Our Joy

By Pam and Jim Lemons

When Joy entered the Umoja Project in the Chulaimbo region of Kenya as an 8-year-old child, she was living with her mother who was a nurse and single head of her household. Joy’s father died when she was two years old and her mother had raised her family (six children) without much support from her family of origin. She did attend Nursing School and worked full time to meet her family’s basic needs. When Joy was born (the youngest sibling) she was premature and not expected to live, but she not only overcame that early obstacle, but many others as time progressed.

Joy was in fourth grade when the assistance program that we know as the UMOJA project became available to her primary school, and she easily qualified for the help. Even as a young child, she was determined to pursue her education and had a long-term goal of becoming a nurse, like her mum. When she was in 8th grade, her mother died suddenly (literally at the hospital on her scheduled shift) and, just like that, Joy was an orphan. Her brother suggested she go to a “Girls Home”, as not one of her siblings had the capacity to provide her housing. But as Joy told us later, “I knew what happened to twelve year old girls unlucky enough to end up in group homes.”

She was taken in by her mother’s brother who lived in Nairobi, and she lived with him and his wife for the first two years of secondary school until he acquired another wife, and Joy was turned out of his household. A teacher (who knew and loved her) took Joy in, paid her fees and supported her for her final two years of secondary education. She sat for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and qualified for post secondary education but had no means of funding herself and instead returned to the Chulaimbo area. She became an intern with the Umoja Project when she was 18 (in May 2016), and we met her when we visited a few of the project’s schools in the fall of 2016.

For us it was “love at first sight” as we encountered this resilient, capable and charismatic young woman who was making such an impact on the children she encountered in her role as mentor.

Joy is currently living in Eldoret and enrolled in the nursing program at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.

This past September, we were on campus for the first week of the fall semester and had the immense pleasure of watching our “daughter” Joy take the first step toward making her goal a reality. Her class of 104 students elected her as class representative, as her leadership potential is evident to everyone who meets her. She is thriving in her new environment.

Joy is a shining example to all the girls (and boys) who knew her as an Umoja intern and who eagerly follow her progress, knowing that if she can make it, then so can they.

Global Interfaith Partnership just celebrated its 10th anniversary and continues to make a huge impact in the lives of thousands of children and young adults. They have shown how a sustainable program can vastly improve the outcome of orphans and vulnerable children, lifting up an entire community. We look forward to the next 10 years as the ripple effect continues to grow, and our Joy blossoms into her career.