Kristen Marks, COTN’s Uganda liaison, says, “You know those people who you’re just really impressed by, and the more you get to
know them and the more you see them in action, the more impressed you are by them? Monica is one of those people for me, but the
thing about Monica is she’s a 16-year-old girl.”
When she was young, Monica's parents disappeared during the Ugandan civil war and she ended up living with her aunt. Monica lived
with 13 other children in her aunt’s small hut. At night, everyone crammed into the hut to sleep. “There would be nothing like space
for you to stretch your hands or raise your legs,” says Monica.
“Before, I used not to be bold. I was very shy; I couldn’t even say anything,” says Monica.
Monica’s aunt couldn’t care for all the children. She spent the entire day in the market trying to sell enough to make money for food. Most
of the time, the family had to forage in the bush for something to eat.
But little Monica, who was struggling just to survive, had big dreams. She had a deep passion for learning. Although Monica’s aunt couldn’t
afford to pay for school, Monica would sneak into class every day. If the teachers caught her, they’d throw her out, and Monica would
sit outside in the dirt, playing, waiting for the day she’d finally be allowed to pursue her dream.
When COTN opened its first Children’s Home in 2007, Monica was one of the first children to be enrolled in the program and move into the
Home. Now Monica could go to school.
A photo from COTN–Uganda's early days. Monica was one of the first children to join COTN–Uganda.
But when she found out that COTN was going to enter her into the first year of primary school, she begged them to let her into the second-year
class instead. She was thrilled when they said yes.
When Monica tells this story, she laughs and says she “tricked” COTN into letting her move up a grade. She started at the bottom of her class.
But by the end of the year, Monica had more than proved herself—she scored second out of 140 kids. Since then, Monica has always been
first or second in her class’s rankings.
“What makes me bold is. . .the education I'm going through,” explains Monica.
Now in high school, Monica could become one of the first COTN–Uganda students to go to university. She hopes to become a doctor, but she also
has a love for children’s ministry. It’s certain that whatever she does will make a huge difference in her community. This is incredible when you
think of where she started.
She remembers how two or three students in the school she attended before COTN would have to share a single pen. “But now I'm using pens for
writing, so when this one is used up I can get another one.” Monica explains, “It’s because of the sponsorship in COTN.”
Education isn’t the only positive change in Monica’s life. She says, “In COTN there is counseling and guidance. When I was at home, my aunt
would only say, ‘Do this and this.’” She didn’t have the time or resources to mentor her niece. Gentling her voice, Monica imitates the guidance from
the COTN staff: “‘My daughter, do this and this for you to have a brighter future.’”
Monica is beginning to pass that guidance on to younger children. She serves in Sunday school, assuring the younger children that God loves them
and has a plan for them. “She has a huge heart for the kids,” Kristen says. “I think even [in] the way that she lives and what she does and the
fact that the other kids can look to her as a leader—she’s setting the example for the kids that are coming up behind her.”
Monica wasn’t always sure about God. She says, “Before I would say, ‘Serving God for what?’ and ‘Who is this man who they serve?’ But now I have
reasons to serve Him; that is why I am here in this sponsorship.”
Kristen says of Monica, “She has so much potential, and I'm very excited to see where she ends up.”
Kristen says, “When I look at Monica, I think, ‘This girl is going to change Uganda. This girl is the future of this country.’ And it gives me
a lot of hope that there are kids like Monica out there and that COTN is helping to raise these kinds of kids to make their change in their communities
and their countries.”
Monica’s story wouldn’t be possible without you. Because of sponsors like you, Monica is able to pursue her dream and get an education. Because of
your support, children like Monica will have the chance to pursue their dreams and change their nations—and their world.