In the U.S. it is often difficult for us to envision how only $35 a month can literally change, or even save someone’s life. However, in Africa a little bit can make a big difference.
When I was in Kenya a few weeks ago, I was able to witness some of these changes personally. I visited with most of our sponsored children and many others we have available for sponsorship. We had a day where we gathered with the children. They performed for us, took tea and ate lunch with us, and several told us how much their sponsorship means to them. One girl witnessed that her mother was two months behind in rent when she became sponsored. Getting sponsored saved them from becoming evicted. At our CLCL Day, I was in awe of several of the children’s talent in singing and grace in public speaking. As Bishop Mutua noted, she often feels God sometimes compensates for poverty by giving these children extreme gifts in talent. You can see some of these children for yourself, if you view our You Tube channel: Changing Lenses, Changing Lives You Tube. Scroll down to the children’s performances. You will be especially impressed by Grace and Royford. They may be running against one another for president of Kenya one day!
Due to an ongoing teachers’ strike in Kenya, we couldn’t see most of the children in the school, so we conducted several home visits. Both Bishop Mutua and I agreed that in subsequent visits we will always perform home visits, in addition to seeing the children in the schools. We learned so much about the children’s needs, and it was very affirming for them and for their caregivers to have us visit.
We discovered several surprises on our visits. One such surprise was that a child who I have personally sponsored through a church for many years cannot read or write. She is 18 years old and just finished 8th grade. Her uncle, who is her caregiver, believes she is slightly mentally disabled. I am not so certain; I think she may be dyslexic. However, in Kenya not only is dyslexia not tested for, people have not even heard about it. Had we not visited Joy in her home, we would not have known about this issue. Joy wants to be a hair stylist. This is something she can easily do, and I have sent her money to get started in this field. If we know about such issues, things done be done to help the children.
Another child’s issue that came to light during my visit is that one of our sponsored secondary school students has a two-year old son. The gifts we gave her were completely inappropriate for this young mother. Had we known about her son, we would have given him gifts as well as his mother. Doris is proud of her boy, and it must have hurt her not to feel free to talk about him.
In the Kaaga Synod there are over 600 children who are sponsored. Changing Lenses, Changing Lives currently has 30 of those children. Our goal is to be sponsoring over 100 in a year and over 1,000 in five years. The Office for Vulnerable Children (OVC) only has one paid office worker, and she manages all 600 children. There are also 53 Community Health Workers, but they are all volunteer, and some are better at assessing the children’s needs than others. CLCL has most of our children in five different schools, and we work very hard to maintain relationships with the Head Teachers at those schools. This helps us to keep track of our children. However more can be done for the kids. The OVC desperately needs at least one, and preferably three paid social workers. I aim to have enough commitments by spring of 2016 to hire a social worker for our sponsored children. Every child should be visited in their home at least four times a year. Surprisingly, it will only cost us about $250 for a degreed social worker. If you would like to commit to a monthly contribution toward a social worker, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In just a little more than a month, we have gotten TEN more children sponsored through Changing Lenses, Changing Lives. We are hoping we can continue this incredible growth through the holidays. Please visit our gallery of children available for sponsorship here: Children Available for Sponsorship. Do more than merely shop this holiday season, Change a Life!