Titus lifts himself out of poverty by giving.
“It felt so good in my heart to give at the Thanksgiving event, and since then, I’ve received far more in return than I gave that day. I believe this is the Bible teaching, ‘The hand that giveth, receiveth…’”.
-Titus, Zoe Empowers Kenya 2nd-Year Student
As early as Kindergarten, children in our Western culture are asked what they want to be when they “grow up”. They’re asked to draw their aspirations in full color, to describe their responsibilities, their customers and what they’d wear to such a job.
When a child is convinced they can be anything their young heart desires, we, as adults, are never quick to tell them it’s not possible. Instead, we nod our heads and live vicariously through their ignorant bliss. After all, it’s our ability to dream that makes us human.
But if you asked second-year Zoe Empowers Kenya student, Titus, he would tell you that not knowing he had the right to dream, to think he had the ability to live a life above poverty, nor the parents to encourage such imaginative thinking, is also what made him feel less like a human before joining Zoe Empowers in 2016.
After the death of his father, Titus dropped out of school to work from 6am to 10pm every day at a local restaurant, a place where he sometimes opted to sleep at night, if he was too tired to walk home after long hours of laboring under the demands of an apathetic boss.
“My employer didn’t care about how tired I would get,” Titus recalled. “But, I knew I had to persevere through the harsh conditions to provide for my family. They were counting on me.”
As an orphan who is head of his household, Titus’ life circumstances are similar to the majority of children in the Zoe Empowers program. However, despite their common threads, Zoe Empowers children rarely know each other before the program begins due to extreme isolation.
When Zoe Empowers begins a new group within a community, one of the first exercises the children do together is to create a “dream chart”. For many, this is the first time they’ve considered a life that didn’t involve 16-hour work days, excruciating pain from hunger, illness or many of the other contributing factors that keep children like Titus trapped in the cycle of poverty.
When Titus made his dream chart, his first wish for his future was acceptance.
“I was afraid they [his Zoe Empowers group] would laugh at him,” recalled Titus. “I prayed hard and got the courage to share my dreams with them, and they were so supportive.”
The encouragement from his peers ignited a feeling Titus has never felt before. Suddenly, his life seemed limitless, and his dreams got bigger. His mindset shifted from simply wanting connection to wanting to own his own kiosk, a stand where he could sell fresh fruits and vegetables, and eventually, the coffee he cultivated and homemade shortbread.
In 2017, Titus approached his Zoe Empowers group with a business plan for his kiosk. They accepted and issued him a micro-grant of $50 to buy inventory. He opened his kiosk, and his community responded positively by giving him frequent business. On average, he was able to save $3 of the $6 he earned each day.
Titus’ disciplined approach to saving has enabled him to pay the fees for his two younger siblings to re-enroll in school, regularly provide food and clothing for his family and actively save to purchase a new plot of land.
More impressively, he recently donated $20 to the Zoe Empowers program when he attended the Zoe Empowers Kenya Tharaka Thanksgiving event in September.
“I was really touched when I heard the money was going to support other kids like me. I remember where God has brought me from. I know how those children feel. That’s why I donated $20 to ZOE.” explained Titus.
In the days and weeks following his donation to ZOE, Titus experienced a significant surge in his business. “It felt so good in my heart to give at the Thanksgiving event, and since then, I’ve received far more in return than I gave that day. I believe this is the Bible teaching, ‘The hand that giveth, receiveth…’”, said Titus.
His success has funded a second shop, plus the purchase of a motorbike as well as the ability to hire an employee to conduct taxi service in his community—and he’s not stopping there.
Titus’ has already set the goal of owning his own supermarket one day, proving that every child, regardless of life circumstances, has a dream, a vision deep down in their soul, to make something of themselves; however, those children living under the suffocating weight of poverty need that load lifted, first, before it can be realized.
By giving back to the Zoe Empowers program, Titus has continued the effort to reach more orphans throughout Africa and beyond who have yet to discover the hope needed to overcome poverty.
Read about other Zoe Empowers students and graduates who’ve given back to the organization that successfully transitioned them into healthy, self-sufficient entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills to provide for themselves and their families for the rest of their lives.
380 million children living in extreme poverty will rely on charity forever.
A monthly gift of $38 over 3 years empowers 5 orphans out of poverty to never need charity again. How many children can you give lasting sustainable change?