Meeting Hammington Ashwani Awinja

Last week I began sponsoring a child from Kenya through Compassion International. On the conference table at the Student Life offices, our events staff set out ten packets of children who's projects we would be visiting on our vision trip the next week. I had been thinking about sponsoring from Kenya, so I picked up the packet of the oldest boy on the table. He's 16. His name is Hammington.
Since he had not received a letter from me yet and had no idea who I was, I emailed our Compassion contact and he told the project to deliver the news earlier this week.
Yesterday I got the opportunity to meet him at his project in Dandora, KE-528. I was not expecting this day to have such an impact on me. 
He tries to look tough in pictures, but he loves to smile when the camera isn't around. 

Hammington Ashwani Awinja and his mother, Susan

First of all, he has the coolest name ever. But as it turns out, he is actually the coolest kid in Kenya. I recognized him from his packet photo as he sat in the back of the church as the project coordinators familiarized us with the community and the project. After they finished the presentation I asked the Project Director if that was in fact him and he introduced me.
When I first hugged him and introduced myself we both teared up a bit. It was a little overwhelming for us both, but after a bit of conversation that all turned into excitement. 

After the introductions outside the church.

Going through the gifts i brought him and teaching him how to use the crank-powered flashlight/radio.
Showing off his soccer skills with a new ball.
This is Hammington's folder at the Compassion project. They showed me all of his school grades, medical reports, and home visit assessments. 
Hammington (or "Paul", as his friends call him) is a a great kid, full of potential in all things, but his dream is to be a "footballer". According to his project social worker, he led his Compassion soccer team to the national finals this year as the goal keeper. He also plays for a government sponsored team that the Kenyan national team recruits from. I wondered throughout our conversation how much I should encourage such a dream, but after talking with Tony, my Kenyan brother who was there with me, I could tell that this was a dream worth encouraging. He could actually make the national team one day.
Not only did I get to meet Hammington at the Compassion project, we got to visit his home.

A crowd of children following, all shouting, "Muzungu!" (white person) and "How are you? How are you?".
Waste water running through "streets".

Inside Hammington's home we sat and talked with him and his mother about life in Dandora and how Compassion is affecting his life for good. There was a power outage while we visited, so we conversed by lamplight. Four people live in their one room home that is no more than 10x10. I sat on the one bed with the two LDP (Leadership Development Program) students we had with us. They were able to encourage him to pursue his studies with the possibility of becoming an LDP one day and going to university. I was very thankful for their voice speaking into in his life. I could never encourage him in the same way a young man who grew up in poverty and in Compassion can.
While we sat there in that crowed, dark room I was reminded that though Compassion cannot physically remove their children from impoverished areas, they are teaching children to put their hope in Christ and live in His richness among these areas. And I believe that one day Dandora will be a different place because of that hope. Because of Christ at work through Hammington. After we visited for a while I prayed for Hammington and his family and made it about a minute into the prayer before I lost it.
I am so burdened and so hopeful for Hammington and his family. The father is not a consistent figure in his life and Dandora is a such dark place. Through tears I prayed that God would use Hammington to be a light in Dandora. I prayed that He would hold him close and continue to grow his love for Christ and His people. I prayed that his mother would find work to provide for the family and that Hammington would have men in his community to mentor him. I prayed that he would become a Godly man and father. I hope you will pray these things as well.
We all left that home drying our eyes and thanking God for allowing us to be a part of His work here on earth.

What is your response? You can be a part of this movement of God. Sponsor at compassion.com.


KE-715: Compassion Kenya Vision Trip 2012

This week the Student Life directors and event coordinators are in Kenya for a Compassion International vision trip. The purpose of this week is to see firsthand what Compassion does on the ground in developing countries to "release children from poverty in Jesus' name"so we can go back to the states as educated and passionate advocates for Compassion. This is my second vision trip with them and let me tell you their advocacy strategy works. I cannot help but speak about what I have seen and heard. 
Today we visited project KE-715 in Nairobi. A little background: All Compassion projects are run through the local church, so in the pictures here you will see no Compassion banners or branding. I love this about them. They work to spread Jesus' name, not their own. This project was full of life and joy, truly a refreshing time for us all. Grace, the Project Director, spoke so passionately about her role there and the children's successes. Not only are the children growing and learning, but this project is also holds three consecutive Compassion Kenya Soccer Tournament trophies. She said one thing that I wanted to share with as many people as possible. "When you go back, tell them (child sponsors) that they are not giving in vain." She right. I see it at every project I visit. Compassion International is giving children hope and a future, rooted in Christ's love for them. 

Little guy enjoyed his snack and saved some for later on his face.
The churches training center where they teach men and women weaving.

This is a picture after our visit to a Compassion sponsored child's home. Elizabeth was at school, but her mother, Salome, welcomed us in and answered our questions. Salome is the woman holding the baby in the red shirt. Though the house was very small and primitively built, they lived in a nicer home in comparison to most we have seen in the slums. 
Salome is a single mother of seven children. The father of the children left her when she was diagnosed HIV positive in 2005. The rent for this one room home is about $25 a month. 

A stream in the slum. Clean drinking water is a major issue for most living in slums. 

On the walk back to the project.

Meet Joseck, one of the nine LDP students applying to travel with us this summer and speak on behalf of Compassion at our camps. We have enjoyed spending time with all of them this week.

More trip updates to come...


Giant Jenga

One if my responsibilities at Student Life (studentlife.com) is creating and building the games for our recreation time. I love this part of my job.
This is a really easy project and would be fun for parties and kids. Just go to Lowes and buy 7 of the nicest 2x4s you can find, cut them into 11in pieces, sand edges, stack, and play. You need 54 pieces total.