I’m going into my fourth year of university in Alberta, Canada. I am studying sciences, with the goal of becoming a paediatrician. This May, I had the opportunity to travel alongside my grandfather, and long-time supporter of Hope Story, to the Amani School in Tanzania, Africa to visit his sponsor child. Amani School is a primary school located in the more secluded village of Ponde, Tanga.
During my time there, most days started with a visit to the Amani school, a small collection of buildings with minimal facilities and no plumbing (the outhouse was located a short walk away). After the school day, I often had the privilege of joining the school’s principal and administrator on community visits to some family homes of the students. Community visits are a common way for the school administrators to both connect with the community and get a feel for the atmosphere the children are living in.
The first family I visited lived about a 30 minute van ride, followed by a 15 minute walk along dirt roads and rocky paths, away. I was welcomed onto their small farm and allowed to sit in their simple shelter to get out of the rain.
I remember looking around at their mud hut and small shelter, and feeling incredibly confused: these people were immensely kind and happy, yet have absolutely nothing.I learned that their father was a charcoal farmer and spent weeks burning the roots of trees, burying them, harvesting them, and then piling large bags of this charcoal onto his small bike to ride two hours into town. This three week process rarely yielded enough money for him to pay for his children’s education and put food on the table for his family.
When I heard this, a weight dropped in my stomach: I am lucky enough to be born into a family that can, without difficulty, pay for my education. To accept the fact that there are children that may not be able to get a primary education, due to the weak economy of their country, was challenging and painful.
I have heard about the poverty, starvation, and difficulties in African countries hundreds of times, but never have I felt so called to action as I did in that moment. In front of me, I saw a little girl that is not granted the opportunity to pursue a dream of becoming a doctor, a teacher, an accountant, or whatever she might choose. This child is living in some of the most challenging conditions, where future professional and personal success may not even be a possibility.
To think that any child could have been born into these circumstances, myself included, humbled me in a way that nothing else in my life has. Sitting under that small wood shelter in the rain, I made a decision that I didn’t have to give a second thought.
I am happy to say that that little girl, named Ponde, is now my sponsor child.
There are hundreds of other children experiencing similar conditions, and worse.For many children, the single meal provided at Amani School is the only food they will eat that day. The Amani school environment becomes a sanctuary for these children, for whom home life is worse.
The health centre in the village was perhaps the most personally surprising to me. Their technology and procedures were nothing like the ones I had spent the last few years in school learning about. Can you imagine finding out that you had an incurable disease that would have been preventable if your family had access to adequate medical care when you were a child? New mothers with HIV/AIDS are still required to breastfeed, though the disease is regularly transferred in this manner: the antibodies in breastmilk are necessary for the growing child's developing immune system, and without them they are far more likely to die within the first few years of life. With the poverty many people face, and the lack of medication available, transfer of HIV is an unpreventable side effect of breastfeeding.
Not everyone has the capacity or opportunity to travel to unfamiliar countries to personally witness the incredible effect that Hope Story has on these global communities. I now know that every little bit helps, and I am making a difference. I strongly believe that Hope Story is creating a meaningful impact on the lives of many vulnerable children at the Amani School in Tanzania, Africa.
Through this eye-opening experience, the people I encountered have most definitely changed the way I live my day-to-day life. I hope to bring a spirit of gratitude and service into everything I do in the future – including, hopefully, travelling back to Africa again soon!
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. Mark 9:37