Friday, January 14, 2011

Meeting Hanna. Child Sponsorship- Why you should!

My wife and I have written this about visiting with our sponsored child in Addis Ababa Last August 2010.


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.

Here we met our lovely Hanna, who is no longer a child, but a very attractive 16 year old.  We have sponsored her for 6 years now. She presented Kay with a bouquet of fresh tulips. Overjoyed to finally meet her, we spontaneously hugged Hanna to establish ourselves as friends and  banish the initial shyness. We were careful to discuss with Saba beforehand what sort of greeting and physical contact was culturally appropriate. We were able to chat via our interpreter Saba although Hanna knew some English words. An office was made available for us to continue our meeting, and it was there that we gave Hanna the letters and cards children from Kay's childcare centre in  N.Z. had made for her. Her excitement and pleasure at opening these was apparent. Instinctively we felt she had no great expectations about receiving lots of gifts, so her pleasure continued as we gave her lots of clothes and a stuffed kiwi. We wanted Hanna to have something special from N.Z. and the kiwi seemed a good choice as it is our icon and very special to us. Other gifts included toiletries and stationery. We also had gifts for her family which comprised of Mum, Dad and Grandma.  Hanna's Mum could not jeopardise her job just to meet us; jobs are not easy to get in Addis Ababa, but we were delighted to be able to meet Hanna’s Dad and Grandma.

Grandmother and Father
Hanna's Grandmother could speak no English, but she communicated by her emotions just as much as one could ever say. Here is a woman who had grown up through the rebellion, warfare with its atrocities and destruction, and the starvation of the 80's, probably having experienced the loss of some family members or friends. To look upon her face was to feel the joy she radiated. The odd tear we saw was not wiped away, she probably was enjoying these tears of joy as much as she could. Deep lines upon her face hinted to me she'd shed too many for other reasons.

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.

Although our days were long, sometimes up to 13 hours, as we travelled between historic places, we were never bored. I called the road we travelled "The Highway of Life" and that's exactly what it was- a highway where everyone from villages and towns travelled on foot [usually barefoot] with their families and animals, often going to a market which could be as far as 20kms away. For us it was a unique opportunity to observe how these people lived their daily lives, every family activity is carried out along those highways. Water carrying, firewood gathering, crops being tended, goods being moved on donkey or camel backs ...the roads were vibrant with life, and we had to drive through it all! When we stopped by the roadside for a break we often chatted to these people as everyone wanted to practise their English. We would be surrounded by children, who seemed to spring out from the bare earth, although the reality was that a single child herder spotting us would call out. Any other child who heard that call of  "Money, Money, Moneeeeeee" would pick it up and echo it further afield. You could see a completely bare vista of hills, plains or valleys suddenly come alive with kids running towards us from all directions. I guess the stopping of one lone tourist bus was a welcome break to the tedium of watching their 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.

Footnotes-
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

Share/Bookmark

34 comments:

Debra said...

Jim, you're a saint. No doubt about it. Love and prayers go out to Hanna and a future that you have helped make possible.

Debbie said...

I can't imagine how it felt to finally meet Hanna.. I am curious at what age was Hanna when you and your wife started sponsoring her?

Very touching story, thank you for sharing.

Jim said...

Hi Debbie, just been reading your site.
Hanna was around 10 when we started with her. Got two others also, and have visited another in India. I 've posted about that here-
http://holesinmysoles.blogspot.com/2010/03/so-here-is-little-story-of-one-of-those.html

Jim said...

Oh the link doesn't show up so I'll add a footnote to the story.

Alejandro said...

A saint indeed!

Cheers

SJ said...

If must be such a wonderful feeling to be able to see the benefits of the efforts that Kay and yourself have put in and especially for Hannah and her family to be able to show their gratitude. I wonder how many people who sponsor a child actually get the chance to meet with them?

Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita said...

Hi Jim, that is wonderful! I can just imagine the joy to finally be able to meet each other! What wonderful work you do. God bless!

The NVR Guys said...

I love this post Jim. I think child sponsorship is such an easy and gratifying way to effect positive change. It is even more gratifying and eye-opening when you can visit the child / family that you sponsor.

As you know, we sponsor a child in Zambia and made it a priority to visit here a few years back. It was a pivotal moment in our life and completely changed our trajectory. We have Ailess (or sponsored child) and her family largely to thank for the NVR life we currently lead. She inspires us on a daily basis.

KD said...

What an amazing story! So great that you were able to actually see the difference you're making. Truly amazing work!

Jim said...

NVR Guys,& others, I agree with it being a very effective way of making your donations get to where they can be most effective. From both our visits, we are confident it is a great way to help. It's not one child benefitting, the combined effect of many people taking up child sponsorship allows the NGOs on the ground to implement programs that benefit the wider village community, as we saw with the school for streetkids there. If you multiply that effect out by the 1600 children sponsored by that NGO, you can appreciate the effects.
BTW I agree also that travel and being involved with grassroots aid agencies does change one's perspective as you say.

Jason said...

Great story...it's awesome that you finally got a chance to meet her.
Jason

Jeremy B said...

Jim, great story! I sponsor a child as well and am thinking about going to Colombia next year to visit him. Thanks for sharing this! I would encourage more people to sponsor a child and help out kids around the world!

Jennifer said...

What a wonderful thing to read -- made my day. I'm so glad you did this, Jim.

Tour guide said...

John, this is your Brazilian friend, blogger, Educator and tour guide, actually it is really a beautiful job, non-profitable things like that can improve their lives, actually Ethiopia is a poorest country as you described previously. Unfortunately, the government are corrupt, and miserable situation involve that people. I do some voluntaries jobs here, one of them, I provide a free-training conversation for young and children teaching for free and I maintain that blog, Tour guide (English tips). In conclusion I love to be here, sharing your blog for friends worldwide, feel free for add me on StumbleUpon, just search for Carlosrn36 is my profile there. All the best and God bless you and your family, as well as your readers.

Jim said...

Hi Jeremy. We're pretty much alike Jeremy and feel the same way about travel, and what we can do to make a difference. I got a few years upon you though :-)
Do arrange that visit. The 2 we have visited have been the best travel moments in our lives.You do get a different more appreciative view of how they live and issues they face.

Jim said...

Hi Carlos, are you working with kids in the bario there?
I get the impression we have met online before.
Tell us more about what you do. Send me an article for a guest post even thanks.

Caz Makepeace said...

What a rewarding experience! You are such a special man Jim and your wife an amazing lady. It is so inspiring to hear of the good you do in this world. Hanna must have experienced such joy finally meeting you.
Thank you for all you do to make this world a better place.

Emptyhead52 said...

What a beautiful post Jim!

inka said...

Sponsoring a child is so much,much better than just giving to a charity. To see that your money actually makes one person happy and gives her a chnace of a better life is overwhelming.

Jim said...

I don't think I'm special at all Caz, just that we have spent a lifetime travelling when we could and we're beyond the 'looking' stage. It's apparent to me that the travel blogging community will also move in that direction. There are screeds of young travellers out there blogging about travel, and my great hope is that as they mature, and absorb more experiences they will begin to blog more about the issues they seein the countries and cultures they visit. Much like yourself where not only is it a site for travel advice from first hand experience, but you do post about issues.

Cathy Sweeney said...

Beautiful post, Jim. I'm so impressed with your generosity and sponsorship of Hanna and other children.I think a lot of people, including myself, aren't sure what's involved in sponsorship -- level of commitment, money, how to get started and through what organizations. Glad you linked to Childfund. I'll check it out.

Jim said...

Good point Cathy. I'll edit into the footnote some basic facts. But do check out ChildFund, there are other organisations also.Thanks.

Lorna - the roamantics said...

jim, you're amazing! how incredible that you've had the experience of meeting hannah after sponsoring her for so long, and that you can clearly see that your sponsorship is benefiting her. great to see that tourism dollars are getting to locals as well. it's definitely on my list and even more so now :)

Jim said...

Hi Lorna, Ethiopia is in our opinion a real rival to Egypt and Jordan for historic sites,and depth of history. It will not be long before it becomes a top destination to travel to. They're working hard to buld the neccessary infrastructure. But at the moment, best to look at a small group tour to get around. Put it up top of your list. Incredible place.

robin said...

Inspiring. K and I are looking at this serioiusly now.

zablon said...

its really awesome what you are doing sponsoring Hanna

Camellia Azzahra said...

I’m happy I found this weblog, I couldn't discover any information on this topic matter prior to. I also run a site and if you want to ever serious in a little bit of guest writing for me if feasible really feel free to let me know, i’m always look for people to examine out my site. Please stop by and leave a comment sometime!

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.

Ayngelina said...

What an amazing experience, you are really making a difference.

Nel said...

The blog is very good!
Congratulations!
http://nelsonsouzza.blogspot.com

Norbert said...

Love this post, Jim! I'm sure meeting Hanna must have been a wonderful experience not only for you and Kay, but for Hanna also. You are making a difference here and you are giving hope and opportunities to Hanna, her family, and the community in general. Really Inspiring!

Jim said...

Thanks Norbert, hopefully this post may inspire others to do the same.

Aznzar said...

Because of this humane behavior,hope is still living in those good peoples' hearts. God is always the only judge of poor and rich.

JIM said...

Isn't great to do something great for someone..it is always returned to you in some way. Nice article thanks..I just started following you