My host sister here in Kenya is a 30-something mother of three with a caring husband, a good job and has just returned to school to pursue a degree in Community Development. She is hard-working, confident and full of integrity – so many things that I strive to be. Shortly after I arrived in Kenya she told me a bit about her life. My host sister grew up as the youngest of ten children in very poor area of Nairobi. As a child, her family ate only one meal per day because they could not afford more than that. Her mother and father did their best to take care of the children, but could not cover the costs of their education, so none of her siblings finished high school. She explained that at the age of 12, she was taken on by Compassion International, a non-profit organization that allows individuals around the world to sponsor a child in need so that they can attend school and access basic necessities. It was this divine intervention that changed the trajectory of her life.
My host sister’s sponsor was a young man from Australia, not too many years older than herself. They communicated over several years, and she remembers celebrating when he got married to a young woman who began to correspond with her as well. Thanks to their support, my host sister was able to attend a high quality boarding school outside of the city where she received a good education, room and board. It wasn’t until her first day of boarding school that she realized most people ate more than one meal per day. She was the only member of her family to complete high school, which has enabled her to secure employment that supports her family and pursue higher education.
While she was telling me her story, my host sister explained that she had been searching for the sponsor couple for several years and it was her dream to get back in contact. (Understandably, organizations like Compassion International are strict about not sharing detailed contact information between sponsors and children in order to protect the children). She wanted to tell them how their support had changed her life. She wanted to thank them for their gift. She wanted to see how they were doing. The anticipation in her voice was thick. At that moment, I made it my personal mission to find the couple and reunite them after over 15 years with no communication.
My host sister knew her sponsors names and that the man had been a relatively well-known landscape painter in Sydney, Australia (she had kept all of their letters and a painting he sent). I thought the search would be quite simple, but it appeared that the man had not been involved in art for many years, and there was almost no information about him available online. So I went through all the other major websites like Facebook, the White Pages, and some general Google searching. Still no luck. Finally I decided to create a LinkedIn account in case he was listed on the website. During my first search, I found 3 people in Sydney with the same name. One had a personal email listed and the other two had companies listed, so I found the general inquiry email addresses for them and sent messages explaining who I was and that I was looking for the Compassion International sponsor for a girl in Nairobi.
A day later I got a response from the man whose direct email address I had, but was quickly disappointed when he explained he was the wrong person. Another email came from one of the companies, but the woman explained that the person I was interested in contacting had left the company and they did not have updated contact information for him. So I waited a few more days. After a long day of classes, I returned home the following week and there was a new message in my inbox – it was from my host sister’s sponsor! He explained that he and his wife spoke of her often and had wondered for many years how she was doing but didn’t know how to get in contact. He was ecstatic to be reunited. Moments later, my host sister walked into the house from work and I told her I had located her sponsors. As I read his email aloud to her, tears flowed from our eyes as her dream had become a reality.
Since then, my host sister and her sponsors have been emailing back and forth, sending photos of their families and sharing about what has been happening in their lives for the last several years. I am thankful for the gift they gave my host sister whose life was changed by their generosity, and that I could be a part of the sweet reunion.
*Note: This post is not a mandate to sponsor a child nor an endorsement of Compassion International, as every organization has both positive and negative aspects of its operation. If you choose to sponsor a child, please take care in researching the quality of the organization you work with. Thanks!