James is the oldest of four boys. James, his brothers, and his mother Janet moved to the Mathare slum when James was 10 years old to escape his alcoholic and abusive father.

Janet worked as a housemaid, but her income could only pay for their rent and one meal for the family each day. Sometimes, when there was a shortage of work, the family wouldn’t even get that one meal. Since James and his brothers weren’t in school, they would collect scrap metals, plastics, and copper wires to sell to help pay for food.

After three years Janet secured work in two houses which enabled her to send two of the four boys to school, including James.  James had very low self-esteem, and he sat in the back of the classroom and didn’t have any friends. He was angry about his situation living in poverty, and he fell in with other boys in the slums who abused drugs and engaged in petty crime to survive.

A couple of years later, James’ life turned around, and he credits two events for this change. First, James met a new student at school who became his first friend. Francis helped James change his outlook on life. James gained an appreciation for his parents and a desire to be a more honest person.

James at University The second event happened when James witnessed a group of men involved with drugs chasing a man they suspected of being an undercover agent. The man was running for his life, and James had to also run to avoid being stoned. James thanks God that he made it to the other side of the Mathare River without getting hurt, but the other man was killed. That night, James prayed for the first time, and he asked God to help him get out of the Mathare slum.

Since childhood, James has seen people being killed – a girl being tortured and drowned, thieves being burned alive, a man being stoned to death – and he doesn’t want his own children to have to witness these horrific violent acts. He decided that he was going to work hard and make his mother and God proud and hopefully be able to change his life.

After James finished his primary education, he didn’t have the money needed to attend secondary school so he continued collecting and selling scrap metal and praying to God that he could find a way to attend school. His prayers were answered, and James was able to go to school, however, he continued to struggle with low self-esteem and making friends.

His teacher and ASPIRE Education Director Sarah Kimani made James feel at home and created a classroom where the children felt like they were part of a family. The students called Sarah Mama – the Swahili word for Mom. James said this love and hopefulness made him think a better future was possible.

Life in high school was good for James despite the many challenges at home, including the lack of money for school fees and sometimes food. This is when James received a scholarship from ASPIRE Globally. The scholarship paid for his school fees, and after he passed his final examinations, James was able to attend The Management University of Africa. James’ brother Peter also received a scholarship from ASPIRE Globally for his high school education. Education is a powerful tool and truly helped transform these kids’ lives and their family’s life too.

James wrote to us and said, “Asante sana ASPIRE Globally for coming through in our lives; to weep with us in our painful situation. They have brought a lot of hope and happiness to my family. I’m so grateful to ASPIRE Globally and may the Almighty God bless them and their families.”

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