At just 28 years old, Emanuel is already known locally for his craftsmanship and generosity. From making benches, to training up youth, he’s a gifted welder who wants to make life better for others. But when he was a young boy, life didn’t look quite as hopeful.
Emanuel was born in rural area in Tanzania, and lived in a simple home with his grandparents.
It wasn’t far from the nearest town, Karatu, but that place seemed like a dream to Emanuel. He longed to live there one day–like his mother, who had left him to look for work when he was very small.
“My mother had remarried, and her husband did not want me living with them. But she visited me every week,” remembers Emanuel.
A Shepherd’s Life
In Emanuel’s community, many young boys became shepherds, traveling for days a time to tend to cattle. This hot, tiring work sometimes meant missing school; but securing the family’s income needed to come first. At home, Emanuel slept on the floor in the cowshed, while his grandparents shared the only bedroom with his female cousin. “Most of the time we only had lunch. When my grandfather made a little more money, we had a bowl of porridge in the morning and then we would wait to eat for supper,” explains Emanuel.
Emanuel’s mother, Hosaina, would visit whenever she could, perhaps bringing a sack of sugar or some buns–whatever she could afford from her small business selling milk. But Emanuel struggled without her, “Every time she left me, I would wonder if I had done something wrong – why was I being abandoned?” he recalls. “I did not focus much on what was ahead, I knew my life will always remain the same; there was no hope in that that environment, the people would live most of their lives the same, and I could not see beyond it.”
One day, Hosaina arrived with good news to share. She had registered Emanuel in a Compassion project at his local church and he’d now be receiving support. Emanuel started to receive food, clothes, and books for school. If he became ill, the centre ensured his medical care. Through the local church, his mother was able to see her hopes for him fulfilled.
Support through the local church-based project ensured Emanuel’s education, and boosted his confidence. “On my first day of school, I stood out from the rest of the children in my class. I was the only one with books and a schoolbag. I did not put it down the whole day,” says Emanuel.
Emanuel was so overjoyed to be attending school, he didn’t think much about not having a bed to sleep in at night. But when his sponsor sent him a birthday gift, Emanuel knew exactly what to buy.
“The centre staff told us I had received a gift. He asked me what I wanted, and I said a mattress,” describes Emanuel. “When I got my bed, I could not wait to go to sleep that night.”
It wasn’t just essentials that improved for Emanuel. Towards the end of primary school, Emanuel fulfilled his hope of living with his mother, and moved with her to Karatu. Emanuel continued his education there, inspired by the support of the project staff. “I was drawn to teaching by one of my teachers at the centre. The way he treated us and cared for us made me want to be like him,” he said.
Skills for life
Emanuel hoped to become a teacher one day, but it was the vocational training he received that really stood out. There was a welding workshop nearby, and he started to learn the trade.
In 2017, he graduated from the Compassion programme as a skilled welder with a secondary school education. Now, five years on, he’s married and father to Reyna, aged two. Thanks to his welding, he also helps his two siblings, his mother, and his grandparents. Not only that, but he has his own home, complete with windows and doors he’s built himself. Of all his creations, he’s most proud of his daughter’s bed. With its curved bedhead and decorative hearts, it’s a world away from the floor he slept on as a child.
“My prayer was always for my child to have a better life than I did,” explains Emanuel’s mother Hosiana. “When I look at him now, I feel extremely proud and thankful to God. Emanuel can provide for his own family. He helps me when I need help and he also pays for his siblings’ school fees.”
Bringing hope to others
Ever the teacher, on Saturdays Emanuel now teaches welding to the youth at the project, offering hope and advice to many who share his background. “Welding gave me an avenue to a better life and my hope for the youth is for them to have the same,” he says. “In case they do not succeed academically, they will have something reliable to fall back to.”
A role model for others, Emanuel dreams of building his mother her own home, but he’s grateful for more than just the practical skills he’s learnt. “The person I am today is because of the help and support I received from the centre and my sponsor,” he said. “When my daughter wakes up from her comfortable bed, she always has enough food to eat.”