If you’re like me and you sponsor a child, at the back of your mind you might wonder does a small monthly donation really make a difference and wouldn’t it be great to visit this child to see first hand. I contacted ChildFund Ireland as I was taking a trip to India in January 2012, to see if it was possible to visit my sponsored child while I was there. With great help and assistance from them, next thing I knew I was on a plane to Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. It is a seaport city of 1.7 million people on the east coast of India.
My adventure began early next morning where I met Anna (ChildFund India) and we set off on a 3 hour journey out of the city into rural India. Anna was talkative, warm and friendly with very good English. We stopped off at the ChildFund India office in Rambhaphuram where I was given a garland of flowers to put around my neck. They told me about the projects they run in the area and the work they do from child sponsorship, health, training and education which covers 46 villages, 10,000 population and have 1,000 foreign sponsors. Each Christmas I get a card and picture from Kalavathi saying how she is doing and all cards go out from this tiny office right around the world.
Next we went to Kalavathi’s school where she studies and lives. The school is basic and clean but as we entered you could hear the chatter and laughter of school kids. I noticed Kalavathi straight away from the pictures. We had interrupted an exam but the students didn’t seem to mind! And when I showed them some picture collages of Ireland and snow, they got very excited! When I was introduced to Kalavathi, I thought she was shy but I didn’t know the etiquette in India, or the fact that 40 classmates and teachers looking on might have had something to do with it. Kalavathi didn’t say much but on the drive to her parents’ village we did get a few words. The area is tribal and the majority of people work off the land. ChildFund is making great work at sponsoring children to stay in education and changing the mentality of parents to keep them there.
We arrived at Kalavathi’s village which it is surrounded by farmland and with just a few small houses. The population is only 40 but it seemed they all came out to meet us. I was introduced to Kalavathi father, mother and sister. Again they were very friendly and invited me inside their small house where we sat down in a circle and had some local tea and sweets (I think that’s what they were). I had brought some bracelets/hairpieces which all Indian girls wear so I gave them to Kalavathi. Through Anna we discussed how only for my small donation, Kalavathi would not be at school and would be working as a farmhand by now, and how happy her parents are. Her father also spread out pots/ pans/ blankets/ sari along with food which they could not afford only for donations. Although they have very little, I have to say they smiled, chatted and I never felt uncomfortable in their house. And in the end I did get a photo of Kalavathi smiling so I hoped she enjoyed my visit too.
So overall I would say I went on this trip to see for myself what effect sponsoring a child could make and I came back realising it absolutely does make a difference and way bigger than I thought.
Darren McMorrow, Co Leitrim