When the faculty at the University of Nairobi went on strike in the last few weeks of Peter Kiptoo’s final semester of engineering school, he took the postponement of his graduation in stride. The 23-year-old Kenyan is no stranger to adversity or setbacks.
As a child, Peter lived in a small village where most of the population was semi-literate and struggled to make a living from the semi-arid land. He and his family lived in a one-room house with mud walls and an iron sheet roof in the Chepnyorgin village. His father was a tailor, and his mother worked raising Peter and his four younger siblings. Like their neighbors, they were getting by.
Then, when Peter was just 9 years old, his father became severely ill. Although he received medical care at the hospital, he succumbed to complications from an illness. Suddenly, Peter was fatherless, and the family faced staggering debt from medical bills and bank loans.
“After the demise of my father, life was really hard. We sold almost everything we had. I wore torn clothes and walked to school barefooted,” Peter recalls.
At an age when most American children worry about what games to play or which television show to watch, Peter worried about whether there would be food for his next meal and wondered how he could possibly stay in school, much less achieve his dreams. “In brief, I lived a hopeless and pathetic life,” he says.
Then, a ChildFund sponsor entered his life. Sponsorship made a real, immediate and permanent difference. Peter has vivid memories of that impact. “As a sponsored child, I had an opportunity to meet a person who cared about my well-being, many miles away, though so close to me. It brought hope into my world. He encouraged me to work hard.”
Peter did just that. Armed with renewed hope and confidence and the security of knowing his schoolbooks and tuition were covered, Peter persevered. He broke free of his self-described “hopeless and pathetic” existence.
Peter and his sponsor developed a strong connection through their letters. The goal to do his best and to make his sponsor proud was a strong motivator for Peter. One of Peter’s most memorable times from the early days of his sponsorship is spending an entire day struggling with the “difficult language” of English to write a letter to thank his sponsor and to share to information about his life and his country.
Like Peter himself, that bond has endured. They are still in touch today. In fact, although Peter had moved on from the ChildFund program, his sponsor provided support for his college tuition so Peter could pursue his electrical engineering degree.
Peter credits ChildFund and his sponsor with transforming his life. “ChildFund is shaping lives of many children and people. I have developed physically, academically, psychologically, morally and spiritually. Though I lost my father at a tender age, I have been able to face life challenges with confidence and determination.”