Over 20 years ago I found an organization I felt I could trust and sponsored a child. This child was in Haiti and was a little girl I sponsored through Compassion International. As she grew up and left the program I asked for another child but wanted to switch to a boy that was a bit older. I thought older kids might have a harder time winning the hearts of new sponsors since the younger ones are so doggone cute. A young teenager named Kaboko Samson from Uganda was sent to me. I enjoyed sponsoring the Haitian girl as I knew what a difference my money made in her life but I never really connected with her personally. Kaboko and I were a different story! He and I wrote long letters to each other. He was quite a blessing to me. He read my letters ingesting every word and even shared them with his village elders. I shared my heart and what wisdom I could. I grew to love him dearly and that connection was what led me to Uganda in the first place. I had no idea when I asked for that child to sponsor how it would change my life. I had hoped to change his, of course, but it was actually my life and now the lives of many others that has been, and is being, changed. I am incredibly thankful to Compassion for connecting me to my destiny.
This last week I spent some hours reading reports from the Social Worker, Ritah, in the Help School. She had identified some children that desperately need sponsorship. As she sent pictures and her handwritten short biographies of why they had been chosen my job was to rewrite the stories to help them be easy to read on the web site as interested people considered sponsorship. I spent several years being an Advocate for children in the Compassion International program. I would get packets of pictures and stories of children all over the world, go to an event, set up a table and talk to everyone about why they should take a child to be their sponsored child. I would try to get them to realize how little it was at about a dollar a day to them, maybe a soda a day or a lunch once a week, but that dollar a day was life giving to the children. And how helping the sponsored children helped their parents and siblings as what little resources that family had wouldn’t have to stretch so far. It was always hard to put away the packets that were not chosen as I knew these kids were waiting and in dire circumstances. But I was hopeful someone else advocating would be able to find them a sponsor next time.
The kids Ritah sent me are more personal to me as there is not a big organization with lots of Advocates working on their behalf and I have actually met many of them, seen their homes and know their village. There are only a very few of us and a school of over 500 kids needing help. Our sponsorship program just started about a year ago. We had our hands full trying to equip the school we had started. It needed a feeding program, classrooms, teachers, furniture, uniforms, latrines, administration staff, school supplies, etc. How could we also help each family? After finding some of these darling children sick with malaria, full of jiggers (bugs that burrow into your feet and eat away your flesh), sleeping in filth and cared for by elderly grandmothers that didn’t even have the resources to cook food we gave them, or not cared for at all (some didn’t eat from Friday noon to Monday noon when we fed them at school) we had to do something! So we started. The big hearted woman that pours herself into this program has done a wonderful job as around 70 kids now have sponsors of their own. They now have a bed and bed sheets to sleep on, a mosquito net to protect from malaria, their school lunch fees paid, a uniform and extra clothes, access to medical care and weekend food. They are being educated at the Help School so they have a future to break this cycle of poverty. They have a social worker paid to watch over them and teachers who watch and care for them. Exciting for us to see but I still have that sinking feeling as I still have to “put packets away”.
As I typed Ritah’s stories tears welled up. Their stories are tough. One little boy’s father had died so his mother took him to a hair salon and abandoned him. Now one of our teaches has taken him in but needs help to care for him. Margrate never knew her father as he disappeared when her mother got pregnant. The mother was in the 6th grade when she conceived. Now she tries to take care of her daughter by selling tomatoes along with dozens of others trying to sell the same thing. Majidu’s mother is mentally disturbed and the father is unknown since the mother was raped by anyone due to her mental condition. The grandmother cares for Majidu but has many grandchildren she must provide for. She has trouble feeding them all and paying school fees. Majidu is 6 years old. 11 year old Bant’s mother died in 2011without showing him who his father is. A sister cared for him until she was married. At that time he was left with a neighbor. That neighbor has chased him away now so he is staying with a PTA member who requests assistance. I know Joan pretty well. She is the one in 6th grade that makes everyone laugh. She is a leader of her peers and loved by many. She has lived with her grandmother since early childhood. Her parents divorced and when the mother remarried she left Joan with the grandmother. The father disappeared in 2010. The grandmother has no job so she struggles with paying for food and school fees. 14 year old Gloria’s mother died last year around Christmas. Recently her father sent 3 of her siblings to their home village for relatives to care for. He kept Gloria so she could help care for her one year old sister. When he has work he has to leave for a time so Gloria misses school to take care of the baby. If the father doesn’t go for work there is no food or rent.
And the stories go on…. And my heart breaks……But I have hope there is a sponsor somewhere for each of these dear children who will love them like I loved Kaboko and whose lives will be touched more than they can imagine. Maybe they too will find their destiny as I have mine.