The Compassion Experience currently features three stories of lives transformed through the power of sponsorship. One of those stories is Julian Alum, a 29-year-old who became a part of the Compassion program at age 10. We sat down with Julian last week to get to know her a little bit better.
Question: When were you a part of a Compassion program?
Julian: Ages 10-27. I am 29 now! I was in the Compassion Child Development Sponsorship Program from 1994 – 2002, the Leadership Development Program from 2003-2007, and the Leadership Development Post Graduate Program from 2011-2013
What have you been able to accomplish with your education?
I attended Makerere University in Uganda and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies. I just graduated from Baylor University with a Masters’ in Social Work!
What was it like growing up in poverty in Uganda?
After the death of my father I was forced to drop out of school and started working with my mom selling sweet potatoes at the age of 8. It was a struggle to get a meal a day for me and my family. Life seemed hopeless and I knew then that I would never realize my dreams. After the death of my father, my mom struggled to take care of five children on earnings of less than a dollar a day.
How did the Compassion program enable you to change your life?
After registration with Compassion, I was able to enroll back in school. I was always assured of medical support every time I felt sick. I was able to share the love of Christ with my family. Every time I learned a memory verse at the Compassion center, I shared it with my Mom and siblings at home. They later received Christ as their Lord and personal Savior.
I made meaningful relationships through Compassion. For example my sponsors, friends, mentor, and the project staff. These relationships shaped and molded me into the person I have become today.
What was the value of your relationship with your sponsor family?
It was an invaluable relationship. We always wrote back and forth to each other. My sponsor always encouraged me, affirmed and prayed for me. This was evident in the letters that they wrote me, always echoing and reminding me that they loved me, they cared and were always there for me. I always found that writing letters to my sponsor was a safe place for me to pour out my heart about any struggles that I had at home and school. My sponsor always followed up on my school performance, which motivated me to perform better every school term so that I could give them news of better performance.
The constant question they asked of what I wanted to become when I grew up helped me to think about my future and think beyond — about what was around me but also to aim higher. My sponsor went above and beyond. They supported me and loved me as their own child. I did not know about birthday celebrations until I received a birthday card from my sponsor. Ohhh! I pray that I will be able to meet Mr. and Mrs. Jones and their children Christina and Elizabeth. That’s all I pray for and desire more than anything! I want to see them.
What are some of your plans and goals for the future?
Right now I want to trust that God has the best in store for me. During this tour, almost everyone has been asking this same question. It is kind of hard for me to put words to it because God knows it all. However, before I came to the U.S I was actively involved in socio-economic empowerment of women living with HIV/AIDS — they are caregivers of children in a Compassion center that I worked with before coming to the US. These women make paper jewelry and we have friends here in the US who are helping us sell the jewelry in their fair trade shop. When I go back to Uganda I plan to continue working with Compassion International: Uganda and also continue working alongside the Jewelry project called “God Is Able Jewelry”. My goal is to use my social work career to advocate for children and women living with HIV/AIDS and to help those in vulnerable situations realize their dreams and potential.
Experience Julian’s Story For Yourself
Julian’s story is currently featured at Change the Story: The Compassion Experience. You’ll step into recreations of the environment she grew up in, and will walk with her from poverty to hope. The event is free and appropriate for all ages. For more information and to reserve your spot, click here.