When you hear the phrase “extreme poverty,” what do you imagine?

I know that before I went to Kenya in 2016, I would hear stories of families in extreme poverty, feel saddened, and even take part in prayer for those living in horrific conditions, but it wasn’t until I saw extreme poverty firsthand that I truly understood how it affects your reality.

On the morning of June 26, 2016, while serving as a houseparent and missionary teacher in rural Kenya, I got into a truck to do a home visit. On this particular day, we were visiting Grace’s* home. Grace was one of the brightest and most personable students in Grade 3. Because of her grit and determination, she had became a top student in her class. On that day, our hope was to evaluate Grace’s living conditions to determine how the organization could help improve her and her family’s lives.

We drove off the campus where I was living and just kept driving…  we drove about three or four miles down a narrow, one-lane dirt road and finally came to a plot of land where there was a small mud hut, built with only a couple wood sticks and poles to help support it.

My heart sank as I took it all in. I realized that this was the “home” where Grace and her mom lived.

As we met with Grace and her mother, she was the most gracious host. She knew who I was from the school and showed us her firepit and all around her land.  She did not show us the inside of her house, other than to just say that it was home. We realized that this whole time, Grace—with her sweet smile and positive spirit—would walk 3 to 4 miles to and from school, about 6 to 8 miles total per day, on top of attending school for 8 hours each day.

I couldn’t fathom it.

While Grace didn’t have many earthly items, she had the most important thing: God. She had God to lean on in hard times, and she believed and knew that God would never leave her. Her faith was unshakable and inspiring to all those who knew her. When God tells His children not to worry and to call on Him when in need, He will provide—and Grace never lost track of this truth. She knew God would take care of her.

Despite the distance and the tough living conditions, Grace continued to go to school each day after that. She would make a point to come say hello to me during the school day, and I couldn’t help but smile back at this incredible little girl.

Grace is just one example of the many people all over the world who keeps a smile on her face while pushing forward in life because that’s the only direction to go. Grace knows that God provides for her, and her hope is to one day rise above the cycle of extreme poverty she is faced with.

Extreme poverty is real and there are so many just like Grace who live like this, due to no choice of their own, but simply by being born into it. Before living in Kenya, I could have never imagined what extreme poverty really looked like. It was so devastating to witness.

What we can all relate to, however, is getting an education—which we can easily take for granted. After visiting Grace and seeing her desire to receive an education, I believe more strongly than ever in the value of investing in the next generation’s education as a solution to break the cycle of generational poverty and instill a Hope for Tomorrow—which is exactly what we do at Bright Hope.

If you want to learn how you can become part of the solution of ending poverty through education, visit www.brighthope.org/education.

*Name changed to protect privacy

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