On this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October), the statistics point to an urgent need for action. If current poverty trends persist, an alarming 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty by the end of the decade, and currently nearly 10% of the world’s population are living on less than £1.70 per day.
This is why it’s more important than ever to not lose hope in the fight against poverty. At Compassion UK, we know how successful locally led initiatives driven by the local church can be.
Maureen’s story, told here in her own words, is living proof of the transformation that’s possible when a person is given access to opportunities previously denied them because of the injustices of poverty.
The bitterness of poverty
I grew up as a very bitter child. Bitter with God, bitter with life. There were times that I wished we were all dead. Poverty brings bondage, where you feel like, “This is me, this is how I live, and this is how I’ll die.”
My name is Maureen Kaderi. I was born in Kariobangi, Kenya. Life was not so easy, especially as a girl child and as a baby in the slum. My mum was not working; my dad was a casual labourer. The days he was working, he would get around $10 a month, and our house cost $6. So, you can imagine how we would survive with $4.
Life was unbearable. We went for four or five days without eating, and if we had to eat food, it was rotten. You cannot concentrate on an empty stomach. So many times, I would be last in class… I was called names, like “Hyena,” because every time people were eating, I’d go and ask for food.
It felt like we had no tomorrow
At home when it rained, it was the worst time of our lives as a family, because the floor wasn’t cemented. Our bed was our clothes, our own tattered clothes we’d put down. When it rained, we would go look for a corner, stand there. If the few books I had, or the uniform, had been rained on, I would cry, because the teachers wouldn’t understand that this is my situation.
We didn’t have any direction. We didn’t have any tomorrow. There was no ray of hope in anything that was happening in my life. So that actually made me hate myself so much—and hate God.
The Compassion project was a second family to me
But the moment I joined Compassion, when I was seven years old, my life changed. The Compassion project was a second family to me, where I received even more love—care at a very personal level.
I received hope from Compassion. And, that is where I was taught how to pray. I got my first Bible, and I was taught how to read the Bible and I believed in the words that were written in the Bible. And whatever was taught at the Compassion project, I would take it back home.
I was so happy after the first Saturday because of the balanced diet. I was always looking forward to every Saturday because it was like Christmas to me and my family. There is power in food, and there is power in opportunity. Compassion bought for me, with the money that my sponsor sent, uniform, books, and paid my school fees.
I received skills which empowered me and brought me self-worth
I was always in class, not missing anything, with a clean uniform. I had shoes on—new ones. And I started working hard. I got, yes, education, academics, which helped. But also, these other livelihood skills, which kind of empowered me, transformed me, and brought me self-worth.
I started believing that I can do something: my dreams are valid. All these things, because of what I learnt from the Compassion project.
My sponsors were always praying for me
remember the first time I got a picture, a photo of my sponsors, and a letter. I was so excited! And from then, I started saying, “I don’t care. I’m not a hyena.”
I believed in myself, and I believed that I was beautiful, and I started loving myself.
And the letter continued, “…I want you to know that we love you so much. We are always praying for you.”
When I joined university, my mum was so happy and so proud. She was so grateful to Compassion, so grateful.
Empowered to be a world changer
I am who I am today because of Compassion. What I went through has shaped who I am right now and what I do. I started Rehema House, a Christian nonprofit organisation, which rescues young, poor, pregnant girls from the streets and slums of Kenya. To me, Rehema is a baby of Compassion.
There’s counselling, there’s discipleship, there’s mentorship. I love these girls, and I connect everything that’s happening with my story. That’s why I’m thankful for my background. If I never went through what I went through, I wouldn’t give the girls my all.
I know what it means to go hungry for days; these girls, that is what they’re facing right now. I love when they come and hug us and say, “Thank you for loving me so well.” These kids always encourage me when I just look at them and see: their life is a pure miracle. Because most of their parents wanted to abort them or commit suicide.
You don’t have to be rich to have a good impact. There is power, let me tell you, there is power in holding other people’s hands. That is what Compassion did; that is what my sponsors did.
It’s hope that trickles down to the family, to the community and to the world. And I look at myself as a world changer.
Will you empower a child to overcome poverty?