15 of Your Most Loved Stories This Year

Discover how you’ve played a part in a global movement of compassion.

Hope. This is the word we’d use to describe 2019.

This year you’ve restored hope to a widowed father in Peru. You’ve given hope to a grandma parenting a toddler in her old age. And you’ve blessed a family in Rwanda with the opportunity to hope again after they lost everything in flash-floods.

Through the celebrations and the challenges, you’ve prayed, supported and cheered from the sidelines. You’ve played a part of a global movement of loving your neighbour. Showing compassion and the love of Jesus.

Thank you.

It’s a joy to share some of these hope-filled stories that you’ve enjoyed the most. Take a re-read and be encouraged afresh. Give God thanks for all He had done.

Luisa’s story of courage

(warning, contains details some readers may find distressing)

We can’t show Luísa’s face, but it’s important we share her story.

Luísa was two years old when her mother started leaving her in bars as “collateral” for the drinks she couldn’t pay for. The last time this happened Luísa sat for two days, stashed in a corner, waiting for crumbs to fall from customers’ tables.

Luisa from Brazil


Sadly, Luísa’s story isn’t unique. In Brazil, where she lives, the rate of child neglect is alarmingly high.

After two days the bar owner finally realised and called Luísa’s grandmother, Lourdes, to collect her.

Lourdes took Luísa into her home, where the toddler’s older sister, 10-year-old Elisabete, was already living. “Luísa almost died of being mistreated,” recalls Elisabete, now 18. “But I took care of her.”

When Luísa turned three, Elisabete took her to be registered at the local church’s Compassion project. At first Luísa cried and recoiled if anyone tried to comfort her. But the staff and volunteers knew they couldn’t give up.

Finally, their patience paid off. It was at the project that Luísa, now 7 years old, spoke her first words. And today, Luísa is a kind and thoughtful girl who picks flowers for her tutor, Marina, on her way to the church.

Luísa’s heart still bears deep wounds. But the love and protection she is receiving is slowly healing those wounds, helping her to love, trust and, ultimately, become all God created her to be.

The women who inspire Naomi Scott

“My heart is to see women empowered,” reflects Naomi Scott, actor, singer and Compassion UK Ambassador.

naomi scott and ernestine

Earlier in 2019, Naomi travelled to Rwanda to see Compassion’s Child Survival projects in action. Naomi has been a long-term supporter of Compassion and while in Rwanda, saw first-hand how Compassion Child Survival projects provide vulnerable mums and babies with nutritional, medical and community support, through the local church.

“On my trip to Rwanda with Compassion, I met Eugenia, Mediatrice and Ernestine, three women who are thriving in the midst of hugely challenging personal circumstances. They taught me so much about the significance of women encouraging and supporting one another.

“It was humbling to meet women embodying resilience and courage. Their voices and stories need to be heard. That’s why, through the Different Path appeal, I’ve been raising awareness of the challenges mums in poverty face. We’ve been raising funds to run more projects just like this in Togo, giving even more women a voice and a healthy future. A huge thank you to everyone who donated!

Be inspired by reading Eugenia, Mediatrice and Ernestine’s stories in full

Parenting precious twins amidst tragedy

Honorato from Peru faced the unthinkable when his wife died in childbirth. “My whole world fell apart. I was in shock and so devastated,” he reflects.

twins in Bolivia

In spite of his pain, Honorato began to gather the strength to raise twins, Issac and Marcos without his beloved wife. Daily life was a challenge, working long hours at a construction yard, earning just $7 a day.

“I was devastated for our situation. I was scared, since I did not have enough to buy nappies, food and clothing. My salary was very low. I cried out to the Lord for Him to give me a solution.” says Honorato.

But, glory to God, the local church was mobilised to come alongside the family thanks to Compassion’s Child Survival Interventions.

“Now, thanks to the support I’m receiving from the church, my babies have everything they need. They’re healthy. They have love. I know that with my hard work and the help of the programme, they will become men after God’s heart who will make a change in our community.”

Toilet talk from Rwanda

“Over time, the toilets would fill up and spill over the user. This was very disgusting, but we continued using it due to a lack of an alternative.”

For children at a Compassion project in Gitarama, Rwanda, lack of clean, safe facilities meant that going to the toilet was a humiliating experience. What’s worse, they were also getting sick. Children were contracting diarrhoea leaving them at risk of developing malnutrition.

toilet block

Praise God, thanks to the generosity of UK supporters like you, 12 toilet cubicles were constructed at the project including two with disabled access! This means that 235 children now have clean toilets and hand-washing facilities.

“The sanitation conditions have tremendously improved at our project. We now have new and comfortable toilets that we are proud to use.

“We were trained on hygienic practices like washing hands and cleaning the toilets. We also learnt how to maintain good personal hygiene.

“Thank you very much, is all I can say. May God repay you hundredfold for your loving and generous hearts. May you be blessed.” Belise, Compassion-supported child at the project.

Winning the fight against FGM

Florence Lomariwo’s lifelong crusade against FGM, started with her own narrow escape.
When she turned 9, she learnt that she was to undergo FGM, then be married. “An old man had approached my family to arrange a marriage with me,” she recalls. “I didn’t want to be married, so I ran away and lived with well-wishers who supported my desire to complete my education and make something of myself.”

Fighting FGM in Kenya

Her determination paid off. After finishing secondary school, Florence enrolled in a teacher’s college and later graduated with a degree in education. She then married the man of her own choice — a privilege few women her age knew. This gave Florence the credentials and platform she needed to effect change.

Today, Florence runs a school and rescue centre for girls who escaped FGM and early marriage.

Through Florence’s dedication and hard work, Chemolingot Primary School is home to more than 150 young girls who have been rescued from FGM and early marriage. Among the girls who have found refuge at the primary school in the past, 11 are currently attending public universities and colleges and 49 are attending various high schools around the country.

In 2016, Florence’s church, African Inland Church Chemolingot, partnered with Compassion to launch a project and register children into the sponsorship programme. Today, 252 children gather every Saturday at the local church to participate in different activities and lessons.

As part of these Compassion project activities, Florence is helping ensure the children in her community receive ongoing education about their rights. She is also making sure parents are provided with training about the dangers of FGM.

Nicole’s Different Path testimony

Nicole was orphaned as a child, abandoned by her first husband and badly abused by her second. “He would punish me, and refuse to give me food,” she remembers. Nicole eventually fled in fear of her own life and the life of her unborn child.

Mum kissing daughter in Togo

When community workers from the Child Survival project at her local church in Glope, a rural district north of Togo’s capital, found Nicole, she was dangerously ill.

They helped to turn her life around. With access to antenatal care, medical support and nutrition, Nicole regained her strength and gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Through the church, she now feels she has an extended family who know her, love her and are committed to protecting her and her family now and in the future.
“With Compassion, I became hopeful about the future”, she beams.

A huge thank you to all those who supported our Different Path Appeal, empowering vulnerable mums like Nicole!

Living when you don’t exist

children in Ecuador

Despite having lived in Ecuador their entire lives, Maria and her four siblings didn’t have citizenship or identity cards.

In Ecuador, a birth certificate and identity card costs about $65 – an amount Maria’s parents simply couldn’t afford. This meant the children were not citizens, unable to attend school or access public health services.

Struggling to put food on the table, their mum Pamela took the children to the local church. Compassion project director Catalina’s heart broke when she heard their story. “I could not let those children grow up without food or education. I had to do something,” she remembers.

family gaining identity in Ecuador

The project provided the financial assistance needed to register the children as Ecuadorian citizens. It was a lengthy and complicated process, but the outcome was worth it!

Today, Maria and her siblings are registered in the Child Sponsorship Programme at their local church. They attend school and have the same rights as their classmates.

Read Maria’s story of hope in full. 

A safe place to call home

house construction

Imagine waking up to find your family home in ruins.

This was the reality Niyibizi and his family faced when extreme storms caused landslides and flooding in the Nyamasheke district of Rwanda. Families were torn apart and many more made homeless.

Before the storm, Niyibizi lived in a one room house shared with his six family members. The family had no toilet and were forced to cook meals in the same place they slept.
Thankfully it wasn’t long before the local church and Compassion project that Niyibizi attended, noticed their difficult situation and came alongside the family.

Thanks to the generosity of UK donors, the local church was able to construct a four-bedroom house for this precious family! They now have a separate living area, toilet and kitchen – improving the sanitation of the house and restoring dignity to the family!

Niyibizi’s father, Sebakungu, rejoices, “a house is the best gift I have ever received in my life. I have always lived a life of worrying – not knowing how the future would be for me and my children. But I now know that God indeed cares for the needy.”

Sowaye’s Different Path testimony

“Without Compassion, Dellali would have just passed away,” says grandmother Sowaye.
Sowaye never expected to be raising a child in her old age. But when her daughter died in childbirth, she couldn’t abandon her granddaughter, Dellali.

As Dellali grew, it became harder for Sowaye to cope. She felt so alone.

Grandma Togo

When community workers from a Child Survival project at her local church in Legbanou, Togo, found them, the baby girl was in urgent need of medical support. With help from the church, Dellali received the care she needed.

“Since I have gone to the Compassion project and found a support from them, I am not feeing lonely anymore,” smiles Sowaye.

The second journey of motherhood is one that Sowaye never dreamt she’d have to make. With support from our Child Survival interventions, she does not have to walk it alone.

Education for Shanti

Shanti from Bangladesh

15-year-old Shanti belongs to one of Bangladesh’s largest indigenous minority groups. One of the greatest challenges children like Shanti face is the Chakma people mainly speak their own tribal language rather than the majority language, Bengali. This puts children from this group at a disadvantage in the educational system, where only Bengali is spoken.

Children from the Chakma group tend to drop out of school to join their family in agricultural labour, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty.

With a passion for her studies, Shanti has accomplished something unheard of in her community: she’s trilingual, understanding not only Chakma, but also Bengali and English.

Shanti has broken the mould for girls thanks to the invaluable support she’s receiving from her Compassion sponsor who provides her with books, school uniform and tuition fees through their monthly donations.

Thanks to this support, Shanti is able to give back to her community by tutoring her neighbour’s children for free. “I like to teach them, since it allows me to expand and practice what I know. It also helps me develop my teaching skills. My goal when I complete my education and become an excellent teacher.”

Bravery healed my bruised heart

Brazilian family in poverty

Courageous doesn’t begin to describe Silvana. In her 28 years she’s witnessed violence, experienced abuse and suffered the unimaginable grief of losing a child. Yet, she considers her bravest moment to be going back to school.

“When a child is born in poverty and has no help from anyone, he or she will probably and unfortunately become an adult living in poverty,” explains Silvana”. Even when living with shortage, an adult dreams of living a happier life, of having a family and seeing their children experience better days. But poverty, always present, seems to say those dreams will never come true.

“That’s how I’ve lived most of my life. When I was a teenager I started working as a maid in families’ houses. They didn’t pay me a salary, but they gave me food, a bed to sleep in, and some presents. It was hard to have to work and go to school at the same time. I was always tired. It seemed like I would never learn all those things, and school became an uninteresting place.

“I was only 16 years old when I got pregnant with my first child, Marcos Vinicius. My son’s father seemed to be the person who would give me a family as I always dreamed.

“However, soon my dream became a nightmare, and the handsome man I fell in love with became a violent man and betrayed me countless times. My future seemed darker and darker. I had to drop my studies because of my pregnancy, and the idea of going back to school became shameful and frustrating.”

Read Silvana’s story of hope being restored by the local church.

Change through the Challenge: Danny’s story

When Danny from Littlehampton signed up to run a marathon on behalf of Compassion, he didn’t anticipate the change the challenge would bring to his own life.

“I’ve always assumed that life is going to give you challenges that you can’t handle,” he says. “But this is different. It’s a challenge I’ve put on myself that I’ve achieved.

“When I signed up for the challenge, I was kind of all over the place. I was suffering with depression and I needed to do something quite big just to see if I could achieve something.

“I thought 5k was going to be impossible and now I’ve flown to the other side of the world to run a marathon. That’s something I can take for the rest of my life and apply it to anything in my life. So, who knows what could be next for me?

“It’s been about opening my eyes to what the real world is like, not stuck in my little bubble. The fact is, I stuck to something and I did it. It was so big and massive and out of the range of possibility that it’s made everything else seem doable.

“Half way through the training, I hadn’t raised enough sponsorship. I had a lot of people saying, mate, you’re not a runner. You can’t do this. So, I said to my church leader, ‘I’m out, I can’t do this’. She said to me, ‘God’s put you on a path and it’s not meant to be easy. But if you give up now, you’re not ever going to get there. You’ve got to trust this is God’s plan.’

“Then a week later I did an event and I got 14 kids sponsored, all my trip costs covered and I was set ready to go. The stress instantly disappeared. Now I’m so proud to have done it. I’ll genuinely treasure this trip for the rest of my life. The moment I formed a friendship with my sponsored child, I think that’s already one of the most special moments of my life. You go from hopeless to hopeful in seconds.”

Discover more about Compassion Challenges in the UK and around the world. 

Extreme jobs in the Philippines

Pa-aling fishing is one of the world’s most extreme jobs. On a typical working day, a pa-aling fisherman risks their life, diving 65-100 feet into open waters to catch fish. They need to stay underwater for up to two hours at a time, with only a regular plastic hose attached to a compressor for breathing apparatus.

pa-aling fishing

35-year-old Elmera relies on pa-aling fishing to provide for his family. One day he hopes to find an alternative profession, but until then, “I will work hard for the sake of my family,” he says.

Every night Elmer risks his life, diving only using a self-made harpoon and homemade flippers to help him swim. He wears long clothing to protect himself against jellyfish stings and other hazards. There is no rescue team if anything goes wrong. Elmer relies on a single torch to guide himself.

“It is very risky and scary no doubt,” describes Elma, Elmer’s wife. “I always fear for my husband’s life every time he goes because I know that the waters in this part of the country are very rough and there are whirlpools in the middle of the sea.”

Elmera and Elma are determined that their children will have the opportunity to earn a living safely. Their daughter, 12-year-old Elmera Serenio wants to be an accountant when she grows up!

Pa-aling fishing canoe

“We support Elmera in whatever she hopes to accomplish,” Elmer says. “We know she studies hard, and thanks to the Compassion project and sponsor, we can be sure that she has a good chance of getting to college, finishing her studies and becoming an accountant. For this, we are thankful to Compassion’s child sponsorship programme and to her sponsor.”

One year on from The Thai cave rescue

Adun Thailand Cave Rescue

On 23 June 2018, 12 boys and their football coach parked their bikes and entered the gaping mouth of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the Chiang Rai Province of Thailand. Caught inside by monsoon floodwaters, the Wild Boars Football Team had no contact with the outside world for a week.

Before 23 June, 2018, life was relatively simple and quiet for Compassion-supported young person Adun. He would go to school from 7am to 4pm. Then he had football practice until six or seven pm. Finally, he would head back to the church hostel where he lives for dinner, then homework and quiet time before going to bed.

“It was very laidback,” says Adun. “I had everything I needed, and daily life was nothing exciting.”

But since the dramatic rescue, life for Adun and his teammates has been anything but laidback. The group have travelled to Manchester United and met Jose Mourinho. Filmmakers are making their cave rescue story into a film and the boys are sought-after guests for local and international events.

Today, in addition to his daily routine, which includes football matches, church services and Compassion project activities, Adun fits in occasional appearances at local events.
Through the highs and lows of the past few years, Adun knows that his strength comes from the One he believes in and that it is God who keeps him safe not only during the dark moments of life, but in everyday challenges.

Karunia the attitude changer

“I am beautiful like my mother,” says 7-year-old Karunia.

Karunia was born with Apert syndrome – a rare congenital disease that affects her face, head, arms and legs.


defeating disability prejudice Indonesia

“My husband, parents and all my family members were hiding the real condition of my baby. Any time they gave my baby to me to breastfeed, they wrapped her with a blanket, and she wore gloves and socks so I wasn’t able to see her hands and feet,” says Angel, Karunia’s mum.

Accepting Karunia’s condition was difficult for Angel and her husband, Candra. They faced shame in their local community.

When Karunia was one year old, she was enrolled in a local Compassion Survival project where she received medical, nutritional and emotional support. Angel and Candra began to understand and accept Karunia’s condition.

“She is my own flesh and blood, and we have to take care of her for as long as God gives us life, because God has a purpose for her,” says Angel.

With continued emotional, physical and spiritual support at her Compassion project, Karunia is now a bright and confident 7-year-old who loves to sing and run. “I love to play with my friends at school and at the centre….“I have a dream to be a singer in the future.” “When my friends mocked me because I don’t have normal fingers, my mum taught me to say back to them that this is what Jesus gave me.”

Be inspired by Karunia’s courageous determination. 

Becca Stanley

Words by Becca Stanley, Emily Johnstone and Compassion International photojournalists


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Compassion UK Christian Child Development, registered charity in England and Wales (1077216) and Scotland (SC045059). A company limited by guarantee, Registered in England and Wales company number 03719092. Registered address: Compassion House, Barley Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 2UT.