Like any boy from a small town, Dickson Kinyua had two loves as a child: airplanes and animals.
“My dream was to become a pilot one day,” he says. “I also was so much in love with pets and all the small animals my granddad had, and which I used to take care of, together with my dog and cat.”
This fall, when he graduates from the University of Nairobi with his bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine, Dickson will conclude phase one of a long journey to blend both loves into a viable career. His solution: Combine rather than choose between the two divergent paths. “I can still see the dream come true because I will become one of the flying doctors who saves animals in emergency situations.”
His career goals are inspirational, but it’s been far from simple for Dickson until now.
Dickson was born in a small village near Naromoru, located about 180 kilometers (112 miles) from Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi. He lived with his mother, three siblings and his grandparents. His mother worked as a day laborer, and his elderly grandparents worked the land that they lived on as squatters. They also tended a few small animals. In doing so, they managed to eke out a meager living. With some help from ChildFund programs, the family got by, just barely.
Dickson vividly recalls the holiday parties organized by ChildFund. “We would get uniforms and also a Christmas gift, which was two kilograms of wheat flour and cooking fat for the Christmas meal. This was one of the most memorable days because we could not afford to get such goodies with the few coins [less than one dollar per day] that my mum and granddad used to make.”
In his sixth year of school, everything changed. That year, his mother died, and Dickson and his brother and sister moved to his uncle’s home. Then, when he was 17, he lost his ChildFund sponsor and he didn’t have the money for school fees.
“I found another sponsor who paid for me — the whole amount of money I needed for my high school!” That opened the door for college since Dickson could get a student loan through the government to attend university.
“I believe were it not for ChildFund, I would have not even gone to high school and I would have not reached this far in terms of education,” says Dickson. “My sponsor used to be very good and encouraged me to work hard and I would see the benefits later.”
Now, Dickson hopes to begin reaping those rewards, treating animals that need his expertise and eventually earning his pilot’s license so that he can take his veterinary practice to the skies.