By Laura Seyfang, CFCA sponsor
As a longtime CFCA sponsor, I had often read the invitations to join a trip to visit my sponsored child.
While I felt committed to the CFCA mission and loved sharing letters with my two sponsored children, one in the Philippines and one in Kenya, I never felt able to justify the time and expense of such a trip.
This past December I was able to make it happen when I combined a Habitat for Humanity Global Village Trip with a visit to my CFCA sponsored child in Kenya.
I wasn’t sure CFCA would embrace my visit since it wasn’t one of their trips, but was very happy to receive overwhelming support to make this personal connection happen.
Habitat for Humanity is a non-denominational Christian organization whose goal is to provide decent affordable housing for all. This organization provides opportunities for volunteers to help build houses in nearly 50 countries around the globe.
During my trip to Kenya with 20 other volunteers, we were able to work on constructing four houses for families in an internal displaced persons camp, where they had been living in tents for almost four years.
It was a lot of hard work, but the results were extremely rewarding.
At the conclusion of the Habitat Build, I hired a driver who took me to Meru in northeastern Kenya, where my sponsored child, Sophia, lived.
It was a long drive into very rural countryside. The last 12 miles (20 kilometers) or so, I saw no other vehicles but lots of people walking along the roads, laden with baskets, goats across their shoulders or dead chickens swinging from their belts.
The driver told me it was market day and everyone was bringing their goods to buy and sell.
We drove to the CFCA office where a local staff person welcomed me and spent an hour showing me how they manage the 713 children who are sponsored in that region.
I was truly impressed with the thoroughness of their files: a copy of every letter Sophia ever wrote to me or that I wrote to her was in her file.
There was a budget sheet for each month she had been in the program.
The staff person explained that Sophia, 17, and her mother come each month to the office to review her progress and plan how my contribution will be spent.
First priority always goes to her boarding school fees, but Sophia has input in deciding how any leftover money is spent.
One month she bought new shoes, another month a dress. In November, the extra money went to her family to buy needed food and supplies.
I liked seeing Sophia’s involvement in the budgeting process, as it will be a useful life skill for her.
Then we headed out to Sophia’s home. The last mile or so was on foot since there really was no road, just a mountain path through corn and bean fields.
Every 100 yards or so was a cluster of three mud and grass huts, and after a 20-minute walk, we came to the cluster of huts that housed Sophia’s extended family.
It was such a moving experience when Sophia came running down the path and flew into my arms. We both were smiling through our tears as we stared into each other’s eyes and saw a person we already knew.
Sophia proudly introduced me to her whole family. My CFCA escort took lots of pictures and helped us when there were communication challenges, but mostly we were able to communicate just fine by ourselves.
Sophie had never touched blond hair before, so she spent a lot of time touching mine and holding my hand.
I had brought many small presents for Sophia’s family that they all graciously accepted but set aside to look at later.
While showing me their two goats, Sophia’s older sister asked me, “Can you carry a chicken?”
I really wasn’t sure what she meant by that, so I hesitantly said, “Well where I live, only farmers tend to have chickens, and I live in a city, so I never have carried a chicken.”
One look at the sister’s face made me realize I had not given an answer that made sense.
Then out of the blue (or from the Holy Spirit?), it came to me as I remembered all those people I had seen walking along the road carrying dead chickens.
I realized she was offering me to take one of their chickens as a gift (they only owned two).
I was so overwhelmed by the generous offer from this family who had next to nothing.
Not wanting to offend, I said, “I would be honored to carry a chicken from you, but unfortunately when I leave here I am going straight to the airport in Nairobi to catch a plane home, and they won’t let me carry a chicken on the plane.”
I could tell from her nod and smile that this was a good answer. Sophia then ran into her hut and came out with two lovely baskets woven by her aunt, which she presented to me as a parting gift.
Connecting like this with Sophia and her family was what being human is all about.