Back in 2000, the United Nations (UN) agreed to the Millennium Development Goals, an audacious set of targets aiming to halve world poverty by 2015. That same year, a young Kenyan man named David was mourning the loss of his father in an overcrowded shack in Kangemi, one of Nairobi’s most notorious slums. His father had just died of AIDS, leaving his mother as the sole caregiver for David and his three siblings. David had become one of the statistics of poverty that the UN was seeking to help.
David walked the streets of a community where disease, violence, unemployment, child mortality and drug abuse were rife. Like most families in the slum, David’s family made their home in a makeshift shack without running water or sanitation. “Living in a small room with a tiny table and a sleeping mat as the only valuable things in our house, my mother never stopped struggling to support me,” says David.
This year, the World Bank announced that the UN goal of halving world poverty had been achieved, earlier than the original target. David is one of millions who have stepped across the poverty line. But how has he made that impossible leap?
Following the death of his father, the local church in David’s community registered him as a sponsored child through the charity Compassion and, with the support of his sponsor, David‘s life was transformed. “Over the years, my school fees were paid for and my textbooks and uniform were supplied by Compassion,” says David proudly. “Through the sponsorship, I was able to go to primary and secondary school. I was sponsored to study a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Technology at the University of Nairobi.”
David was such a bright student that he was awarded a Commonwealth Shared Scholarship to complete his degree with a masters at the University of Nottingham. “The degree I undertook at university was motivated by the death of my father. The whole continent of Africa suffers from the effects of disease. I wanted to be a scientist involved in researching and developing vaccines and drugs to combat the many diseases in Africa and the rest of the world.” David isn’t simply a success story; he is becoming the answer to many people’s prayers as he seeks to combat the diseases that are ravaging the developing world.
But it wasn’t a UN mandate that changed David’s life; it was the intervention of the local church and the support of an individual sponsor. Grand mandates and proclamations alone aren’t enough to weaken poverty’s ruthless grip on many parts of the world. What we need is people who are prepared to invest time and resources in other individuals. Whilst great strides are being made to help the poor, more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day. But David is proof that we can make a real and lasting difference, one child at a time.