Little did Dave Meney know that after sponsoring a three-year-old boy from Kenya, he would eventually go on to employ that same boy with the big smile at his Australian engineering firm, 26 years later.

Twenty-nine-year-old Francis Mwanu has been working with Dave since late 2017, as a virtual assistant, managing documents, contacts and projects at West Australian-based company Yenem Engineering Services.

While Francis is based in Nairobi in Kenya, and Dave in Perth, the pair are in touch every day, talking business over emails and Skype.

“It’s my wife Ann who stays in touch with Francis about the other stuff; she knows more about what’s going on with his life outside work and how his mum is,” Dave says.

Start of a life-long friendship

The Meneys have known Francis since 1993, when they began sponsoring him through ChildFund Australia. Dave, at the time, had just received a pay rise after starting a new job and wanted to donate some of the extra money he was earning to charity.

Francis Mwanu says his former sponsor’s compassion and dedicated support has inspired him to give back to the community in which he grew up.

A few times throughout the year, Francis, who lives and works in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, returns to his home region of Nakuru, about 160 kilometres northwest of Nairobi, bringing clothes and food to children in need.

“Visiting the children – even it’s just for a day – makes them feel good,” Francis says.

“Sometimes we help the communities there raise money to fix things like their water tank.”

When he was three years old Francis was sponsored by Australian Dave Meney through ChildFund’s sponsorship program in Nakuru.

Today, Francis, now 29, works remotely as a virtual assistant with Dave’s West Australian engineering services company, Yenem.

Francis’ job importing goods had come to a sudden halt in 2017 when Dave jumped in and offered him job.

“Seeing and knowing all that Dave and his family have done for me, it has inspired me to visit children’s homes in Nakuru,” Francis says.