A flicker of hope shone ever so brightly as the words "Richmond you have got a sponsor" filled the room.

At just 8-1/2 years old, Richmond Wandera had already lived through a lot - his father had been brutally murdered just six months earlier, leaving him, the third born, to care for his mother and six siblings, spending hours each day searching for food in the Ngaruru slum in Uganda.

All hope that was once lost was quickly restored by the hands of a 15-year-old student from the United States known as Heather, who sponsored him through Tearfund's sponsorship partner Compassion International.

The strength that was dying within him was "summoned and quickened" in his body and his family's to keep fighting.


"I could see my mum shake off all her days of sorrow just by hearing that news. The other thing was hope because a family finally had been remembered, felt remembered, and felt like they were no longer invisible."

"I think the two words that describe that day was jubilation and hope. There was so much joy and dancing in our home that I struggle to find words to describe; not only kind of dancing on the outside but the kind of dancing that was actually in the soul. My mother was dancing, I was dancing, my family was rejoicing because of hope."

In the years after that day, the words which Heather used in her twice-yearly communication with him - "Richmond I love you" and "Richmond I am praying for you" helped touch the very depth of his heart and soul and shifted the mindset into the positive person he is now.

As a child, he experienced not only physical poverty but what he believes is perhaps the most detrimental of all - "invisible poverty".

"I think in my own life it was like a voice, a voice that basically used words that stripped me of being a child, stripped me of hope as a child, stripped me of the very essence of the beauty of humanity."

With the help of Heather, Mr Wandera excelled at school and was selected to enter a leadership development programme.

Since then, he has earned a bachelor's degree in accounting, a master's degree in theology and is completing his PhD in the Philosophy of Leadership.

He also founded the Pastor's Discipleship Network programme which provides free training and mentorship for pastors in Uganda.

At the local church he began to learn of the "good news of Jesus Christ" and several years into the programme he made the decision to become a Christian - one small decision which did so much to not only change his life, and his family's life but shape the person he is today .

Not only did his pastor become the father he had lost, but he is now pastoring at that same church that he joined as a child of Tearfund.

"Spiritually I don't feel lost, I feel like I am grounded. Emotionally and psychologically it is critical for me to say that the shift has happened from the person that I was and that I am now and physically I am healthy."

"Faith has really done much to shape my hope, motivation in life, my value system and my priorities. Every single day I live my life for that one day when I will meet the Lord and that has put a lot of things in perspective for me."

Mr Wandera, in partnership with the aid and development organisation will be sharing his inspirational story of how he broke free from extreme poverty and became an internationally sought-after speaker as part of the 'I Am Not Forgotten Tour' on Saturday.

"They will get a deeper insight into the mind and the heart of a child that is going through suffering and the opportunities that presents for ordinary people to make a real difference."

Tearfund CEO Ian McInnes said Wandera's story is a remarkable and inspiring one.

"Richmond shares a powerful message of hope in desperate situations that is relevant to our own lives. We're privileged to have him share his remarkable story with us."

Richmond will be supported by local New Zealand singer songwriter, Omega Levine. Former frontman of award-winning outfit Parachute Band, Levine has embarked on a solo journey that blends his childhood influences of Johnny Cash and Motown gospel with his unique storytelling talent.

Wandera will be speaking at C3 Hastings at 7pm on Saturday. Entry is free.

Further tour details can be found at www.tearfund.org.nz