Standing Between Hunger and a Child
“If only the rains would come more often,” Elias* thinks, as he walks the long road to school – his stomach completely empty. His last meal was the middle of yesterday afternoon, and hunger makes the journey to High School feel so much longer. If only the rains would come regularly, then his father could farm their land again and everything would be better.
Elias has likely had this same thought almost every dry, dusty school day for the past five years, walking the 14 kilometres it takes him and his sister to travel to the Amani School in Tanzania. There is never any breakfast at home. There is no food to pack for lunch or a snack. On school days Elias and his sister look forward to the food they will receive at school. The family is living in desperate poverty, and food is scarce at home.
But the journey to school is full of hope for Elias! He and his sister are given a hearty breakfast mid-morning and a nutritious lunch mid-afternoon at Amani. Elias feels lucky, as his youngest sister and little brother attend a public school where there are no meals at all, and the mid-day meal the little ones get at home is their only food each day.
Elias lives in a single-parent home with his dad, since his Mom abandoned the family after she and Elias’ father divorced. For years, his dad hasn’t been able to make a living for his family from farming his land. Drought, combined with over-farming through the generations, has left his fields parched. He works as a day labourer for minimal wages digging up rocks that will be processed into lime. The pay is poor and irregular and he cannot raise a healthy family on it.
Sending his two oldest kids to Amani is the best gift Elias’ dad can give them. In this remote area of Tanzania, there are far more needs than social supports for children. Most families are struggling. Amani School is like an oasis of hope for kids like Elias and his sister.
Now in his second year, Elias is part of the first ever class at the Amani High School – in the community’s first ever high school. School administrator Sarah says, “I was really surprised to see him looking tired so often. Generally, the students are excited about the opportunity to attend high school and do not take their education for granted.”
After speaking with him, she realized that the two meals a day the school provides are all that are standing between Elias and extreme hunger.
But when Elias is at school, he receives more than just food – he is also given hope for a different future. Elias is good at math – good at just about every subject, really. Except for public speaking. Elias is extremely shy, and socially awkward, and at Amani the caring teachers try to draw him out. They also teach him that Jesus loves and values him.
One day the rains will come more regularly, but unlike his father, Elias will have so much more to lean on than the weather. He is on a firmer path to a more secure future, learning and growing in a caring Christian community.
There is hope for Elias’ story – and for every child’s story – with a little help!
*child’s name has been changed for his privacy