A major part of this trip has been to travel to very remote villages to meet both children who have been registered to be sponsored, as well as children who are sponsored. After being involved in this for almost 15 years and sponsoring 7 children now, I finally had the opportunity to meet my own sponsored child today! This was something that I couldn’t anticipate, I had no idea whatsoever what to expect, but I can tell you this; when you see and hear about these meetings on tv commercials, let me assure you of one thing – these meetings are absolutely the real deal!
I can’t tell you how many pictures, reports and letters we have put on our fridge over the years. I was always amazed that they would include simple drawings, or short letters actually written by the children when possible and translated by World Vision staff. Even when the child is too young to write or speak, they will sometimes include a traced outline of the young childs foot or hand. It was this kind of thing that I was really thinking about as I was walking up to Getrudi’s home to meet her and her parents.
I will post video later when I get proper access to the internet, but you can’t believe the reception I got when I arrived to meet Getrudi and her parents. I can’t tell you how many people were there, but I’m sure it started at 30 or 40 and grew constantly while the meeting and interview were proceeding. This is something that the entire community was aware of and they are genuinely excited for the child and her family, this process is known among these people and is a huge deal for them. Some might think that there might be a pride thing happening with the parents, I can assure you this is not the case. The father and mother spoke very kind words to me about my stepping up to sponsor Getrudi. These people are “farmers”, and let me tell you; life is hard here, very hard. The father thanked me from the bottom of his heart for caring enough to help someone that was completely unknown to me. I had this realization at some point during my preparation process for this trip that it must mean a great deal to these people to know that someone on the other side of the world actually cares for them, I have had this confirmed to me over and over on this trip.
This is a photo of me finally meeting Getrudi and her parents, after the initial singing and dancing that greeted me when I arrived, I sat down with the family to ask them questions about their life, as well as their dreams for Getrudi and how they thought sponsorship would help.
Children are often very shy, and sometimes a little afraid at these meetings. Getrudi is only 4 years old, and she is definitely not overly comfortable at the beginning of the meeting. I brought a large bag of gifts for her and her parents and pulled this toy out to try to break the ice.
I have been buying things for the kids here for months including toys and clothing items. In this picture I am giving her a hoodie (which was a little weird since it was 36 degrees that day, but apparently it does get cool in their winter) and I didn’t do that bad on the sizing considering I had never seen her before. Every item I brought out, the crowd, which was getting very large by this point (I couldn’t even see beyond the people that were watching), would let out a verbal “ahhhhhh”, in perfect unison (especially for the shoes which the father is holding), I really hope this comes across in the video when I post it, it was great! You would think that all of the people would somehow be envious of all these material things being showered on this one family, but our translators tell us this is not the case, they are genuinely happy for the family. The guy on the left in the photo is my translator.
The little guy behind Getrudi is her brother, he was watching this whole thing quietly and I felt a little bad since I didn’t bring anything for him. I had another bag with me with this soccer ball in it, it actually had another purpose but I opened it and gave it to him. The picture does not do any justice at all to his reaction on receiving this. I said in a previous post that I had not seen a proper soccer ball, this is still the case. The look in their face at receiving one of these is just unbelievable, I don’t even know what I would compare this to at home but they are absolute gold here.
After I had given everything I had brought to them, which included some items for the parents, the father went into the house and brought this out for me. He is a farmer and he also makes this handles for a cultivating hoe, which is their primary tool for creating raised rows in the dirt for planting crops. They will use this hand tool (it will also have a steel blade component) to create these rows completely by hand, sometimes just a small bit of land, but they will do acres of land with this. Anyway, he was definitely working at this in preparation for this moment and I was completely blown away and quite honored. This must be so hard to appreciate from just reading this post, but I will say it again, life is very, very difficult here. These people work harder than you can imagine to scratch the most meager existence imaginable from the ground. A lot of extremely hard work for everyone just to feed the family, there is nothing extra here, and I mean nothing.
Just as we were about to conclude, Getrudi’s father said something to me that really made me step back. Even though people know about the concept of sponsorship, many people, including Getrudi’s parents always thought of the “sponsor” (me) as a mysterious entity of sorts. Some didn’t actually believe there was such a thing as an actual sponsor, and they thanked me for making this long journey so that people could see that we actually exist. I couldn’t stop thinking about this because sometimes we hear the opposite comment at home, some don’t believe the sponsored children actually exist. This had never crossed my mind that they might think like this.
Our translators tell us that our presence has had other unforeseen benefits; apparently a lot of the families in this area want to register to have their children sponsored, but they don’t want to participate in some of the critical, mandatory parts such as photographing the children, they say it goes against their religion. Apparently our visits have made an impact because families that formerly would not participate for this reason are approaching the World Vision staff and are offering to participate completely because of our visit.
This is a bit of a view of the “audience” starting to close in around us, there are all kinds of people that can’t be seen in this view.
So we concluded the visit with Getrudi and her family and started the walk, in the rain, to another child’s home to meet the parents and conduct another interview. This photo shows my “entourage” walking with me to the next location. If I am walking I always have company, no matter where I am going, no matter how far we are walking.
So here I am doing the next interview and meeting with a child and his parents. You can’t actually see me because of the spectators, but have a look at the little girl on the extreme left of the photo. This is Getrudi, my sponsored child! So she was very shy when the heat was on her at her parents’ house, but she made her way down to the next house on her own and was standing up on the step where the interview was being conducted.
I talked to her after the interview as best I could (we are all learning a few words in Chichewa, which people seem to appreciate, and sometime laugh at). We do know the word for “smile”, which we use all of the time (can’t imagine how I would spell it now), and as you can see Getrudi is more comfortable now and manages a smile. She is still very shy, but I take this gesture in a very positive way.
So now we are leaving, and once again my entourage accompanies me. You never know what the children are going to do in any circumstance – I ducked under this little girls umbrella, and she hoisted it up high so I didn’t have to duck, they are so cute. I actually got out after this photo was taken, I’m sure she would have continued like this for a mile. I seem to be the only one with shoes.