Words of encouragement from a sponsor half a world away helped keep homeless Ugandan woman Lillian Nakabiri alive.
Now she is spreading the word in New Zealand to encourage others to help poverty-stricken children in her homeland.
She will speak in Motueka and Nelson this weekend as part of a national tour for the Christian aid organisation Tear Fund.
Ms Nakabiri's mother died when she was 3 months old and her father was kidnapped and killed shortly after.
Her childhood was filled with poverty, grinding daily chores and shifting from home to home with stepfamily members in a village on the outskirts of Kampala.
Some of her half siblings - her father had six wives - died from diseases that were a constant threat.
Aged 9, her brother took her to register for a project run by Tear fund and its project partner Compassion. She received counselling, went to school and was later sponsored by Australian woman Rosemary Mahomed.
But a few years later, homeless and in despair, she contemplated suicide.
It was her sponsor's words of encouragement in letters that got her through.
"They kind of showed me I still had a family somewhere that cared for me. "They gave me hope."
With the encouragement of the programme, she returned to her studies, completing a communications degree and a Masters in International Relations and Diplomatic Studies.
This is the 31-year-old's third trip to New Zealand, and she has also travelled to Holland to encourage sponsors to get involved. A basic sponsorship package costs $48 a month.
"I want to encourage the sponsors that what they are doing is big. It changes the life of children just by sharing experiences, and providing inspiration."
Lillian Nakabiri will speak at the Church of Christ in Motueka tomorrow at 7pm; and on Sunday at 10am in the Grace Church, Richmond, and 7pm that night at Nelson's Holy Trinity Anglican Church.
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