Why I Sponsor
In 2007 I found out that my friend, Paula Meyer, had co-founded an organization to fund education and support for children living in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya whose lives had been affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
I jumped at the chance to sponsor a child, selecting an 18-year-old girl who had missed 10 years of school after being abandoned by her parents. Although she was the same age as my youngest son, who had just graduated from high school and was off to college, Susan would re-enter formal education as a 3rd grader. Cautioned that sponsoring Susan would be a high-risk investment (how would any 18-year-old feel comfortable, confident, and happy in a classroom filled with 8-year-olds?), but sensing something special about this young woman’s courage and determination to ask for a second chance at education, I decided the potential reward was well worth the risk.
Over the next two years, Susan and I corresponded regularly. I encouraged her studies and gained perspective into her life while she displayed a keen interest in Minnesota, my family, and my career.
On my first trip to Kenya, I was finally able to meet Susan in person—an unforgettable moment and truly one of the highlights of my life. I went to her school as a visitor. Susan did not know I was coming, and after what seemed like interminable protocol, it was time to meet her. An office worker summoned her from her classroom—ostensibly to meet with the head teacher—while I waited, anxiously and anonymously, in the school courtyard.
A few minutes later, I heard someone bounding down the steps, and I knew instantly that it was Susan. She stopped just 20 feet away from me, stood for a moment looking stunned, and then ran to me and threw her arms around me as we both burst into tears. She said, over and over, “You’ve given me back my life!” which only served to further increase the flow of tears. Susan and I were not the only ones crying. The entire group who had accompanied me (including the usually stoic Kenyan men) was wiping their eyes). I asked her how she knew it was me, and she responded, “Because I look at your picture every night before I go to bed.”
The program has also been a blessing for its U.S. sponsors, like me, who have formed a community as committed to the Kenyan children as the children are to their sponsors. It has been amazing to see firsthand the extraordinary impact that a sponsorship can have on a child’s life, all for the price of a daily latte.
Footnote: Susan skipped a couple of grades and is now the equivalent of a high school sophomore. She is committed to becoming a teacher and I have no doubt that she will achieve her dream.