Owen stared at the letter in wonder. On the page filled with sentences, three words stood out: “I love you.”

In his short life, Owen had never heard those words before. He was surrounded by the bustle and smells of a Nairobi slum. At that moment, the world around him ceased to exist. The joy he felt was warmer and brighter than the Kenyan sunshine. Owen grew up with his two brothers and his single mother. He describes his childhood as one of “abject poverty and hopelessness”. Each day, he woke with stabbing pains in his growling stomach and no idea where his next plate of food would come from. It was hard to see how life could be different. “The absolute worst thing about poverty is the hopelessness,” he says.

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Owen in Narobi, 12 years after his sponsorship had ended. 

Hope came one week before his eighth birthday. Owen was registered at the Child Sponsorship Programme run by Compassion’s local church partner. His family had heard how the church helped children. They knew what sponsorship meant: clean water, food, medical care and the chance to go to school. At the news, his mother grabbed his hands and spun him around their small room. His brothers jumped up and down and their faces lit up with huge grins. 

Owen didn’t expect the letters, though. At an event across the globe, a young man had seen Owen’s photo and realised they shared the same name. He became his sponsor. Over the next decade, they built a friendship through letter writing. It was through these letters that Owen first heard the words “I love you”. The encouragement and support meant so much that day, Owen would stand next to him not as his sponsor, but as the best man at his wedding.

He didn’t expect that his family would be surrounded by a loving cheer squad—the pastor, project director, volunteers and tutors at his child development centre. “The church opened up for me,” he explains. “The project director took a keen interest in every one of us. It was beautiful to have somebody championing for you, telling you, ‘Keep going. Keep going. There is hope. There is light.’ ”Spurred on by this love and support, Owen pursued a different future to the one that surrounded him.

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Owen was invited to write one last letter to his former sponsor. It had been 12 years since they last wrote to one another.

In 2006, just shy of his 20th birthday, he graduated from Compassion’s programme as a self-sufficient young man. He achieved his dream of becoming an accountant and is now the Manager of Accounting for Compassion International. Today, he and his wife live in the US. They sponsor three children, including a little girl who lives just outside of Nairobi. This year, for the first time, Owen was invited to write one last letter to his former sponsor. It had been 12 years since they last wrote to one another.

This is Owen’s last letter:

Dear Owen,

It's been 12 years since we exchanged our last letters. The day I found out that you had become my sponsor was one of the best days of my life, and my whole family rejoiced and danced with me.

Before you sponsored me, I would often go to bed hungry. I had no access to clean water or medical care. You gave me an opportunity to believe, hope, and dream again. We knew that I would have access to clean water, food, medical care, and the chance to go to school. But there were some things we didn't expect, like how much your letters would be a constant source of joy and hope. The first time I heard the words "I love you" was from reading one of your letters and how learning about Jesus and accepting him in my life would be the best decision I have ever made.

I wanted to make sure I told you that giving me the opportunity to go to school helped me realise my dream of becoming an accountant. If only you knew how this was instrumental in breaking the cycle of poverty, not only for my life but also for my family. I want you to know that choosing to sponsor me was worth it.

Ten years ago, when you stood beside me as the best man at my wedding, it was one of the highlights of my life. I call you big brother because you are very special to me. If only you knew that after you sponsored me through Compassion, I now get the privilege of sponsoring three kids through Compassion. The most beautiful thing is that I have been released from poverty in Jesus' name. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Owen


Stories like Owen’s remind us that sponsorship does more than connect children to basic resources. It equips them with confidence and hope that unleashes in them their God-given potential.


 

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