I had been sponsoring a little girl, Stela, in Tanzania through World Vision since 2010, and when we planned a long awaited trip to Africa we were thrilled to be able to organise to visit her community. World Vision coordinated the visit, which involved a 2 day, almost 1000 kilometre round road trip from Dar Es Salaam to Kongwa and an overnight stay in Dodoma, the Tanzanian capital (about 100 kms away from her community).
We left very early one morning, and had a few adventures with the World Vision worker and our driver, including visiting the local markets in Morogoro to purchase school supplies and food (rice, beans, fruit and cooking oil) as gifts for the family and the school. Thank heavens for someone who spoke the local language – Gogo!
Nkoko, the village in the Kongwa area where Stela and her family lives, has several hundred residents, who live in basic two room, mud brick and corrugated iron dwellings, without electricity or running water.
Meeting Stela was amazing. She had been told of our visit a few days beforehand, and was eager to meet her ‘friend from Australia’. To begin with she was naturally shy, but proudly took us to meet her parents. Then, through the local World Vision worker, we were able to talk with the family and share some of the joys and heartaches of their life. Stela is now attending school, and proudly showed me her school bag and workbooks. We had fun together, drawing around my hand inside the back cover of one of her books, ‘leaving my mark’ in her life.
We had taken a few small gifts from Australia: kangaroo and koala toys, a pencil case with pens and pencils and a big blow up plastic ball with the Australian flag on it. Stela had fun sharing the ball, playing with some of the neighbourhood children, who also got to enjoy some of the fruit which we had bought on the way.
Stela’s family, like most of the village people are farmers, growing staples such as maize, ground nuts and some vegetables, when the season is right. The surrounding land is very dry. Stela’s family, had recently been the proud recipients of the gift of an ox plough from World Vision, which her dad proudly showed off in the attached building, where it is stored. The plough enables them to farm much more land in order to survive and potentially get beyond subsistence farming.
We enjoyed hearing about the work of World Vision – education, health care and improved agricultural practices are the focus for the project over the next few years.
At the end of our time with them, Stela was smiling and we took lots of photos to remind us of our happy visit with them all. It was sad to say goodbye to her, but we did so in the knowledge that she is loved by her family, is getting an education and we promised to continue to sponsor her. It was great to hear how many Australians have got involved through sponsorship, but there are still many children in the area needing sponsors. I wonder if we can help get them all sponsors from here in Australia?
It was a privilege to see the work being done in the area and a joy to be able to visit Stela and her family and see the difference that our sponsorships are making for families like theirs and this community as a whole. Certainly a day I will remember for the rest of my life!
Have you sponsored a child before? Have you met them? Would you if you could?