Junior Wambua, age 9, and his three older brothers live with their grandmother in Mwala, Kenya. Junior has lived with her since he was 6 months old.
His grandmother, Joyce Mwende Kavuu, raises the boys her own. Her husband passed away in 2012. She struggles to pay school fees and buy food for her grandchildren. As a way to support her family, she does casual work — washing clothes; cultivating other people’s land. But these jobs don’t earn her enough money to support her family.
Still, she invests in their education, hoping that the learning will enable them to get good jobs when they’re grown and that they will contribute to supporting the family.
“She (Joyce) cooks for me. She washes my clothes. She protects me and my siblings,” he says.
A role model of servanthood
Joyce models being a helping hand to her grandsons, especially Junior. “She cooks for me. She washes my clothes. She protects me and my siblings,” he says. She also helps Junior when he gets stuck on a homework problem. His favorite subject is math.
Junior remembers a couple of years ago when he was 7 years old and got malaria. Joyce carried him on her back the 15 km to the hospital so he could be treated. He felt helpless, but she kept telling him: “Tapona (sorry), you’ll get well.” And he did.
Junior holding the picture of the sponsor he chose, Shanda. “I would love that person,” Junior said before he chose that sponsor. “I will be praying for that person.”
An unusual dream
Joyce encourages Junior to pursue his dreams for his future. She tells him that he will be what he wants to be. When Junior’s grandmother encourages him: “It gives me strength. It helps me believe in God. It helps me to think that I can do better.”
Junior wants to be a pilot when he grows up, but not really because he wants to fly. There’s a pilot he met, someone originally from the village, who now lives overseas but returns to help the community.
“When people tell him their problems, he listens to them,” Junior says. “I want to help other people just like that person.”
Both Joyce and Junior trust that God will bring their family a better future.
In February 2019, Junior chose Shanda Rivera to be his sponsor. Now Junior has another person in his life who will encourage him. “I would love that person,” Junior said before he chose that sponsor. “I will be praying for that person.”
Joyce adds about what having someone else believe in Junior means to her: “I’ll feel so happy because we’ll be uplifted in our lives. We’ll be transformed.”
For Junior, it’s all about the reciprocal nature of support. A sponsor will help him, but he will also pray for his sponsor. His grandmother does help him, but he can in turn be there for her.