A sponsor’s journey across southern Kenya

By Natasha Sum, Communications and Advocacy Officer, ChildFund Australia
Photo: Last year, Mandy Eagle from Sydney journeyed across southern Kenya to meet three of her sponsored children face-to-face – including 16-year-old Seleyian (right), who she has sponsored since 2004

Photo: Last year, Mandy Eagle from Sydney journeyed across southern Kenya to meet three of her sponsored children face-to-face – including 16-year-old Seleyian (right), who she has sponsored since 2004

Mandy Eagle was in a small shopping centre in Melbourne in 2004 when she saw an interesting stall. Filled with photographs of children from across the world and ChildFund banners, she walked closer.

“I looked at the photos, and just thought, that would be a nice thing to do.” Eleven years later, Mandy found herself flying across the world to meet not only her first sponsored child, 16-year-old Seleyian, but also two other girls she sponsors in Kenya.

“It was the most emotional experience of my life,” she says.

Mandy’s journey began at the ChildFund Kenya National Office in Nairobi. Here, she met with staff before embarking on a nine-hour drive south-east to Kuku, to meet the first of her sponsored children.

“I met Seleyian first – we didn’t speak much, but you know how you just connect with someone? We were holding hands, we had our arms around each other. Her mum never let my hand go. Her father came up and gave me a little picture that he had of himself, which he had taken in one of those photo booths. He said that he didn’t have much or anything to give me, only the photo – but he wanted me to have it.

“I swear to God, I cried like a baby. They were just so welcoming.”

The following day, Mandy travelled to meet 16-year-old Naisoi, who lives a couple of hours' drive away from Seleyian’s village. Mandy says the family were overwhelmed by the visit, but for an understandable reason: “I found out that they had never really had a sponsor visit the community before. I was the first!”

Photo: Mandy with her sponsored child Naisoi (far left), and Naisoi’s family members in rural Kenya

Mandy was warmly welcomed when visiting Naisoi’s school, where she found herself surrounded by local children. “I was in the middle with Naisoi, holding hands with her and her mum, and everyone was dancing, and singing, and laughing – it was just the best time.”

A few days later, Mandy met her youngest sponsored child, eight-year-old Jane, who lives in a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi – and she had a special present for her. “I remembered reading in one of her letters that dolls are one of her favourite things, so I brought three with me so she could play with her friends.

“When Jane began unwrapping the present and realised I had brought dolls for her, she just looked at them and said, ‘Oh mama, mama, mama!’ and excitedly showed her mum the dolls! Then she just ran to me from across the other side of the room and wrapped her arms around my legs. It was exquisite.”

Photo: Eight-year-old Jane (right), Mandy’s youngest sponsored child, lives in a slum on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi

Mandy adds: “The letters between sponsors and sponsored children are really important for getting to know each other. And since I’ve seen them, I write every couple of months. So that has engendered a greater connectedness.”

Having been on a safari in Kenya a few years earlier, Mandy was inspired to write a children’s book, which she called 'Georgia’s Safari'. In the book, she included all of her sponsored children’s names – and even took copies of the book for each of the girls when she visited them.

Photo: Mandy has written a children’s book called ‘Georgia’s Safari’ – inspired by a safari she went on during her first trip to Kenya, and her sponsored children

When asked why she decided to sponsor multiple children, Mandy says: “I just thought, it’s just a couple of cups of coffee every day, and I can sponsor another child – another life.

“I love children and I don’t have any of my own. But the fact that all my sponsored children are girls and all live in Kenya, that’s absolutely fortuitous,” she adds.

In the future, Mandy hopes to visit her fourth sponsored child, 14-year-old Zeituna, who lives in a remote area in far northern Kenya – as she didn’t have enough time to meet her during her most recent trip.

And now that Mandy is back in Australia from her southern Kenyan adventure, she is clear on one thing: “My visit was not a holiday; it was something much more – something that money could never buy. I’m forever feeling connected with them and grateful for the experience. Thank you, ChildFund!”

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