This giving story comes from our #MyGivingStory contest. You can share your story and your chosen nonprofit organization could win a $10,000 grant, or another prize. Visit the contest gallery for inspiration and to vote for your favorites. This story comes from Becca, who is inspired by the work of Acres of Hope:
I’ve never met a person more generous than Odongo Geoffrey Keronga. Odongo means twin, and even though he doesn’t have a twin, this name is fitting because he puts in the hours and efforts of at least two people. Even more suitable is Keronga, meaning fearless. He has worked toward his vision for years, fearlessly and graciously facing obstacles that many would run from. Most people call him Pastor. Even though he no longer pastors a church, he continues to be a servant leader in his community. I call him Papa. He isn’t my biological father, but his example has impacted every aspect of my life.
Born in Uganda, Pastor Geoffrey grew up in unfathomable conditions. He survived a burning stick being shoved through his side as an infant. He learned to fish, which allowed him to pay for school as a child. He endured war and multiple attacks by the rebel army as a young adult. He is no stranger to pain, suffering, corruption or evil. Yet, instead of becoming bitter and calloused, he is determined to create a better future for the vulnerable people around him. In an area crippled by war, poverty and disease, Geoffrey is providing light, hope and love.
His vision is of a safe place for orphans and vulnerable children to live normal, happy childhood lives. He didn’t want to see them grow up to be resentful. He wanted to see transformation. Over the last several years, Pastor Geoffrey has persevered and witnessed exactly that. With patience and faith, he purchased land. In time, he built five homes, several school buildings, and a fully functioning farm. He calls it Acres of Hope, and I can’t think of a more fitting name. As you enter the compound, you’re greeted by singing, dancing, excited children. They love going to school. They do their chores without complaining. They take care of each other. They’ve become family. You would never know that they were once the most desperate. Even more children live within the community, but they attend school and receive support from Acres of Hope. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Pastor Geoffrey, over 200 children who were once starving, sick, and hopeless are now fed, healthy and excelling in school.
I had the privilege of meeting many of these children when construction started at Acres of Hope in 2011. As they told me their heartbreaking stories, their eyes were dark and empty. When I asked them how I could pray for them, many asked for food, shoes, or an education. Most of them spent their time fetching water or digging in the garden. Education was not a reality. It was a prayer request.
Earlier this month, thirteen Acres of Hope teenagers completed their Primary Leaving Examinations. In a few months, they will be invited to secondary schools all over Uganda, to continue their education. Today their eyes are full of life, joy, and hope.
Papa doesn’t take any of the credit. He smiles a big, bright smile, gives all the glory to the Father of the fatherless, and then he goes back to work. Currently, his biggest project is to complete four classrooms by the end of February. This award will go a long way in making that possible, increasing the ripple effect, and raising up the next generation of generosity.