Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A story of poverty

The following post is written from the perspective of a sponsored child through Compassion with inspiration coming from my kids and formerly sponsored kids that I have heard speak through the years.
Dear Sponsor,

I love you. Thank you for giving me this gift and for praying for me. I will not let you down! My teacher suggested that I tell you about what my life was like prior to the best day ever, the day I found out that I have a sponsor.

I was born in a village outside of a large city. I have an older sister and brother. Life in the village was not good. We never had enough to eat and my parents struggled to find jobs and earn money. My father decided that we should move into the larger city because there would be more work there. He received a loan so we could buy a small house then we were in debt. My parents were worried that they would not make enough to pay for the house and the things our growing family needed like food, water, clothes, and education.

In the city, the only home we could afford (even with the loan) was in a large slum. Drug lords ruled the streets and demanded payment for protection. Our home is very small and barely holds all of us. There is one mattress an old stove, and a small table. I am young enough that I could sleep on the mattress with my parents but my brother and sister have to sleep on the dirt floor. I don't like the slums. There are plenty of kids but my parents say it's too unsafe to play outside with them. It's always loud and sometimes I can't sleep because of the noise and because I am scared of what's going on outside. We can't lock our door and I hear gunshots and screaming almost every night. I fear what would happen if they came to our door.

By the time I start school my mother is pregnant again. My family is excited for this blessing from God but I know my parents fear how they will be able to take care of another child. When the baby is born I stay home from school to help my mother take care of him because my older sister is very smart and is doing well in school and my parents don't want to take her out because they think she will go far in life. I guess I won't.

The new baby quickly becomes sick. My mother isn't getting proper nutrition and can no longer breast feed so we don't have much to give the baby. He is thin and cries a lot which makes me cry but there isn't anything to do. My baby brother dies before his first birthday.

My mother was so upset that she couldn't leave her bed for months. She blamed her self and was angry with God. My father tried to make her feel better but nothing worked. He quickly became frustrated that he was the only one working and providing for the family. A little less than a year after my brother died he left and never came back. My older brother dropped out of school to provide for the family and told me that I had to go to school so I did.

I really enjoy school. I love learning and making friends even though it's hard to learn when I can't afford the supplies. I always try my best though. I love to read and I think it would be fun to be a teacher myself but I don't know if it will ever happen. My sister told me that to be a teacher you have to go to college and we can't afford to go to college. She told me that we'll probably all be market sellers like our parents and didn't understand why we should bother with school.

I made a friend in school. She lives in the same slum as me and is very nice. She likes to read too and we talked about being teachers together at the same school even though it will probably never happen. Her family is just as poor as mine.

At home the situation became worse. My mother stayed in bed, my brother continued to provide and my sister seemed to slowly stop caring. She stopped working as hard in school because our parents weren't there to encourage her anymore. She didn't see the point of continuing with school even though she was only a couple of years away from graduating because she didn't see a future for us. I began to believe it myself.

My friend stopped coming to school every day and eventually stopped coming at all. I saw her in her home in the slums and figured her parents were making her work. She always looked so sad and I felt bad that I was able to go to school and she wasn't. One afternoon when I came home from school I saw two men enter her house and give her parent some money before going into their bedroom. I didn't see my friend in the house but before I got far enough away I could hear loud crying and screaming.

I became used to life as it was, a dangerous, sad, lonely place. I stopped trying to make friends, stopped caring about school, and became angry with everything that went wrong in my life. I didn't get to eat that day? It's God's fault for giving me such a terrible family. I failed a test? It's God's fault for giving me such a terrible teacher. I became sick off of the water I drank? It's God's fault for not providing for me.

One evening when I came home my brother told me that we needed to go to church that night and I didn't want to. God and I weren't on good terms. He wasn't looking out for me the way that I had been promised. I had no father, a mother that could barely get out of bed most days, a tiny, smelly house in a disgusting, loud slum, no materials for school, no food, no clean water, three outfits, and nothing to keep myself clean. The last place I wanted to be was church. My brother told me I had to come because he heard about an organization called Compassion International that could help us. I was intrigued so I went along. If all else failed I was prepared to give God a piece of my mind.

We were led into the sanctuary and a representative of Compassion explained to us what the program was about. We would be paired with a financial sponsor from another country who will write us letters and give us gifts. After we're enrolled we will be able to participate at the project and receive food, access to clean water, help with school, learn about healthy living, make friends, participate in other recreational activities, and learn about Jesus Christ. It sounded pretty sweet and my mother signed me up that day.

I was scared to go to the project for the first time because I didn't know what to expect but it was so cool! Everyone was so nice and welcomed me right in. They helped me with my schoolwork, gave me a great lunch (the best meal I'd had in a long time!) and I got to play games with very nice kids. A lot of the kids had sponsors already and they told me about the letters they got and how much they loved their sponsor. On letter days I would look at the pictures and gifts my friends got and was sad that I didn't have a sponsor yet. I began to learn about Jesus and was encouraged to pray about why I was upset with Him, which helped me I think.

I remember the day I found out I had a sponsor like it was yesterday. After lunch I was called into the project supervisors office. At first I thought I was in trouble but then I noticed that she had a smile on her face. "I have great news!" She said. "A family in the United States wants to sponsor you!"My face formed a huge smile and I couldn't believe it was true! A sponsor! A real sponsor! A family! I ran from the office and told all of my friends.

Every time I get a letter I read it over and over until I have it memorized, then I put it in a box in the bedroom of my house. I have never felt so loved in my entire life. When I feel sad I take out the letters and read them all again to remind myself that you love me and you're praying for me and that I can do anything. You make me want to work hard in school because I don't want to let you down. You make me want to be nice to others because I want to set a good example. You make me want to be kind to my family because I want a family like yours. You make me want to love God as much as you do because He seems like a pretty cool guy.

My life is so different now. I have food to eat, I have supplies for school, and I for the first time in my life I get gifts on my birthday and at Christmas! My mother has received counseling for depression and is doing much better. My sister has been inspired to keep working hard too. She is very smart and she is saving her money to be able to go to college. With the help of Compassion my brother has been able to go back to school too. Our whole family is happier and healthier. I know that I have a future now and I have hope of a better tomorrow. I have dreams now. I want to go to college and become a teacher and help kids like me learn. I would love to sponsor my own child someday too to return the favor.

Thank you sponsor for changing my life!
Even though this is not a true story, this is the reality of millions of children living in poverty all over the world. It doesn't have to be this way. You can be the person that changes a child's life. It start's here. It starts now. It starts with you. Change the story.

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