I went on my first trip to Kenya in 2002. Transformed and humbled by the reality of extreme poverty and the warm spirit of the Kenyan people, I came back committed to doing my part to raise money and awareness for children living in poverty. After meeting so many children struggling just to find food and the opportunity to go to school, I asked the organization I was involved with to assign a child to me for sponsor.
I was thrilled when I received a photo and a letter from a 13 year-old boy named Joseph. After the death of his parents, he was taken in by a pastor and his wife at a children's home in the Nairobi slum of Kibera. We met for the first time in 2004 and continued our relationship over the years as I traveled to Kenya for my work with AYA.
Joseph has grown into a compassionate and driven young man with a huge heart for helping other orphaned children. After reuniting with his brother Stephen in 2012, he found that he had not been in school because of his family's inability to afford school fees. This inspired Joseph to focus on his passion for assisting other disadvantaged children and to found what would become Hugs for Life. Joseph took in Stephen, paid for him to attend school and soon learned of ten-year old twin boys who were living in a shed after the death of their parents. Knowing the pain of losing parents and living in poverty, Joseph officially became the guardian of Joseph and Peter and made them a part of his growing family.
After several years of Joseph running Hugs for Life, we decided the timing was right for us to work together to bring opportunity to other orphaned and impoverished children. Like Joseph, tragedy and poverty cannot darken their dreams, determination, and loving spirit.