From Brisbane to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Bangaluru, and hours of transit time—it was 3am by the time we arrived at the hotel in India. Noah and I were more exhausted than ever but we were bubbling with energy and excitement. India was somewhere we’ve been wanting to come for years.
It was seven years ago when I was a university student that I first began sponsoring my first Compassion child, Somoli. Soon after I began dating Noah, I told him about her. Even though he was an international student with harsh financial struggles, he was excited that with our sacrifice it was possible to help a child in need. Without hesitation he visited the Compassion website, sponsored a boy from India and said, ‘One day we should go and visit our kids together’. Little did we know then that they lived on opposite sides of the populous country!
After a few hours of rest, we got in our car to go and meet our second sponsored child, Sakthivel. It was a long journey of over two hours but we were excited. We travelled further and further away from the major city until we arrived at a remote village with unpaved roads.
We were welcomed by a marching band and children dressed in colourful Indian clothes were lined up on either sides and they all tried to shake our hands enthusiastically. The Compassion staff and the local church pastor brought a tiny little boy to us. We realised he was our boy! He was much smaller than we expected him to be and had a shy, innocent smile.
We visited his house where he lived with his parents and siblings. It was very small. Sakthivel’s mum told us how his involvement in the Compassion program made a difference to the whole family. The father was only earning a very small income and had drinking problems. The support Sakthivel was getting was a huge financial relief for the family. He was being given the chance at education and that was bringing hope to the family for a better future. He was being given vaccinations and other medical support.
After a couple of days of playing, eating and spending time with Sakthivel, we took two flights into Kolkata to meet our other Compassion child, 15-year-old Somoli. It was an incredible experience meeting for the first time someone who I have been exchanging letters and photos with for years. We met Somoli and her mother at another Compassion centre. Somoli was a beautiful girl who was much shorter than I had pictured in my mind.
The children at the centre were being taught songs and dances, how to read and write and draw. Outdoor activities included karate and yoga. There was a beautiful playground full of colour that the kids seemed to be the most excited about. In contrast, the houses in slums around the area didn’t have much colour other than faded brown and grey. The small houses made of bamboo and newspapers were dark, and mosquitos and flies were everywhere because of the garbage around the houses and polluted water.
I was glad that Somoli and Sakthivel didn’t have to spend their lives in these houses thinking they had no hope. Even though sponsoring them meant that I had to make small financial sacrifices, it was giving them not only practical help, but also a message in their hearts that somebody on the other side of the world cares about them and wants to help them without asking for anything in return. After seeing more children in these slums, all I could hope for was to see more of these kids sponsored.
Apart from spending time with our children, we had the opportunity to meet two Compassion program graduates. They were university students who had been sponsored through Compassion. Talking to both of them, I noticed their exuding confidence. It was almost hard to believe that both of them came from extremely poor backgrounds. Through the help of Compassion, they told us that they learnt they were valuable and were loved by God, and had great hopes for a better future. They told me they wanted to graduate university and help other people just like their sponsors did.
So many mixed feelings were felt during this trip. There was sadness and helplessness, then hope and joy for the future. Another hopeful thing that I saw were the local Compassion staff that I met who were the most passionate about raising a generation of children with great potentials. They were eager to continue the work of releasing people from poverty throughout all of India.
I thank God for this amazing experience to meet our sponsored kids and to witness the work being done through Compassion. After this trip, we decided to add more children to our family. On top of our four Compassion children, we’re going to add some more kids we met in India to sponsor. We’re hoping that we can return and meet all of them!
You can make a difference in the lives of children living in poverty. Sponsor a child today.