I’ve met many inspirational people through my job at Compassion. Those who inspire me aren’t always those who have achieved great things as most of the world would see it. Most of the time they’re people who have beaten enormous odds and have then gone back to the place of their greatest challenges in order to help others.
Silas is one of those inspirational people.
He has overcome great challenges and has exceeded the kinds of expectations that poverty placed upon him. Silas refused to believe the lies that poverty told him.
Silas Mwangi Irungu was born and raised in Mathare, Kenya’s second largest slum after Kibera. As the first born in a family of three, he grew up in his no more than 10 by10 feet mud house, wondering why life was so unfair. His family struggled to find their place in the immensely populated, narrow, dark and dangerous alleys of the slum.
Silas’ father survived being stabbed during a robbery attempt, and as a young boy, Silas was rushed to hospital, unconscious, after he was injured during one of many violent raids in the slums. He lost many of his friends to crime and drugs. Even more tragic was the loss of his only brother, who was shot and killed in his neighbourhood.
Yet, there was a tiny ray of light that shone through the rusty iron sheets when he was enrolled into the Compassion program, and sponsored by an American couple, Mr. &Mrs. William Jackson who went on to support him for over 15 years.
Thanks to a sponsor who lived half a world away, Silas was able to not only survive where others didn’t, he proved again and again that poverty doesn’t have to define a person.
It was an honour to have Silas in Western Australia to tell his story and to inspire hundreds of people through a number of speaking engagements. It was even more of an honour to spend some time with him and to get to know him a little.
I really don’t know that I would have the kind of resilience that Silas displays if I had been born into poverty. I guess that understanding the extreme privilege of being born and raised in Australia reminds me of my responsibility to speak up for the many millions who have no voice.
While Silas was in Perth he was interviewed by Tim Long at 98five. You can be inspired by hearing his story too. Just click the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.
Silas joined Leadership Development Program and studied a Bachelor’s degree in Science (Mathematics). It was a ground breaking occasion for him. He was the first in his immediate family to join university. LDP not only assured him of uninterrupted access to higher education, but also confirmed to him that years of growing up in poverty, and rummaging through piles of life’s uncertainties, hadn’t reduced his life’s worth.
The greatest ‘disservice’ that LDP did to Silas, he says, was raising his life’s expectations. He began to see that he could conquer challenges that initially seemed insurmountable. Compassion gave him hope.
Silas is now conquering those challenges by making a difference in his family and society. He is now supporting his family- who no longer live in the slums, and also educating his sister through university. Silas also works with Compassion Kenya as a Field Communications Specialist, and tells the stories of hope, of children living in poverty.
You can make an incredible difference in the life of a child who right now is facing the kinds of battles that Silas faced. Please consider sponsoring a child through Compassion today.
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