By Jennifer Carter; Edited by Leanna Cappiello
Meeting your sponsored child is an incredibly memorable experience. Jennifer Carter, a sponsor for seven years, traveled to Uganda to meet her sponsored child, Paul. Here is Jennifer’s story:
I can distinctly remember watching World Vision on television as a small child, feeling helpless and heartbroken to see people in despairing situations around the globe. It was in these moments that my sense of humanity began to develop.
My parents sponsored children through different organizations as I was growing up, and it was something I knew I would always feel a personal obligation. One day, a person came to the door one day and asked if I was interested in sponsoring a child with World Vision. They had pictures of children from the highest-need regions, and Paul was one of those children. His eyes implored me. I decided, Yes, I could set aside a little bit of extra money every month and help this child grow up happier, healthier, and out of harm.
I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to visit my sponsored child. In 2013, I received my Annual Progress Report for the Gweri area and in it read, “Question to sponsor.” Paul had written, “When will you come and see me?” It was not a matter of ‘if,’ it was a matter of ‘when,’ and Paul had already decided that!
My partner, Aaron, and I began planning a multi-country trip in late 2015, and a visit to Uganda organically became part of the trip. The most compelling reason to visit was to see the child that I had been sponsoring for five years.
We were given a tour of Paul’s village area in Gweri, and were educated and informed on several of the projects that World Vision has implemented in the community.
For example, we saw— and used— one of the pump wells that has been constructed for easier access to clean, hygienic water. Having a safe water supply nearer to villagers’ homes has two enormous benefits (among others):
1. It decreases the number of children suffering with waterborne diseases, and
2. It lessens the amount of time spent fetching water, leaving more time and effort for other activities, like going to school.
We visited the local school, where we were given an unforgettable warm welcome by the teachers and students. We saw how the school had been renovated and improved, including the addition of latrines. We were informed that the girls have also been supplied with menstrual pads, which has increased attendance rates at times when they would otherwise have stayed home.
We were also made aware that efforts are being made in the community to create greater awareness and provide education about child rights, and specifically, the issue of child marriage.
Lastly, on Paul’s family’s homestead, we were treated to oranges from the crop of orange trees growing on their land, which grew from seedlings provided by World Vision. The family has been industrious and innovative in finding ways to cross-breed different species of trees to produce heartier crops.
We were fortunate enough to have an entire day to spend with Paul and his family on their homestead. We had so many wonderful moments together that I will forever cherish.
The most memorable part of the experience was simply meeting Paul for the first time. As we drove along the narrow dirt road through the tall grasses toward their home, I realized the day I had been anticipating for months was about to unfold. I had a moment of nervous anxiety, which quickly turned into excitement as we drove up to their home and exited the vehicle. I immediately saw Paul cross the yard toward me…. and well, the picture speaks for itself! I don’t think I’ve ever had a tighter hug!
Paul and his family gave us many heartfelt gifts: hats and 'watches' made of palm leaves, animal figures formed from clay, a handmade mat, a superb home-cooked Ugandan meal, and lastly, a live chicken! Paul presented it to me as we were saying our goodbyes, and I was surprised to say the least! It was the most unique gift I've ever received, and I felt honored to have been offered it.
The visit changed my relationship with Paul and his family. I now have an “insider” view of their life and a better understanding of both the challenges they face, and their joys and triumphs! I feel more connected to them, and this adds so much value to our future correspondence.
I do hope to visit Paul and his family again one day, perhaps with children of my own!
Have you ever dreamed of visiting your sponsored child? Let's plan your visit!