Visiting a sponsored child can be a humbling experience for the sponsor. We come armed with gifts of a practical nature, but the sincerity and joy with which these gifts are both given, and received far outweigh the value of the gifts themselves. This sums up our feelings after meeting Hanna in the overcrowded city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It’s a city where over half the inhabitants endure unsanitary conditions, many living with no amenities- a corrugated iron and plastic shack may be home for many. Poverty is in your face. Having suffered decades of warfare and famines, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Peace has brought a new opportunity for everyone. To us, it seemed reflected in every face, was a joy that stability now means a chance to build a new life for themselves and their families,...however fleeting it may turn out to be.
We were picked up from our Ras Hotel in downtown Addis Ababa by Saba from the Childfund backed project and driven several kilometres to the their compound. This comprised of several modest buildings of offices and school rooms, set around a central roughly paved courtyard.
|Grandmother and Father|
At the compound, the NGO also operates a school for the kids of families too poor to afford the few Bir (Ethiopian money) it costs for their government schools. These children receive some basic education and one meal each day. Our sponsorship is helping not just one child and her family, but also the wider community.
Hanna seemed a healthy, happy child and if we were to compare her to many other Ethiopian children whom we saw in our travels around the country, we could not help but think- if it was not for our sponsorship, she too would look as undernourished, barefoot and ragged. It made us realise that we really were making a difference.
Our travels took us north of Addis Ababa, where we were surprised by the beauty of the clean, green countryside. It was the rainy season and our days were interspersed with thunderstorms which lasted a short time, an hour or so. This much needed rain provided the water for the crops such as tef, barley, corn, wheat and broadbeans, which we saw growing in many areas. The craggy topped, and usually heavilly terraced and cultivated mountains provided the backdrop for these rural scenes. There was very little plastic rubbish lying around, and our guide Ashenafi said people earned a small income from cleaning up the rubbish. Shepherd boys, some as young as 7 years old cracking whips which made a sound like a rifle shot, could be seen taking their family herd of animals such as goats, cattle and donkeys out to graze on the roadside. School is compulsory but most schooldays are half days, partly because they don't have enough teachers and also because the children are needed to help with their family's animals.
Life is hard for most Ethiopians. 80% depend upon agriculture for their survival. And children often miss out on schooling because they are essential to the family's survival. The youngest have to shepherd the few sheep or goats foraging the uncultivated areas of land, often just that thin strip of grass between road and field. Older boys would tend cattle or donkeys further out in the hills. The half day schooling allows for these kids to get an education after their animals have been seen to.
Children in the cities would also have a responsibility to help the family survive. Collecting any recyclable plastic, metal or glass for a few Bir. Shoeshine boys are thick on the sidewalks. Trayboys hawk cigarettes, tissues, chewing gum etc. just to earn a little. This is the life of many kids growing up in Addis Ababa or any other of the larger cities.
Our sponsorship of Hanna through Childfund, means not only 1 child has a chance at getting an education, and attending higher schooling to create a future for her, but also assists many others. The NGO backed by Childfund, administers 1600 child sponsorships in Ethiopia, making it possible for other community programs to be implemented. So your donations targeted in this way, have an effect beyond just that 1 child. Maybe she becomes a teacher herself? Whatever occupation she does follow, education has created those options. Hopefully the education Hanna receives may give her whole family a better chance for their future.
Ethiopia has a fast growing economy, and a tourism industry that is taking off, and unlike other African oil producing countries, much of that economic growth is reaching the ordinary people. Government policies have improved crop prices to farmers, and we could see that happening. Everywhere we travelled, farmers are building new homes and communities are investing in farming technology. Markets everywhere were full of produce, healthy livestock for sale. With that little bit of assistance our dollars provide, a young girl, her family, and community are better placed to be part of that growth.
I'm adding a coment from Kiri at Childfund with relevant info here-
Kiri Carter - ChildFund said...
Thank you, Jim, for posting your experience of meeting Hanna. What a fantastic visit! Every year about 40-50 sponsors from NZ visit their sponsored children and I talk to quite a few of them on the phone. It's always a life-changing experience.
What does sponsorship entail? Through ChildFund New Zealand, it costs NZ$44/month. You can exchange letters with your sponsored child which is a really great thing to do and you get a report on how your child is doing. How long the sponsorship lasts depends on the age of the child when you start. Usually sponsorship will stop when the child comes of age (typically 18 years), gets married, moves away from the project or starts a full time job. In some special cases sponsors have been known to fund a sponsored child's university education. If you have any more questions check out our FAQ section (http://www.childfund.org.nz/faq/index.html) or call us on 0800 223 111.
The kudos for sponsoring children should go to my wife Kay. She's the main reason why we have been long term sponsors.
If you would like to read of our visit to another of our Childfund sponsored children,
read here. The Village Pump