Listen: Former Compassion child Lillian Nakabiri chats to Emma Mullings about her transformed life.
When Lillian Nakabiri thinks back to her childhood, it’s a blur of dark times: rummaging through rubbish for scraps to eat, sleeping on hard ground, burying her brothers and sisters, and homelessness.
It’s amazing to think that now, in her 30s, she has a Bachelors degree and a Masters, a job with an NGO, her own sponsor child, and a very real dream to influence her country’s leaders.
Lillian’s life was changed by Compassion, and in an interview with Hope Media’s Emma Mullings, she described her long road from poverty to fruitfulness.
Eating Food From The Neighbour’s Garbage
“I was only three months old when my mother died, and my father died when I was five months old,” she said. “He was serving in the army and was kidnapped, so we came to believe that he died. My father had a number of women, so I grew up with one of my stepmothers in my father’s house.
“We were many kids but we had a lot of poverty. We didn’t have food, we didn’t have water, we didn’t have bedding, we didn’t have clothing. We used to look for food to eat from neighbours’ garbage scraps, pretending we were taking it to [younger] kids.
“We used to slash the compound, put the grass in a sack and use the grass sacks as our mattresses. I was really vulnerable. I was at one point about to die. But now I see myself as a beautiful survivor.”
Arriving At Compassion Wearing A Torn Dress
Lillian’s turning point came at age nine when she was taken to a Compassion Project support.
“My elder half-brother took me there,” she said. “I thought I was the poorest of the poor.
“I had a torn dress; I was holding it so people didn’t see the holes. We had walked for three miles, and when we reached there we were tired, hungry and looking miserable. I couldn’t even smile for a photo.
“But then I found there were so many kids who were very poor, to the point I stopped holding onto the hole I had in my dress.”
“Every Year We Would Bury Someone”
The support Lillian began receiving helped her whole family.
“When I was a kid we would fall sick all the time to diseases that could be prevented or treated, because we didn’t have any medication,” she said. “My siblings died; every year we would bury someone. But with Compassion support we were able to get good medication.
“And we didn’t have to go back to the scraps to look for garbage to eat. They bought groceries for us. It was joy to feel like someone was taking care of my family and me.”
The Australian Who Helped Save Lillian’s Life
Lillian’s sponsor was a woman named Rosemary Mohamed from the Gold Coast in Australia. The letters she wrote to Lillian were life-changing.
“She helped me to have good self esteem because they would write and encourage me and tell me how they loved me,” she said.
At age 16, Lillian had fallen out of touch with the Compassion project and was homeless, contemplating suicide.
“I used to live the life of animals…but now I’m educated. The Lillian of before is totally different from the Lillian now.”
“There was a time I gave up on life, gave up on loving people, I hated God,” she says of that time. “I thought God was taking much more from me than He was giving me. Every month we would bury someone, every year you could count how many people had died. I hated Him.
“But my sponsor’s love helped me to focus on Him and to regain hope, to the point when I was about to commit suicide, I read her letters again, and her letters helped me to think through life and go back to the Compassion project and be supported more.”
“So for me, sponsorship gave me a life. It gave me dignity so that I’m like a human being. I used to live the life of animals, sharing things to eat with animals but now I’m educated. The Lillian of before is totally different from the Lillian now.”
Dreams Of Changing Her Nation
Watch: Lillian shares how her life has been transformed.
Lillian decided to study so she could make a difference for her country. She now has a Bachelor of Mass Communications, a Masters in International Relations and Diplomatic Studies and a job with Compassion.
“I wanted to add value to myself so that I can be of much value to my country,” she said. “My dreams are big. I want to be a diplomat, I want to speak for my country, I want to advise leaders in my country – because we really have leadership issues. That’s why I keep on elevating to other levels of knowledge so that I can know how to get there.
“Also I have dreams to start up a Christian Vocation Institute for the youths, to train and equip them with skills that can help them to sustain their lives.”
“I sponsor a child in West Africa and I write to him as ‘His Excellency, the Future President of the Republic of Togo’ ”.
Now Lillian supports her family, has forgiven them for the hurts of the past, and encourages them to advance their station in life. She’s also returning the favour that was given to her as a child.
“I sponsor a child in West Africa and I write to him as “His excellency the future President of the Republic of Togo”,” she said with a smile. “I give hope, because I was given hope. It gives me so much inspiration when I talk about it and when I look back.”
Meeting Her Sponsor For The First Time
For Lillian, meeting her sponsor mother for the first time was “like a dream come true – a shocking dream”.
“Since I was a child, I prayed to God that one day I would meet this lady, because she really showed me a lot of love,” she said of her sponsor Rosemary.
The pair first met in Uganda and have since met again in Australia, and Lillian now supports and encourages the other young Ugandan children that Rosemary sponsors.
“These kids are now my mentees,” she said. “I write to them, they write to me sometimes when they want advice, when they are confused about something. I feel like they’re my little sisters and brothers.
“I would encourage all Aussies to sponsor a child because it is so fulfilling not only to the child but also to you. It will also change the life of this country and the future.”
To sponsor a child through Compassion go to the Compassion website.