“The needs are overwhelming. It’s tempting to walk away and think it isn’t possible to make a difference.”
Being a parent involves tough choices. Sometimes the correct answer isn’t obvious or you’re faced with a daunting and unpopular decision. But what if you had to choose between medicine for your sick child or feeding the rest of your family? What if sending your child to school, their only chance for a better life, meant that the whole family went hungry? What parent could face those kinds of choices? In the area of Kenya where Akililu Hunqe grew up, his family and many in his community face those choices every day.
In his community in northern Kenya, the land was parched, and the dry season lasted most of the year. No crops would grow, so the people were pastoralists and their livestock was the mainstay of the economy. They lived in houses with mud walls and floors and a tin roof, and they carried their water from the community well several times a day. It was a difficult life by our standards, but for Akililu and his five siblings, it was the only life they knew. He attended the local elementary school, and although he was exceptionally bright, there was little hope of his getting more education because his family had no money.
One of his earliest memories is pushing a wheelbarrow with his mother. An agency provided food relief, and they walked to get their share. He remembers celebrating when they brought the food home.
“Every day is a choice, whether to feed your family, send the kids to school, or get medicine for a sick child,” says Akililu.
Then came the day when everything changed. As the oldest child in the family, Akililu was chosen to be a sponsored child with an aid agency. It meant that he had food and could get medicine if he was sick. For his family, it meant that at least one child was looked after, so there was more for the rest.
Akililu completed elementary school. There are few good quality schools in Kenya, but as a top student, he was accepted into a national school. However, being accepted meant that he was invited to go, but it didn’t pay his tuition. His family could never have afforded it, but a British local church missionary in his community paid it in full, including his schooling all through college. Akililu was blessed to meet this man’s son a few years ago and was able to express his gratitude.
High schools in Kenya are residential, and getting there meant two days’ travel on the back of trucks carrying livestock to markets in Nairobi. As a young boy, leaving his family and travelling to the city was frightening. He had never been beyond his rural community. In spite of the challenges, though, he thrived. He loved to learn, and food was plentiful.
After high school, Akilulu returned to northern Kenya and worked with an aid agency in a community similar to his. He studied the Scriptures and was enthralled by the link between physical poverty and spiritual poverty. He longed to study further.
His opportunity came when he attended Pan African Christian College (now University) and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Theology. Armed with new understanding, he returned to his community and joined a mission agency involved in church planting. They worked with young people and others to mobilize teams and evangelistic outreaches.
The hunger to learn and apply his faith led Akililu to the University of Nairobi, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 2002 and a master’s degree in sociology in 2005. The second degree specialized in rural sociology and community development.
Since then, he has poured his life into service. While working in Kenya, he led a national program targeting youth and promoting abstinence to combat the spread of HIV-AIDS.
With another organization, he co-ordinated relief efforts in Somalia, a country that is 99 per cent Islamic. He has also provided leadership to several agencies, including the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, as they offer emergency response and ongoing programs to address world hunger and poverty.
Today, Akililu is the director of international programs for ERDO, working with church partners and global workers in 32 countries to develop and deliver plans to accomplish ERDO’s mission: “To passionately respond to the practical needs of people living with poverty or crisis around the world by listening, caring and partnering.”
Does child sponsorship make a difference? Akililu says, “Sometimes people don’t see how $37 a month makes a difference in the life of a sponsored child. It means that children don’t have to leave school and work alongside their parents so the family can eat. It’s a lifesaver. It definitely made a difference in my life, and that’s why I’m doing what I do. I look at my life and see the opportunities that have been provided for me by the generosity of people I don’t know, who gave so that I could have my needs met and go to school. I see this as God equipping me and providing me with a perspective that is different.” Akililu sees sponsorship from both sides and understands the value of those gifts in a way that few others can.
“For me, this is not about a job. This is God’s calling. He provided for me and prepared me, and He has put me in a place to minister here at ERDO. That’s why I want to identify people like me, kids like I was, who are needy, and see what I can do to help them.”
This is a reminder of the story of a man walking along the shore, throwing starfish into the water. When asked why he bothered to save a few when there were thousands he couldn’t save, he threw another into the water and said, “I made a difference for that one.” The needs are overwhelming. It’s tempting to walk away and think it isn’t possible to make a difference. Akililu’s life proves that not only does sponsoring a child make a difference, but that the ripple effect is experienced far beyond the original sponsorship.
Would you like a chance to radically change the life of a child through child sponsorship? Visit http://www.erdo.ca/child-sponsorship and begin your adventure in making a difference today.
ERDO (Emergency Relief & Development Overseas) is the humanitarian agency of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. ERDO is involved in four key areas: Crisis Response, Food Relief, ChildCARE Plus (Child Sponsorship), and Community Development. Ann Peachman Stewart is a freelance writer and ChildCARE Plus sponsor from Mississauga, Ont.
This article appeared in the September/October issue of testimony, a bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. ©2016 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. This content is provided as a free sample of testimony. Subscribe for full access to the complete magazine.