When I look back upon my life there are a few standout days from the more than 14000 days that I’ve been on this planet. There’s the typical Christmas days, birthdays, wedding day, baby-being-born days and then there’s a couple of not-so-typical days.
One of these not-so-typical days has been running through my mind recently as I watched (courtesy of social media) an Aussie blogger, Eden, journey to Niger couresy of World Vision to see the West African Food Crisis first hand. You can read about her experiences here.
My not-so-typical day didn’t happen in Niger, but in Kenya where we had been sponsoring a child for 5 years. We were in Kenya on our second African trip and spent most of our time on safari, but of all the things we saw and heard (like a lion roaring in the night REALLY CLOSE to our very flimsy tent) it’s the day we spent in Mitubiri visiting John, his family and his entire village that is forefront in my memory.
Sadly, I didn’t bring the photos with us when we moved, and this was in the days of FILM cameras so I don’t have any photos to add but here are some of the images that pop into my head from this time:
- standing inside John’s dark classroom where about 50 students were crammed in. It was the year 2000, the Sydney Olympics were on and all the kids knew Cathy Freeman and kangaroos;
- arriving at John’s village where the womenfolk surrounded our car and sung, clapped and danced as we emerged from the car. I felt a little like Princess Diana, except I was wearing shorts, t-shirt and sneakers.
- walking down the road to look at the coffee plantation, where all the villagers worked, holding hands with John’s little sister and his niece. His other sister wouldn’t hold my hand, fearful that my whiteness would rub off on her.
- a social worker asking how much our plane ticket to Kenya cost. It was more than her yearly salary.
- John’s elder sister grabbing my hand, rubbing it and saying “You are very welcome”.
- Sitting on a row of couches, under an awning made of sewn together rice bags decorated with bouganvillea, with John’s family either side of us. The rest of the vilage sat facing us and it was a little like the King and Queen were holding court.
- Pride. They were so happy to have us there, us white strangers from a far away country that meant nothing to them. Many had never seen a white person before. One lady dragged my husband to her house to show him her vegetable garden, which consisted of a lone corn plant and a couple of other things. She was bursting with pride, she had food she had grown herself and the represented significant wealth in this community. We were told that after our visit the standing of John’s family amongst the community would be high, they would be considered ‘upper class’ for wont of a better word.
So they are my memories of that day that shines in my memory, but there’s more to the story and here are some snippets to help you grasp what life is like for this village:
The WHOLE VILLAGE took the day off the see us. They did not get paid that day which is a massive scarifice and one that overwhems me to know that they were willing ti suffer financial burden for two white people they didn’t know. Back then (I don’t know what the going rate is now) they earnt $1 a day. The village was all women, except for one man. They were allowed to live on the plantation rent free, where they all shared the one water tap. A year or so after we visited the plantation changed ownership and they were all forced to leave and find somewhere else to live. This menat that John’s family, who were already struggling to make ends meet had to find the funds to rent a dwelling.
A month after we left John’s sister, who welcomed me so warmly, died of AIDS. Her hospitalisation and burial cost the family a couple of hundred dollars, a debt that they had to repay to the plantation’s owner. Interestingly, while chatting with one of the social workers I asked about birth control and in particular condoms. I was told they advocated abstinence. Hmmm…
So, here’s the thing:
To anyone who is sceptical about the benefits of child sponsorship, it really, truly does help. There was a stark difference in the health and conditions of families who were sponsored and those who weren’t. It was a visible difference. It’s not just the sponsored child who benefits it’s their whole family. They receive basic health care and schooling, the non-sponsored don’t get these advantages. John finished school and went on to do a tailoring apprenticeship before he left the programme and I was assigned a new child to sponsor.
What I know for absolute certain is that without sponsorship he would not have had these opportunities. I don’t know where he is now but I do know that his life is very different to what it would have been had he not been sponsored.
I sponsor through Childfund but there are other charities out there who do the same, should you feel like sponsoring.