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Levy’s father died when he was 4. But that was only the beginning of the hardships the little boy from Lusaka, Zambia, faced during childhood. He spent years breathing through a tube and underwent 10 surgeries. Yet, without a note of self-pity, Levy, now 18, downplays his difficulties. He says simply, “I remember living a restricted life.”
Levy’s health difficulties began to manifest when he was about 6 as he suffered increasingly from labored breathing. By the time he was 8, when he became enrolled in CI’s sponsorship program, he could only look on longingly as his friends and younger brother participated in the typical playful fun and games that define childhood.
After being diagnosed with a benign tumor in his throat, CI’s doctors coordinated the many surgeries Levy needed at a teaching hospital in Lusaka.
Above and beyond the health and education benefits that helped Levy navigate his tumultuous childhood, two key factors significantly impacted his future success: his participation in CI’s youth programs and the longtime encouragement of his sponsor, Jack Weber.
When he was 12, a tutor in the CI library pried Levy and a few others away from their computers and into a Youth Leadership training seminar. He recalls feeling “so small among all the youth who looked so big.” Levy didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of a vast transformation in his life.
The young man admits today that he was surprised to find himself interested in the classes. “My favorite topics,” he says, “were ‘Qualities of a Good Leader’ and ‘Self-Awareness.’”
Despite his struggles (or perhaps because of them), Levy has become one of those people who is always smiling and lifting the spirits of those around him. He harnessed that charisma as an empowered CI youth leader. At 15, Levy ran for, and won, the office of president for his agency’s Youth Council.
Democratically elected by his peers, Levy was responsible for a number of duties, including managing negotiations among those he represented and reaching consensus on which community-improvement projects to implement.
Jack, Levy’s sponsor since the beginning, has been rooting the young man on for more than 10 years. The Minneapolis resident says he’s delighted by his sponsorship of Levy and the progress the young man has achieved.
“Despite his early health problems, Levy is doing so well,” Jack says. “His involvement with CI is a real success story. He sent me two letters recently telling me he’d applied for college.” The last of those two letters, Jack adds, said, “I made it!”
Getting accepted into college was a huge accomplishment. But it was only the first of two important steps Levy needed to overcome. The second was paying for it — an overwhelming concern for his single-income family.
Fortunately, Levy’s dedication toward earning good grades, plus his hard-earned leadership skills, merited him one of CI’s HOPE scholarships. Today, he is enrolled in business classes at a local college.
“Being with CI,” says Levy, “has been an amazing, successful and rewarding experience. My life simply changed for the better!”