Just Call Me Uncle

In Kenya, being called uncle or aunty doesn’t necessarily mean you are related by blood or marriage. It means that you have a friendship, or a special connection with someone who is older than you. In America, we might use the term mentor.

This is the type of relationship Samuel (AKA Kariuki) is working to develop young men in his home town, Ongata Rongai.

Ongata Rongai is a small town on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, in east Africa. Rongai is growing fast, with opportunities for work and education, but many people in the lower class of society are still struggling to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, clean water, and education. The people most affected by this poverty are often children.

Like many children in Rongai, Samuel became an orphan at age 10. He was one of six children who never knew their father, and whose mother passed away from illness. Samuel’s sister took on the responsibility of raising her siblings, and together they worked to pay for rent, clothing, food and water.

As a child who needed to work to support his family while attending school, Sam’s grades began to drop. His sister learned about a local church who was offering tutoring and encouraged him to attend.

There, Sam met Geoff and Linda Simpson. Geoff and Linda have developed a ministry called Nuru Yake, which means “His Light.”  Nuru Yake offers academic tutoring, Bible studies, and high school sponsorships for children and teens in Rongai.

Geoff and Linda believe in giving generously to people in need, but one of the unique aspects of their organization is that they provide an opportunity for those who are receiving help to pay it forward and pour into the lives of the next generation.

Sam got connected with a sponsor who paid for his school fees so he could attend high school. In Rongai, it costs about $50/mo or $600 a year to attend high school.

As he was receiving this sponsorship, Sam paid it forward. He tutored and mentored other children through Nuru Yake’s School programs and Bible clubs.

Sam excelled working with children, and was soon planning and teaching his own lessons, writing and acting out skits, and forming close bonds with the students as they grew.

After graduating from high school, Sam continued teaching and mentoring students, and eventually began working full time as a missionary for Nuru Yake.

Geoff and Linda’s have noted that local missionaries like Sam are able to connect with the children without the age gaps and cultural differences that often happen with missionaries from the United States.

We spoke with some of the high school students who now look up to Sam as a mentor, and they shared stories about how he has become a friend and has encouraged them to lead a life guided by Christian principles.

When we asked Sam what his plans were for the future were, he expressed that he didn’t know what God had planned for him. Right now he doesn’t think he wants to become “Pastor Sam,” but to the children of Rongai he says, “Just call me Uncle.”

Part of Edge of Cinema’s mission is to shine light on individuals and organizations who are doing good in the world. 

We are currently working on a video that will tell Sam’s story and increase support for this organization.

We support the work of Sam, Geoff and Linda Simpson, and the rest of the Nuru Yake team.