of this process is maintained through policies. Among them are that two siblings are not admitted in the same year, and no more than two siblings from a family are sponsored at the same time. However, Ndoto works in an African urban slum, so sometimes exceptions are the only moral decision to make.
Wilson and Frighton are two brothers who were brought to our office in 2019 to pick up applications. Wilson was 9 and going into 1st grade, and Frighton was 8 and going into Kindergarten. Neither could read or write. Their mother was desperate for help. She did whatever she could to make money. In maize harvesting season she would buy fresh ears, roast them on the roadside, and sell them. Outside of season she could sell soap or sugarcane. Sometimes she washed clothes for people. On a good day, she could make 300 shillings, which at the time was about $3. Her husband, a cobbler, spent his income on liquor and was rarely home, which was a blessing because he had been abusive in the past.
|The family’s children in April in their home. On the floor is Trizah, and from left to right, seated, are Frighton, Dorine (holding her baby), Wilson, and Julian.|
This family’s situation, however, had become desperate two years earlier. Wilson and Frighton have a younger sister named Julian. When she was two years old, she was playing outside her home with neighbors when she had an accident and hit her head hard on the ground. She was unconscious. Receiving an emergency call, their mother, Roselyne, rushed home and brought her daughter to the nearby hospital where she was admitted. Julian was in a coma for 90 days.
When she awoke from her coma, Julian was diagnosed with febrile convulsions and meningitis. She could neither walk, talk, sit, nor eat. For an entire year, Julian was tube-fed. Eventually she advanced to spoon-feeding. Her condition completely preoccupied her mother. Every glimmer of hope was doused. In addition to Julian’s full-time care, she had four other children to feed and educate, besides rent to be paid. On top of that, Frighton was diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia after experiencing chronic fatigue, pain, and swelling.
|Wilson, at school in April|
Wilson and Frighton helped the family by walking around the community to search for scrap metals to sell. Sometimes they would find fish remains at the marketplace to bring home for protein. Other times they would wait outside restaurants hoping for some food waste that they could eat. Surviving was their main pursuit, and school was the last thing on their minds. Frighton needed a monthly blood transfusion and a good diet. Both of these things were equally unaffordable for his mother. She said that she began to lose all hope and sometimes prayed that God would take her children out of their misery.
|Joshua Odhiambo, from our staff, with Frighton and Wilson earlier this year|
It was at this point that Roselyne received the first piece of good news she had found in years. Ndoto was going to sponsor not one, but both of her sons. Wilson and Frighton were going to school. Not only does Ndoto cover school fees and tuition, our sponsorship provides uniforms, shoes, and pays for the school food program. Although the pandemic was hard on the family, today they say they can afford a smile. Frighton’s health is gradually improving as his mother is able to devote more money to his care. Their academic performance is encouraging, despite the fact that they started off behind. They both understand the value of education and are thankful for the opportunity they’ve been given.
Their mother is grateful for the support. She declares that Ndoto has brought back hope to her family and she acknowledges that they could not have reached this far if it weren’t for Ndoto giving them a lifeline at just the right time. Julian, for her part, has made some progress at home. She eats better, and she can sit up for a few minutes at a time, something she was not able to do just a year ago. She responds to people speaking to her, which is a sign of regaining her faculties. “Ndoto has helped us immensely,” Roselyne said when our team sat down with her this year. “They have done much that I was not going to manage.”
The family’s challenges continue, however. With everything happening in the family, the firstborn in the family, Dorine, herself a teenager yet only in fifth grade, became pregnant and dropped out. Without constant care, Julian was developing a severe skin rash and her knees were starting to bend from being left in one position for long periods of time. Their family has added a fifth sibling, Trizah. And despite all the improvements in their situation, all six family members were still living in a dilapidated one-room iron sheet house, barely 30 square feet, all sleeping on the floor.
I remember pieces of this family’s story being shared with me when Wilson and Frighton joined our program. We had quickly found sponsors for both boys from one of our partner churches in Wylie, Texas. When this complete picture first surfaced in mid-April, I was so aghast that I encouraged our team to look for some way to do more for this family. I felt that surely this story was still being written, that there would be more light at the end of the tunnel. I’m pleased that our exemplary team quickly found a path.
|Musa Ojuok greeting a special needs child at Jonathan of Hope|
One of Ndoto’s newest team members, Musa Ojuok, has a Bachelors of Education with an emphasis on special needs. He introduced us to a former colleague named Caroline Kisuge, who works in a special needs school. She started a program south of our city called Jonathan of Hope that takes care of children with special needs such as neurodiversity, cerebral palsy, and other challenges. They provide physiotherapy, wheelchair fitting, feeding, and education. They currently support 20 children in the facility and another 35 in home-based care. As parenting a special needs child comes with stigma for parents, Jonathan of Hope also provides psychosocial support to the parents.
|Roselyne bringing Julian to Jonathan of Hope for the first time|
Caroline did an assessment of Julian on April 24th, with Ndoto sponsoring the transportation out of town. She recommended immediate enrollment for special treatment of Julian’s rashes. Roselyne spoke to the absent father, and he consented as well. Julian was welcomed on April 28. In this program, Julian can also access an education for the first time in her life.
|Caroline Kisuge holds Julian at her assessment|
In addition to blessing Wilson, Frighton, and now Julian, Ndoto’s support is transformative for their mother, Roselyne. She is now able to invest her time more fully in work outside the home so that she can provide for the family better. Dorine successfully delivered her child, who is now three months old, and Dorine hopes that someday she can go back to school with the support of her mother. Wilson, almost 14 and in 4th grade, says he wants to be a doctor when he grows up. Frighton, 12 and in 3rd grade, wants to be an engineer.
Some people are dealt hands in life that seem deeply unfair to us. Contrary to popular thinking, the Bible never promises us that God won’t give us more than we can bear. God certainly never promises that if we have faith, we will be prosperous and live a comfortable life. God never felt the need to tell Job why he had allowed the enemy to make his life so miserable.
Ndoto can’t make Roselyne’s life fair or easy. All that we can do is be faithful with the blessings that we have and share them with others. God laid sponsorship on the hearts of two families in Wylie, Texas. He provided our staff with someone who knew someone who could help Julian. With those investments, this family’s life is a bit better than it was before, and that’s our part to play in this world as salt and light: doing what we can to make our individual corners of the world better than they were before. And in that way, all of our stories are still being written, as long as there is more for us to do.
|From L-R: Frighton, Trizah, Joshua (holding Dorine’s baby), Dorine, Wilson.|