San Miguel native Brandon Stiver’s love of children and his religious faith are leading him to cast aside his life in California for a small town on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in eastern Tanzania.
There, he will work as an education director at the Treasures of Africa Children’s Home in Moshi — an orphanage where he served as an intern while attending Vanguard University.
Stiver, 23, speaks passionately of his faith, saying that it underlies all that he does and is what led him to Tanzania. In fact, he will tell you that it was God’s calling that beckoned him there for the first of several mission trips a year ago.
And, come January, it is there that he will indefinitely call home.
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In his new role as education director, he will start a supplemental education program for the 26 children at the orphanage to teach them computer skills and English — something Stiver said he hopes will give the kids a “step up from their peers at the government schools.” He will also help incorporate programs for children with special needs.
But it is his plan to adopt a young boy named Awadhi that he says solidified his decision to move to Africa.
Stiver began financially sponsoring the orphaned 5-year-old, who is deaf and HIV-positive, more than a year ago.
“Since then, Awadhi has been the first person that I think of in the morning — the first person I pray for,” Stiver said. “Even before I met him, God was using him in my life.”
When the two first met, Stiver said he knew that he was meant to become Awadhi’s father.
“It was the best moment of my life, to be perfectly honest,” Stiver said.
Stiver, a 2004 graduate of Paso Robles High School, considers himself a minimalist. He rides a bike everywhere he needs to go and hasn’t owned a computer since his was stolen his first year in college.
In January he will pack two or three suitcases with clothes and photos of his family and friends and, if there is room, peanut butter.
Stiver said the most difficult thing about leaving will be not seeing his family on a regular basis, not what he has to leave behind.
“I am excited to be in Moshi, and I’d rather be there than anywhere else, but at the same time, I grew up in California and this is my culture and I love it,” said Stiver.
Stiver must live in Tanzania for two years before he is able to adopt Awadhi.
The immigration process will be “painstakingly long” and Stiver will rely on a volunteer visa for the first several years. After that he hopes that the connections he makes while working there will help him stay longer.
“It isn’t daunting to me because I know that this is what God has called me to do,” Stiver said.