Hope Shines Bright by Candlelight
The story of Candlelight's first university-bound student is cause for celebration.
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It's a special day at Candlelight School in the Matopeni slums of Nairobi.
Alice Afwai has welcomed the team from WCSG radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and another guest is on his way.
Tears fill her eyes when Ellis, the first Candlelight student to attend university, walks through the gates.
To her, he represents the dream she and her husband, Fred, have for all 384 students. She believes every child deserves to shine.
Ellis graduated from 8th grade at Candlelight in 2010, and then traveled to western Kenya to attend St. Ignatius Mukumu Boys' High School.
He was accepted to the University of Nairobi, and in 2015 began his studies in economics and statistics.
Thoughtful and well-spoken, Ellis talks about what his future will be like after graduating.
"I want to get a job that is in relation to the course of my studies - accounting or the like. I would like someday to own my own business."
Image by Ronne Rock
He credits his educational success to the values instilled in him at Candlelight.
"I loved the interaction with my teachers - especially the headmaster, Augustin. He would press us to study hard from morning until evening. At the time, I didn't like it so much because, well..."
Ellis pauses and smiles as he remembers what life was like as a young boy who would rather play outside than study.
"Now, I appreciate it. Now I know it was right."
His family no longer lives in Matopeni.
A younger brother was the last to attend Candlelight, but he is attending a high school in a neighboring village.
Still, Ellis visits Candlelight because he loves spending time with Alice and Fred - the couple who believed in him and made sure he received a Christ-centered education.
"They are good parents to me - since 2008, they have been guardians to me."
He says Fred and Alice have taught him more than reading and arithmetic.
"Their kindness has taught me how to be kind toward others. They have always inspired us to work hard and be independent, because of our situation - because they wanted us to be able to make a life of our own, a better future."
Fred's dream is that students who have graduated from Candlelight and gone on to receive degrees will remember where they came from and return to encourage new students.
That is a priority for Ellis too.
Image by Ronne Rock
In the Classroom
"We are taught that it's important to work hard because we are being helped, to work ourselves out of the slum, and then to come back and help others."
Ellis hopes one day to be able to pay for school fees and uniforms, so that every child in Matopeni is afforded the opportunity to attend school.
"I want to be able to help them so they can work their futures out and become important people in our community."
If he could tell the students at Candlelight anything, Ellis says it would be to be faithful.
"I attended class, I studied hard, I listened to my teachers, I passed my grades and now I'm in university."
Image by Ronne Rock
"I believe anyone can do what I did. I think it's even easier now than when I was here because there are more teachers and more benefits at the school."
"It's better now, so they have a better chance. They need to work hard and be productive."
He smiles again as he steps into a classroom to spend time with the students who are cheering his arrival. For them as well, Ellis is a shining example of how dreams can come true.
You can help students at Candlelight School with their dreams when you become a sponsor. Meet the children who are available for sponsorship now.