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Vaikunthan

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A scooter and a helping hand.

Beep beep! Watch out, Vaikunthan is coming through on his brand new scooter! He sits in splendor atop his two-wheeler, the sun reflecting off the shiny black steel, his hands gripping the handlebars that give him control of his journey. He weaves in and out of traffic as he rolls along the road in the Jawadhu Hills region in southern India. Vaikunthan is on his way to the wholesale market to buy some goods in bulk that he can turn around and sell in his small provision store that he runs in front of his home.

It’s a blessing that Vaikunthan can visit the market on his own, able to make his own business decisions about what to purchase, and then get it back to his own store on his own time. Vaikunthan hasn’t always been able to do this by himself.

A few years ago, Vaikunthan was collecting jackfruit to sell in his store. He climbed a tree to cut the fruit from the branches. While he was up in the tree, he lost his balance and fell. He endured fractures in both legs and severe nerve damage in both feet, losing all sensitivity in the lower portion of his legs. This accident resulted in a permanent handicap, leaving Vaikunthan unable to walk.

Because of this accident, Vaikunthan had to rely on others to go to the market for him so he could keep his provision store open. It was far too great of a distance for him to walk. While it was wonderful that people were helping him out, they saw it as an opportunity for their own gain as well. Vaikunthan would repeatedly get cheated during these business exchanges, with people taking advantage of his inability to watch what they may do with the product after purchasing it at the wholesale market and before delivering it (or just some of it) back to Vaikunthan for his store.

One day, Vaikunthan had a customer visit and shop at his store. Throughout his time shopping, Vaikunthan and Mr. Velu, the customer, got to talking. Mr. Velu heard about Vaikunthan’s accident, disability, and difficulties with getting goods for his store. Mr. Velu, a coordinator with The Hope Venture in Jawadhu Hills, was moved and wanted to help Vaikunthan find a solution. The Hope Venture has a project establishing community development centers in Jawadhu Hills, aiming to support the community, helping with needs that arise, and Mr. Velu takes part in aiding the community through that. Mr. Velu researched and figured out the process for getting a free vehicle through the government in their community. Mr. Velu helped Vaikunthan apply for the vehicle, and after a year, they were able to go get a two-wheeler together.

Now Vaikunthan has a way to get around efficiently on his own. He can purchase goods for his store, allowing him to stay in control of his business and maximize his income. Every time he scoots around town, he can remember the provision he received that now gives him independence in his mobility.

To impact more people like Vaikunthan, donate to our Jawadhu Hills Project today!

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Jacqueline

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Mac-n-cheese, a computer, and so much more…

I met Jacqueline on my first trip to Rwanda. The Hope Venture was exploring the idea of starting some Pilot Projects in the capital city of Kigali. We were outside the offices of Acts4Rwanda, where dozens of school children were gathering for a daily meal provided by the organization. Jacqueline was serving the younger children and I hopped in next to her to scoop up some food… I think maybe she was passing out some cookies and I was scooping mac-n-cheese?😊

Anyway, Jacqueline and I got to talk. She was friendly and had dreams of going to college. She had been sponsored by Acts4Rwanda up through high school but now wasn’t sure what was going to happen since their sponsorship ends after high school. Her housing was going to be a big challenge. And she needed a computer if she was going to continue in science. And tuition was of course on her mind. It was all daunting. Meanwhile though, kids were coming up to us wanting food and, well, all this money and college-dreams stuff would have to wait.

Our team came back home and started praying more about what to do.

For the year previous, we had been revamping our project strategy. We had worked with the same partners overseas since The Hope Venture had started. If we ever started something new, it was because someone like our partner Charlie in India would get his heart wrecked by some need, share it with me (Cynci), we’d talk in the clouds and a little on paper, pray, and go for it. We tried to document things or explain our reasoning, but honestly we were growing so fast that we got behind on the paperwork. It got harder and harder to understand what we were doing. Meanwhile we wanted to replicate some of it, or stop some of it, but we couldn’t articulate why. So for a whole year the staff questioned me, wrote things down, questioned me again, wrote more down, questioned Charlie, and all our partners, and started to document clearly what we were doing, where we were going, and how we could grow.

One huge change from that year was a goal to vett 20 new partners over the next five years. Ahhh! Talk about daunting! We had trusted partners, longtime friends who we worked with. How would we grow that trust with new people?

Well we had to try.

Covid had led to extreme poverty rising around the world for the first time in twenty years. People were hurting, hungry, and hopeless. Yet God’s hand was on us and He was using us to bring hope and dignity to some of the most disadvantaged people in the world. We longed to press into that even more and watch God bring His overwhelming love rushing over more and more souls.

So we set out to explore some new partnerships. We made a new Pilot Project strategy where we would start out small, make sure reporting requirements were met, grow it bit by bit, and over time, we’d have some new trusted partners. That’s why we were in Rwanda. One of our board members had a friend of a friend, and there we were.

We told Acts4Rwanda we couldn’t do much to start. That we’d have to start small. How small? Well it turned out that one scholarship would have to do.

Jacqueline.

Yep, Jacqueline was The Hope Venture’s first ever Pilot Project recipient.

We prayed and collaborated with Acts4Rwanda. They liked how we were having success with our college scholarships in Kenya. They were sponsoring kids through high school, just like we were in Kenya, but then had no way to help them after that. We created a thorough Project Plan document and got back to signing memorandums of understanding. We articulated clear reporting requirements and reviewed the project 6 months in. Then in 2022 we were able to add four more students, and just recently, our Projects Team approved them for 15 students in 2023!

Jacqueline’s dad was in a bad accident five years ago. Her mom was in jail for a couple years. Life’s been hard. But Acts4Rwanda has come alongside her and her siblings to help and now The Hope Venture is here too. God does see and know our burdens. He can bring people together from across the globe… to bring hope, to provide a computer and housing, to feel His love, even to get some mac-n-cheese and a cookie. ❤️

Mary

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Deep love for others in her heart.

Feet pounding. Hearts racing. Breath gasping. Mary and her little brother are scrambling through the rugged terrain of Buloba, Uganda. This is no school playground or game of tag. They are being chased away from home by their abusive parents. Two children being cast out, yelled at, degraded, and forced to try and live life on their own.

If she and her brother aren’t wanted by their own parents, why would anyone else want to take them in? How could Mary take care of her brother without a job, without an education, and without a way to finish school? While these questions were heavy on Mary’s mind and heart, she wouldn’t let them overtake her.

From here, Mary got a job as a maid. This would provide some income to support herself and her brother. Mary worked hard, and was delighted by the kindness of her employer when Mary’s success was also important to them. Mary couldn’t afford an education on her own, so her employer began paying for her school fees.

However, one day on her way to school, Mary was raped. Again, in another circumstance that Mary could not control, she was degraded and abandoned. When she gave birth to her son, Daniel, her employer didn’t want to associate with her anymore. So her employer cut her off and stopped paying for her school fees.

Mary was back to square one. She was abandoned once again, had no access to education, was out of a job, and now, this time, she had another precious life – her son Daniel – to care for too.

Fortunately, however, right before cutting her off, Mary’s employer brought her to Wakisa Ministries. Mary was able to get connected to our partner, Vivian. The project she was able to get connected to through Wakisa aims to help young mothers get an education through sponsoring them, supporting them along the way as these young girls take care of their children. Now Mary is attending school as the recipient of a student sponsorship.

Physical harm, emotional harm, pain, hurt, confusion, sorrow. These are repeated themes in Mary’s life. Even the people who should have loved and cared for Mary the most in her life, harmed her. Mary was unfairly met with hurt, abuse, and neglect instead of the love and care that should have been present in these relationships.

Yet Mary still has a love and care for people that runs so deeply within her.

Mary wants to finish school and become a lawyer to help victims of abuse like her get justice. 

She cares so deeply for the individual who sponsors her to go to school. In a letter to her sponsor, she repeatedly wrote how badly she wants and prays for God to bless her sponsor. She has never met the person funding her financially, yet cares enough to want abundant blessings for them.

Mary even wants to share her joys and loves in life with her sponsor. Poetry is an avenue that Mary uses to do just that. Through the precise language that takes form in patterns of rhythm and sound, Mary can share her life. Her story comes to life on the page, flowing with emotion, saturated with vulnerability. Through the arrangement of words, Mary offers a connection to her sponsor. She offers an inside look into her world – a world of joy and sharing – despite her hurt, and excitedly invites her sponsor into it all by writing a poem for them. 

To sponsor more women like Mary, donate to our Uganda Sponsorship Project today!

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Shadrack

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The overflow of joy onto others around him.

For Shadrack, family is really important. Shadrack grew up with three sisters and five brothers in the village of Oletukat just outside of Narok, Kenya. Shadrack’s father passed away when Shadrack was only three years old, leaving all nine kids under the care of a single mother. His mother doesn’t work, and they just have a few goats to rely on for milk production.

Shadrack and his siblings often go out to find work for the day, hoping to earn enough to get some food. Each night, they come back home, excited to share with one another everything that they earned for the day. His family comes together, singing and full of joy for what they have.

In the midst of this, Shadrack’s family struggled to pay the fees needed to keep him in school. Thankfully Shadrack was able to get connected to our partner, Nasha, and we were able to get him sponsored. Through this he was able to leave behind the stress of school fees and focus on his studies, helping him excel in his classes and graduate high school.

However, even with the accomplishment of a high school diploma, Shadrack couldn’t fulfill his dreams of a professional career. More education would be necessary. Shadrack knew from his high school experience that he had a natural talent in mathematics, and would like to use it in a future career. Yet getting a job in this field would require an expensive education, one that seemed out of reach for Shadrack.

But after Shadrack graduated high school, our partner Nasha told him about our College Scholarship fund. He applied and was accepted. Now he could pursue higher education by attending college. Shadrack got accepted to Mount Kenya University in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, and is currently working towards earning his Bachelor of Science in Statistics degree. He hopes to go into a career in data analytics.

Shadrack found joy in getting an education. But Shadrack’s joy flows beyond his own education. Shadrack has been helped through the means of education and wants to use his opportunities to help others in return, specifically other kids who are going through tough situations like he was. He is getting involved in community service projects, and each day, he is working towards earning his college degree so he can come back to his family and help provide for his mother and siblings.

Shadrack sees all of the people he helps as his family. With the importance of family rooted deep inside him, he is passionate about caring for all people and helping them succeed as well, whether it actually be his immediate family, or just people he is helping in his community through volunteering with service projects. These are all people Shadrack wants to share joy and hope with.

To impact more students like Shadrack, donate to our Kenya College Scholarship Project today!

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Miria

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The growth of dreams for the future.

Miria is a dreamer. Her eyes sparkle and her face lights up as she smiles. Her dreams are like the excitement that emerges when a seed first surfaces as a sprout from under the soil. There was darkness for a long time – the soil laid dim and dormant. Suddenly, a sprout of life appeared fiercely out of the soil. The plant is petite and fragile at this point, but the possibilities are endless when thinking about all the fruit it could produce.

You see, Miria’s dreams are certainly like the new sprout – full of opportunity. But her life didn’t always look so hopeful. Miria had a season that looked like the darkness of the soil, unsure if anything would rise up out of it. 

When Miria was 15, her church choir was invited to sing at a youth conference. One evening she wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed behind to rest. In this time, Miria was raped and threatened of harm if she told anyone about what happened. A month later when Miria suspected she was pregnant, she told her sister what happened. Miria’s father wanted her to get an abortion… but Miria refused. Miria was chased from home. 

Looking at a future with no more education and slim chances of finding work to support her child, Miria’s course for accomplishing her dreams in life was thrown off.

But then Miria’s aunt was able to help Miria get connected to our partner, Vivian, who runs Wakisa Ministries, a pregnancy center in Uganda. Through her connection to Wakisa, The Hope Venture was able to get funding for Miria to attend Agromax, a 6 month agricultural training program. There she was able to gain the knowledge and skills needed to practice agriculture on her own. This will hopefully provide a stable source of income or food for Miria as she begins her life as a mother.

Miria is incredibly excited about all that she has learned through the Agromax training program. There were a ton of practical agricultural techniques that she learned, such as managing a greenhouse and how to control the plants inside it, how to steam soil and the importance of steaming soil before using it in her greenhouse, mixing chemicals to use for spraying weeds, and so many more nuggets of knowledge. Miria knows the skills she has learned are crucial for taking steps towards achieving her dreams.

Like the hope of a new sprout emerging from soil, Miria also has dreams that have emerged from her experience at Agromax.

Miria dreams of getting a degree.

She dreams of getting a job, which would help her provide stability in the future.

She dreams of being a teacher for future trainees at Agromax, teaching them the agricultural techniques she has learned so that they can be set up for a stable future too.

She dreams of starting up a big farm using the skills she learned at Agromax.

She dreams of becoming an engineer for the irrigation systems to advance agriculture even further in her community. 

Miria also dreams of being a testimony in her community – a testimony of the hope that she now has after completing the Agromax program.

Up to this point, Miria already has practical steps to start reaching her dreams. We know by the time we see the sprout – the glimmer of hope – roots have already been growing down into the soil, establishing a firm foundation for the plant. Miria’s foundation has been set through her time at Agromax. Before long, the sprout will be producing fruit.

To impact more women like Miria, donate to Agromax today!

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Frederick

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How the sponsorship of one student lifts up many.

The financial pressure is fierce for families in Ewaso Ngiro, Kenya. Many families struggle to get enough funding for all their necessities. This often puts education on the back burner. This was certainly the case in Frederick’s story.

In order to attend school in Kenya, you have to be able to pay the fees required by the school each year. Prior to his student sponsorship, Frederick was being kicked out of school because he did not have enough money to pay the school fees. This was a struggle that lasted for three years. Frederick even had to repeat class six after not being able to pay the fees required to take final exams, which would have allowed him to progress to the next year of schooling.

In an attempt to raise money for his family and for his school fees, Frederick helped raise and sell cattle. Frederick looked after five cows in order to help support his mom and dad, as well as his five siblings. Raising cattle was one way Frederick could help ease some of the financial tension. However, the pressure to get enough money to cover all the needs of the family was crippling.

But then everything changed for Frederick when he got connected to our partner organization, Nasha, and received a high school sponsorship.

Frederick said it felt very good to know he was a recipient of a sponsorship, because he could now be in school– without the financial stress. Fully immersed in his education, Frederick was able to leave behind all the frustration and worry of being uneducated due to school fees.

Frederick enjoys attending school at Olkiriane where he is currently in Form 4 (or 12th grade), and about to graduate. Frederick’s favorite subjects are history and Christian religious education. Not only does Frederick enjoy his classes at school, but he enjoys playing on the school football team outside of class time.

In addition, the student sponsorship has also encouraged Frederick in his faith in God. Previously, Frederick attended church with his family, but he never felt like God was with him. Through the sponsorship, Frederick also had the opportunity to go to a camp for the students in the summer. At camp, Frederick was able to clearly see that God really is always with him and provides for him. Frederick was able to learn about Abraham in the Bible, his journey into the land of Canaan, and the faith it took for Abraham to move there. From this story, Frederick learned about faith and trust in God, and how stepping out in faith can lead to God using you in unimaginable ways. Frederick says that now, his faith in God is real and firm. 

After graduation, Frederick hopes to attend university so he can pursue his dream of studying medicine to become a doctor. This dream seems more within reach to Frederick now than ever, all thanks to his student sponsorship.

Frederick says The Hope Venture is helping people reach their goals. Frederick’s own life was drastically impacted by the student sponsorship through The Hope Venture. As younger students began to be sponsored at Frederick’s school, he was excited about encouraging them in their studies. Later on, the younger students passed their exams and were able to move forward in their schooling. The accomplishment of the younger students left Frederick feeling proud and optimistic, and he was excited to be able to see even more lives change.

The impact of a student sponsorship goes beyond just one child’s life. Like in Frederick’s story, one sponsorship through the partnership of Nasha and The Hope Venture can impact others far beyond the recipient of the sponsorship themselves. Families and other students are able to be encouraged, just like Frederick encouraged the younger students with their exams. Not all things in Frederick’s life are fixed after the student sponsorship, but with the hope Frederick has found and the financial burden of school fees lifted from his family’s shoulders, the future looks brighter for Frederick and his family.

To impact more students like Frederick, sponsor a student today!

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Rose

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The blessing of sustenance to a mother and her children.

It was raining when we met Rose, turning the rust-colored soil into mud as she told us her story. We crowded into the small entryway of her Narok county home to take refuge from the rain — her children giggling at us as they hid in doorways and peered around corners.

Rose — who is responsible for caring for all ten of her children — is a hard-working woman who previously made ends meet by selling charcoal. With several children already in high school and several more that would soon be needing school fees, Rose relied on this income in order to feed her family and ensure that her children would be able to receive their education in full. However, when Coronavirus hit the country in 2020, the effects of the pandemic on Rose and her family were swift and severe. Rose’s business of selling charcoal suffered heavily, and she was no longer able to afford the fees necessary to send her children to school. 

It seemed like a simple gift, but it was a gift that decisively altered the lives of Rose and her children: her family was given a goat. 

Through our partnership with Nasha Ministries, families in need are given the gift of a single goat. The area surrounding Narok can be harsh and unforgiving to those who live there — an intolerant environment that makes it difficult for many animals to survive long enough to benefit their owners. Due to the dry heat and constant drought, there is not enough vegetation in order to sustain cattle. But goats are unique; they possess an innate resilience that has allowed them to flourish and thrive in a diverse number of habitats. In Kenya, they feed off of leaves and are capable of surviving in the event of a drought. In a region of the country already prone to poverty and malnutrition, the milk that these goats produce not only helps to sustain the individual family, but can also provide their owners with an important commodity — something they can sell in order to afford food, clothes, and school supplies. In some instances these goats even reproduce, meaning that it is a gift that truly keeps on giving. 

For Rose, the goat she was given has provided a vast blessing to her and her family. The milk she receives helps to provide crucial nutrition, meaning that she doesn’t have to worry about her children having the distinctive extended bellies of malnourishment we sadly see so often in this part of the world. She is hopeful that the goats will soon produce enough milk for her to sell and that she will be able to use that profit to finally be able to return her children to school. 

It seems like a simple gift. But for Rose and other families living in extreme poverty, the gift of one goat is not only enough to change their current circumstances — it can be enough to change their lives. 

To impact more families like Rose’s, donate to our Goat Project today!

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Stella

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Cultivating life through the soil.

Stella first came into contact with Wakisa Ministries when she was only 17. 

She had a newborn son. Her options were limited. 

She knew that she would no longer be able to return to school and receive a formal education, meaning that chances of future employment were slim and she would have few means to support herself or her child. There was little hope in her life, and it would have been easy for her to give up and accept the meager cards that life had dealt her.

But Stella has a fire in her. In her previous vocational training through Wakisa Ministries, she displayed an eagerness to learn and grow despite her circumstances. When the opportunity to be sponsored through the Agricultural Skills Training Program at Agromax opened up, she readily took it. 

Through the Agromax program, The Hope Venture and Wakisa Ministries hope to replace the cycle of poverty and pain with a cycle of cultivation. We believe that by investing in and teaching young mothers how to first cultivate the earth, they can successfully cultivate others — affecting change in whole communities and helping to sow hope where there once was none.

Throughout the agricultural skills training program, Stella has displayed strength and determination, as well as exhibited the keen desire to always improve her skills. She has been able to receive counseling and support from Wakisa Ministries staff, which has further enabled her to excel in her studies. Not only did her firm persistence help her to graduate from Agromax earlier this year, it has also given her the opportunity to intern in the same program — during which she will be provided with shelter, clothing, and food for her and her son. Now 21, Stella will be responsible for operating over ten greenhouses after her internship is complete.

Despite her current success, Stella still has hopes and aspirations that reach far into the future. Not only does she dream of being able to run her own farm one day, she hopes to eventually return to her hometown of Entebbe to teach agriculture to other members of her community. She wishes to help to restore hope to hurting young mothers just as hope has been restored to her — to empower other women as she has been empowered.

Stella is living proof that sponsorship through the Agromax program does not only affect change in the life of one young mother. It has empowered her to create a better life for her, her child, and her family. It has empowered her to transform from a woman who had the desire to flourish but was never given the opportunity to, into a woman who now has the ability to cultivate hope in the lives of those around her. 

To impact more women like Stella, donate to our Agromax Project today!

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Ivy

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More than just a job.

Just when I get used to the work we do at The Hope Venture and think of it as a regular job, I get hit with the story of someone overseas whose life has been changed because of our work. And it becomes real again.

It becomes not just going to a job and scheduling social media posts. Not just attending meetings and answering Slack messages. It becomes an urgent, life saving, life giving mission to be part of something greater than myself. A mission to help my neighbor overseas, because there’s a person out there, and she needs my help, and my efforts matter. They really do count. They really do change things.

I came across Ivy Shilalo’s story, and it made me have this moment of realization. It boiled my world down from being overwhelmed by the masses to focusing on the one. Here’s the story of Ivy:

She’s 18-years-old, from Narok, Kenya, and is in Form 3, which translates to being a junior in high school.

She’s the third of six kids. 

Her dad left when she was young, and her mom owned a school, but sold it to pay school fees to another institution.

Before she was sponsored, Ivy was in and out of school. To try and help with that, she worked at a hotel, but it closed at 10pm and it was too dangerous for her to be out that late.

Then she found Nasha Ministries, the organization in Kenya that The Hope Venture partners with to sponsor high school students. When she found out she was getting sponsored, she said that she knew her dreams were going to be accomplished. Now she’s studying business and English, her two favorite subjects in school.

She knows Jesus, and she praises Him. She says, “He has made the impossible, possible. He has always been there. When we were hungry, He provided.” She says that Jesus and Nasha changed her life, and it feels like they have given her hope.

She found encouragement and refreshment at The Hope Venture summer camp this year. She found hope in places where she thought, “this thing can’t happen.” She says she feels the dignity that we as an organization talk about.

Let me say that again. I want this to be made real for you, like it was made real for me. She says she feels the dignity that we talk about. Our mission statement is, “We’re on an adventure to bring hope and dignity to the most disadvantaged people in the world.” As a staff member on the marketing team, that saying is etched into my mind. I can spit it out on command and say it in my sleep. But man, it’s not just a well-crafted line of marketing copy. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. And the mission statement comes out of that, not just something that feels and sounds good. And for a real human to say that she feels that, wow. That’s what we do. It’s not “normal” work. It’s not just clocking in and out of a job. We get to reach across the world and link arms with someone like Ivy, and walk with her along her journey. Side by side, human to human, together. And you can do that too when you partner with The Hope Venture and donate to a project. It supports real lives and creates real change. We get to do that, and I just think it’s the coolest thing.

To impact more students like Ivy, donate to our Student Sponsorship Project today!

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Gloria

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Fighting for an education and the hope of a better future.

I think there’s something really special about the projects The Hope Venture does. Who knew a goat could bring security to a family, a backpack hope to a student, and an agriculture program purpose to a young mother. The needs these projects meet seem simple, but really, they’re life-changing.

Meet Gloria. She’s currently eighteen, the mother of one, living with her grandma, and about to begin her dream of farming her own plot of land. However, her life wasn’t always this way. It was through pain, loss, and a prayer that she got to where she is now.

Her story starts with being an orphan, becoming pregnant, losing her closest friends, and being asked by her grandma to move out and find another home. On the brink of Gloria being homeless, her uncle stepped in and took her to Wakisa Ministries, a center and safehaven for pregnant women in Uganda.

Gloria was welcomed there and taught a skill; tailoring. It seems simple, but she excelled at the craft and even sewed Vivian, Wakisa Ministries Director, a dress. When Gloria returned home from Wakisa, now as a mother with her one-year-old son, she had dreams of being able to attend school and receive training and education, but she knew there was no way that could happen, given her circumstances. Gloria prayed about it, and boy did God come through for His daughter.

Gloria was able to interview at Agromax, a partner with The Hope Venture that provides a 6-month agriculture program for women, and was accepted into the school in 2020. She’s been learning incredible skills, like how to treat soil, use fertilizers, and she’s even growing her very own tomatoes and sweet peppers in the school’s greenhouse. She’s been taken in and given a skill that will be able to sustain her and her little one. She’s been treated with respect. She’s been given a shot at a beautiful future for her and her child.

And what’s even better, Gloria’s uncle has a ¼ acre of land that he plans to let her farm a small portion of once she’s done in the Agromax program. She’ll be able to live out her dreams now, and with her tailoring and agriculture skills, the sky’s her limit.

To impact more women like Gloria, donate to our Agromax Project today!

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