Exceeding all expectations
“My life has exceeded all that I could have dreamed of as a small girl,” says Julian Alum, with a smile. It’s hard to believe that this eloquent, confident, Master’s graduate from Baylor University, was once a shy seven year old, who feared she’d spend her life selling sweet potatoes in a Ugandan market. But, whilst Julian’s life has completely changed, she’s never forgotten where she’s come from or the children who remain trapped in poverty. As the face of this year’s Compassion Sunday campaign, Julian shares her own story to inspire more people to reach out and change the life of a child, forever.
I grew up in a small house next to a brewery in the slums of Kampala. I am the third child in a family of five and my family was one of three that my father had. It was normal where I grew up for men to have more than one wife, but it meant that really, I had an absent dad. It was painful because we would have him for a few hours and then he would leave and go to be with another of his families; I have few memories of receiving fatherly love.
When I was seven, my father passed away which was a big turning point in my family’s life because he had been the bread winner, regardless of how little we saw him. He had always provided for us; he made sure that we were going to school and that we had food. But, when he died, all that changed; I had to drop out of school. Instead, I started working in the market with my mum. At times even getting something to eat was hard; I had to scavenge at night in the dumpsters to get leftovers.
But, right in the middle of all that pain and desperation, hope came when a family friend told my mother about Compassion. He explained that they were registering children close by in a local church. We went along and I met the criteria, in fact over time, three of us were registered. I think the project could see that my mum needed a lot of help supporting five children as a single parent on less than a dollar a day.
Free to survive
Compassion was a great breakthrough for us. It meant I was able to get back to school and get medical treatment. Where I lived, most children would succumb to malaria and water borne diseases; many children I grew up with died. The medical help we received through the project enabled us to fight those dangers and to survive them.
Illness wasn’t the only threat in our lives. My mother was encouraged by some of her friends to sell her daughters into marriage to supplement her income. I thank God that my mum valued our education and wasn’t ready to sell any of us. She worked very hard and, with the support of Compassion, was able to send us to boarding school where we were safe and able to learn and dream of a different future.
Free to dream
Being sponsored through Compassion meant that more than food and school fees. It meant that I got encouragement. The letters I received from my sponsor asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I had never even thought about these things. I had just thought that I would sell sweet potatoes like my mum. As I started to think about it, I realised the things I could do; I was good at science at school so for a while I dreamed of being a doctor. Another time I wanted to be an accountant. I think I changed my mind every year; just like a normal teenager. Poverty no longer held my dreams captive; God had broken them free.
Since then, I have studied at university with the support of the Leadership Development programme and worked in a Compassion project in my home community; working with children just like me. It has been a great opportunity to tell these kids that I know what it’s like, I’ve been where they are and I know that it is possible to achieve their dreams. I can tell them it’s possible to be released from poverty and make it in life. They know that what I say is true because they can see what God has done in my life.
Watch Julian share her remarkable story on this year’s Compassion Sunday DVD.
Visit www.compassionuk.org/sunday or call 01932 836490 to order your FREE copy today.