Monday, September 28, 2009

Pen Pals


Evelyn emailed me on Friday, to let me know she received the letters I sent to Celestine and Lawrence. Evelyn told me they were very happy to receive their letters, and that she took photos of each of them holding her/his letter. She will attach the photos to the return letters that each of them writes me.

On Friday, a lifelong dream of mine came true. When I was a child myself, I watched the Christian Children's Fund ("CCF") ads, and I was touched by the images of children with poverty-ravaged lives. I envisioned having a pen pal relationship with a child whom I would support, and it was the human connection of that epistolary relationship that inspired me the most.

In retrospect, the CCF ads feel creepy and exploitative, but in my childhood viewing, all I knew was that I wanted to help a child in desperate circumstances. That dream did not leave me over time, but I never knew how to realize it, not having a relationship with any of the agencies claiming they would use my money to directly benefit my sponsor children.

Celestine and Lawrence weren't yet born when I watched those ads, but God had them in mind for me. I am fortunate to have met and worked with them, to personally know these shining lights who brought me joy this summer. I am blessed to support their educations and build a mentoring relationship with each of them, if both or either of them chooses to engage on that level. I can't wait to know them better over time, and I will do all I can to encourage and inspire them to realize their dreams.

For now, I await my return letters, excited to read from their souls.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Defying the Odds


I saw their "homes" - well, not theirs in particular, but those of a few classmates at Ray of Hope, their unaccredited school. All the dwellings I saw in Kawangware look the same to me - corrugated tin, dark inside, highly unstable, and not at all insulated.

Without electricity, food, or water at home, I wonder how the children I met this summer subsist. Thankfully, Ray of Hope feeds them lunch every day, but nights and weekends must stretch on endlessly and painfully. Survival aside, I cannot fathom how the children sing and dance and smile with so much spirit. In many ways, they are the lucky ones, their joy so full, and their gratitude so effortless, despite their dismal circumstances.

I have signed up to sponsor two of these angels: a seven-year-old girl, Celestine, and an eight-year-old boy, Lawrence. It will be, by far, the most meaningful commitment I have ever undertaken.

The agreement is that I will financially support both of them through eighth grade, but I'm not stopping there. I have wanted to sponsor African children since I was a child myself, and being privileged to personally know the ones I will support, I won't feel fulfilled just writing a check for the next six or so years. I will visit them every year, actively exchange letters in the interim, and financially support them through high school at least.

Two weeks ago, one of the two Ray of Hope teachers, Evelyn, emailed to tell me that Celestine and Lawrence both aced their national exams! Thanks to their brilliant work, the tireless efforts of their teachers Evelyn and Alfred, and my financial assistance, they will both attend an accredited school next year.

I am very excited for these little ones, and I can't wait to write them and tell them so.