Holding onto

Tell me about your childhood.

My name is Stephen Okurut; I come from a family of 9 children, 2 boys and 7 girls. I am the second last born child in our family. All of my sisters and brothers are married, I am the only child to my mother who isn’t yet married and I have been blessed with the opportunity to be in school.

I lost my Dad in 1999 when I was in primary 4. At that point, my life changed totally from light to darkness. It was the beginning of an era of darkness, which I never saw coming my way.
It was during this low time that my brother got married. At the time he was working with a dairy corporation and he was my only hope. He struggled to elevate me from primary four and after some time, he lost his job and things began to get tough for me in school. I had to struggle tooth and nail. Somehow blessed with the opportunity of free primary education in a government school and I also got support from a local organization. They provided me with scholastic materials until I finished. This pushed me on to complete primary school. I kept my hopes alive even when it was difficult, and I eventually was able to sit for my final primary leaving examinations, which were to qualify me to secondary school.

So what happened after primary school?

After primary seven, the program I was in finished, but at the back of my mind, I was steadfast on not losing hope. I joined secondary school in senior one in my village. My mom struggled to look for school fees for me. At that point, one of my sisters who were living in the city picked me up from the village to go to the city and look for a small job that could sustain my living.

I didn’t refuse.

She was working in a restaurant so I went to join her. I was staying near a neighbor a head teacher whom I interacted with me and saw the passion I had. He saw I was determined. He told my sister to allow me study even without fees and at the right time, he said he would pay them for me.

That man inspired me to go back to school and I had already lost one year so I had to go to senior 2.

It was a really tough time. I had to study hard, I took 3 days without eating, I would sleep at friends’ places, so it reached a time and things got difficult.

I could cry and cry but I was always inspired by the quote of “Never giving up in life” our school motto and it became my personal quotation.

I joined Scripture Union and I was given a chance to be a Vice Chairperson. It was during my senior 3 year I made the important decision to give me life to Christ.

Though I had eternal hope, I still struggled; I hadn’t paid any school fees.

I didn’t give up, I couldn’t lose hope. I knew what I needed in life and even though I didn’t have school fees, I read my books and stayed focused.

When I joined Senior 4 in 2009, Empower a Child sent our school a letter informing us of visitors coming to our school to share the word of GOD. No one had ever visited us at that time. They were the first visitors to come. We prayed with them, and the time came for testimonies.

During the time of testimony, many students shared, I was reluctant to share mine until I gathered confidence to share. I was happy to share how God had brought me though even though the worry of paying school fees was still hanging over me.

After testimonies, one muzungu (African meaning for a white person) called Nate and his wife Shauna, called me after prayers and they prayed for me and they left.

They returned a 2nd time and they encouraged me to study hard and not mind what was happening to my life. So I pressed on.

After sometime, my head teacher informed me the 2 visitors who had come were committing to pay my fees and cleared my all my balance up to my senior 4!

After my senior 4, I was asked whether I was ready to study up to university, my answer was very simple, I told them that I was ready to study as long as GOD provided. I wouldn’t stop given the struggle I have had since my childhood. It was that time that Uncle Felix Kisa, a staff member of Empower a Child, left a letter for me at school informing me that I was being put on the sponsorship program. It was a life changing experience that I never saw coming.

I never expected and it was so overwhelming for me.

Currently what are you doing?

I am a student at Bugema University, 2nd year student doing a Bachelors of Arts in Social Work and Social Administration.

I must really say this, thank you Empower a Child, you gave me hope and a reason to keep pushing for the future. If it wasn’t for Empower a Child and my sponsors I don’t know where I would be. The way my life was heading, I never had hopes that I would be at university.

That’s why when am praying daily, I never forget to pray for Empower a Child both in Uganda and all it’s offices all over the world.

What are your future dreams after school?

I want to help the less privileged. My life with the struggle I had to put up with, I don’t want to see people struggle in the future when God blesses me in my life. I want GOD to help me be successful; I want to help young people achieve their dreams.

How do you spend your leisure time both at university and at home?

When I am out of the class, I am doing physical exercise, but when it comes to time for books, I concentrate a lot and focus.

When am at home, in the village, I love garden work and looking after the cattle my dad left for us.

My Christian life, there is no way I can leave God in my life and I passionately love God. I love praying. Every time is prayer time for me because that’s what encourages me in everything storm that comes my way. I always surrender to God who is my sustainer.

What’s your last message?

First and foremost, I want to speak a blessing of more abundance in the lives of men and women who have supported me from the days of my dark edge of life to this day when I walk a ray of hope that Jesus has shined in my life. May you all live longer for hundreds of years. I send my love and warm regards from my family to all my sponsors. My Mom really appreciates all the support you have given me and she desperately looks forward to the day she will meet you GOD willingly and thank you in person. May GOD richly bless you.