Nairobi, Kenya – Elika is much like most 23-year-old women around the world.As a college graduate, she dreams of attaining a master’s degree, getting a job and moving into her own place so she can be independent.

Her story could have been very different if not for the help of her local churchwhich partners with Bright Hope. As a little girl, her stomach often grumbled with hunger as she wondered where her next meal would come from. One of six siblings living in the Mathare Valley Slum outside of Nairobi, her parents could not find stable jobs and she learned to stand out in order to survive.

When Elika began attending the primary and secondary school operated by the local church, she received daily meals through their feeding program. The church also sponsored her school fees so she could continue her studies. Of all her siblings, she was the only one who received financial support all the way from primary school through higher education. Many of them had children at early ages and were forced to drop out of school.

“The opportunity I received from the church is so visible,” Elika said. “I can see the differences and I want to make my family proud.”

When Elika was a teenager, she was assaulted while walking home one evening. Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence for young girls in dangerous and often violent slum neighborhoods. Trying to process through the trauma, she decided to join a Bible study program to help her heal. Aimed at young leaders, the course strengthened her knowledge of the Bible and led Elika to dedicate her life to Christ.

Elika continued to work hard in school, eventually being selected by a teacher to receive a vocational scholarship funded by her church which paid all tuition through university and matched her with a church mentor. She now volunteers for the Student Leaders Ambassadors Program at her university where she visits churches, prisons and government institutions to speak about the power of education to change lives. She plans to earn a post-graduate degree in international development so she can help other families like her own.

“I was very touched by this scholarship program…” said Elika. “Now I want to give back to my community, I want to give the children of this slum hope that they can one day leave this place.”