Stories of Transformation
Esther's Story | Ongongoja, Uganda
Ongongoja. It means “end of the earth” or “the forgotten people.” But because of transformative partnerships, its people are far from forgotten.
“No one would ever come here because we are at the end of the earth,” a local resident shared. “But now, look at what we have in only one year! Without your help, our children would be dying.”
Children’s HopeChest is working in partnership with local churches, sponsors and communities to restore hope, dreams, and dignity to the people of this now thriving village. Ongongoja is the third CarePoint partnered with HopeChest Partnership Leaders, Dylan and Jen DeBruin. Children’s HopeChest is beginning to transform this community by supporting over 200 children with community outreaches, spiritual discipleship and investing in long-term sustainable programs They have nutritious food, medical care, and the opportunity to go to school. Members of the community are taking ownership of positive change. They have pride in Ongongoja and have goals and dreams for their community! The members of the community are learning income-generating skills to become self-sufficient. Most of all, the people have joy, hope, and a future.
“One of our biggest needs in life is connection and relationship,” the DeBruins say. “People in our Connect Community love the true connection they have with the community and the kids they sponsor. We are working to make a difference in an entire community, not just a single child.”
Intentionally establishing a CarePoint in a remote region can completely transform a community. Meet Esther, a young girl from Ongongoja, Uganda (We’ve changed her name here to protect her identity and dignity.) Miles and miles from any city and even from the closest market, Ongongoja is known locally as the “forgotten land.”
Esther is HIV positive, the same disease that took both her parents two years ago. She spent months in an orphanage in Kampala with her little brother until her paternal grandmother took her in. Unfortunately, the situation didn’t get much better. Both grandparents are unemployed, so everyday meals were impossible. Once in awhile her grandmother was able to help in neighbors’ gardens in exchange for a little food, but before the CarePoint there were times when all the family had to eat were leaves off a tree near their homestead.
When a CarePoint opened in Ongongoja, the transformation in the community was almost immediate. Dozens of children with incredible stories of loss and survival came through the doors, finally able to get the medical treatment, the discipleship, the spiritual and physical nourishment they so desperately needed.
Before the CarePoint, Esther suffered from painful open sores on her head. But with daily medical treatment and a nutritious meal every day, her sores began to heal and her hair is finally growing back. Through the CarePoint she was connected with a sponsor from a church in the U.S. and now is able to attend school. Esther continues to thrive, receiving food, medical care, clean water, and ongoing discipleship at her local CarePoint. Her cousins are healthier, and her grandmother smiles more.
Natasha’s Story | Kostroma, Russia
When Natasha was 6 years old she was placed in Neya orphanage, which was one of the biggest and worst orphanages in the Kostroma region. More than 200 orphaned children were living in the orphanage at the time Natasha was there. When reflecting on her experience there, Natasha says, “It was a truly dark place – dark in every possible way.” Natasha anticipated graduating the orphanage and gaining her independence, but she also knew that the orphanage had not equipped her with the life skills she needed to rejoin society.
After graduating from the orphanage, she entered the Tech School in Kostroma City. The first year was very hard. Many people have prejudices against orphanage graduates because they believe that almost all orphans will turn to crime, drugs, or prostitution to survive. Natasha had the drive and ambition to show herself and others that children from the orphanage can be successful in spite of their past experiences.
While at Tech School, Natasha met staff from Children’s HopeChest who were a huge support to her during her time there. The CarePoint acted as a force of encouragement. When Natasha reflects on her time at the CarePoint in Kostroma, she says, “The Ministry Center was the place where I obtained the most important and valuable life skills that helped me to survive. This was the place where I could always get advice and support.”
After graduating from Tech School, she got plugged into the Kostroma CarePoint, which was a place for her unlock her potential and gain the resources she needed to pursue her ambitions. She was accepted to the Russian American University in Moscow, which is a huge accomplishment for orphanage graduates. Natasha also worked hard to foster emotional and spiritual growth in her life. She learned how to forgive people, especially her parents. Natasha has been working at the embassy of Canada in Moscow for about seven years and loves her job and her coworkers. She is respected, loved, and has been given the nickname “Miss Sunshine” because of the bright smile on her face. Her vibrant personality truly impacts the people around her. She is also investing in the Children’s HopeChest community by hosting American teams to Moscow.
Natasha’s story of transformation is truly remarkable. She had many assets, including intelligence and ambition, and was empowered to recognize and exercise her immense potential.
“This is my appreciation to the CHC and all people who involved into this wonderful ministry for the tremendous support they provided to me during all these years. Without this support I would never achieve what I have now and who I am now. The lesson I learned is that it is very important to believe in yourself and never ever give up! These are the components for success and to be a successful person.” – Natasha
Silver’s Story | Bukedea CarePoint, Uganda
When he was young, Silver’s dad passed away, leaving him to care for his younger siblings. His mother and five siblings all lived in a hut together, and although they had relatives nearby, none were willing to help his family after his father passed away. His mother was unable to provide both food and supplies for education for Silver and his other siblings. Like many children in poverty, Silver had little hope for the future.
With the help of CarePoint workers, he was connected with a sponsor and was able to receive one nutritious meal a day, basic medical care, educational support, and ongoing spiritual discipleship. Silver was finally able to embrace his immense potential and explore his God-given talents.
Silver is highly gifted in understanding electronics. When he was young, he loved dismantling electronics and putting them back together. He has even built his own radio and cell phone watch! His determined spirit drove him to start his own business repairing radios, televisions, watches, computers, and phones. Several years later, he started Vision Media 106 FM. It’s the only radio station in the Burkea district, and Silver uses this platform to share the Gospel and preach about child advocacy. His business is doing so well that he can now fully support himself and his younger siblings.
To be able to run the radio station professionally and also attain his dream of being an Electrical Engineer, Children’s Hopechest is financially assisting him in gaining a certificate in Electronic Installation System and Mechanics at St. Kizito’s Institute Madera Soroti, which is a two-year course. He hopes to upgrade to a diploma and then a degree in the same course in university. His future dream is to grow his radio station and become a qualified Electrical Engineer, and build a big workshop for repairing many types of electronic devices and better his knowledge and skills.
Silver would like to extend his special gratitude his sponsor, and has said, “You have changed my life destiny for forever. Thank you for the support, encouragement and love. You have given me hope and put a smile on my face.”
In just a period of less than six months at school, Silver is known on the whole campus, by both all the students and teaching instructors, because he offers free services to all the campus staff in repairing their electronic appliances.
“I am empowered and encouraged by the support Children’s HopeChest has offered me,“ Silver said. “I am pursuing my future goals and have faith that I will be a great man. That is my dream.”
CarePoint staff and their U.S. partner could not be more excited to see what God has planned for this creative young man.
Oliver’s Story | Nabukalu CarePoint, Uganda
Oliver is a 17-year-old young woman living in Bugiri District, Uganda. When Oliver was one, her father passed away, which was an emotional as well as financial tragedy for her family. Becoming a single mother was a devastating experience for her mom, who was unable to earn enough to feed Oliver and her sibling. She married another man, hoping to financially take care of her children. Unfortunately, Oliver’s step-father was not a kind man, and when she was two years old she moved to be with her grandmother. While living with her grandmother, she lacked access to basic medical care, adequate nutrition, and the financial means to attend school.
When she was 10 years old she became sponsored through the Nabukalu CarePoint. Her prayers for a life full of hope and opportunity were answered as she began eating daily nutritious meals and receiving medical care.
She is now pursuing a career in tailoring and is taking a tailoring course at East School of Skills-Bugiri. She is an ambitious young woman who now wants to use her story to help inspire other girls to never give up and invest in their careers so they can become self-sustaining.
“Through the discipleship program, I have been mentored, guided and counseled whenever I go astray. I am now a motivated teen with a vision of becoming a tutor in tailoring training so that I can inspire other girls out there to invest in themselves for a better future.” -Oliver
Oliver is so thankful to the CarePoint staff and HopeChest sponsors for the support that has positively shape her future.
Dima’s Story | Vladimir, Russia
Dima’s mother passed away when he was very young, and he and his two siblings were taken away from his father shortly after that. He was taken from their home in Moscow and brought to the Vladimir region, where he spent the next 11 years in an orphanage. His father tried to find him and his siblings, but unfortunately passed away before he was able to locate them in Vladimir.
Despite Dima’s painful circumstances, God’s hand was on his life. Dima studied hard and grew strong physically and mentally. He made the choice to surround himself with great people and mentors (one of whom was a priest who taught Dima to love and trust God) and participated in activities at the Vladimir CarePoint. After finishing high school, Dima went to Vladimir State University and studied architecture and design. Now he visits the CarePoint to speak to the younger orphanage graduates and mentor them. He is now an ambitious young architect who loves life and was even a contestant for the Vladimir CarePoint’s kitchen remodel!
Lidia’s Story | Moldova
Lidia* was born into a vulnerable family within a small village in Moldova. In many ways she raised herself, as her father was an alcoholic and her mother was disabled. Her father had abused her since she was a child, and when her mother found out about the abuse, she helped Lidia run away. Lidia was 14 years old.
Soon she found a job cleaning in a hotel, where she worked and lived for almost two years, but to work all day, she had to abandon going to school – even though she loved studying. One evening when Lidia was walking with her friends, they were kidnapped and taken abroad to beg in the streets and earn money for the men who kidnapped them.
She was trafficked for nearly two years until the man who was holding her hostage brought her back to Moldova to be a servant for his mother. While with his mother, Lidia met some missionaries who searched for a place for Lidia to receive the resources needed to escape her situation. When she first visited Beginning of Life (BOL), Lidia was closed off and scared. But as time went by, she began to trust the BOL staff.
Physically, Lidia had serious problems due to the violence she had faced since childhood. In addition to the sustained injuries, it was also found that she had a brain tumor. Her mother was aware of the tumor, which Lidia had since childhood, but their family did not have the money to address the health issue. BOL arranged for Lidia to have surgery to remove the tumor, which was a success! Lidia’s dream is to continue healing, finish school, and pursue higher education for a better future here in Moldova.