Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Nine-year-old Fernanda’s family lives in a rural village in Manatuto in eastern Timor-Leste. They tend to a garden with corn, long beans, bananas and cassava that feed Fernanda and her four siblings, with just enough left over to sell and make a small income. Now, they have a goat too, which they received earlier this year.

“We don`t have a rice field, as most people do, but only a small plot of land for vegetables,” says Fernando. Fernanda’s father said that they “only do farming in which the production is very low and not enough to sustain family needs. We really wanted to do some other things in order to support family’s income, like buy goats, but we had no money. So we are lucky and happy to receive the goat.”

Fernando’s family is one of 10 families who received a goat this past spring. Fernanda and her siblings enjoy taking care of the 10 goats, which are kept in the same field. “After school I take out the goats, feed and give them a drink and let them eat the grass,” says Fernanda, who wants to become a teacher when she’s older.

“Once our goat has multiplied I will sell some of its offspring to buy my children’s school materials, such as books, pens and uniforms,” says Fernando.

Fernando hopes his children will have a promising future. “I want them to have a good education and later to have a job, so they can have a better life. I will keep supporting them with my own efforts to help them realise their dreams.”

 

We had been travelling for the past three months through Central America, which was only really the beginning of our year-long trip around the world. After El Salvador we headed overland through Mexico. After spending time in Mexico City we headed north to the small town of Ixmiquilpan.

I had never heard of this place before, and it only had a paragraph devoted to it in lonely planet. The reason we were heading there? For the last couple of years I have been sponsoring a child through ChildFund Australia and with her living just 20 miles outside of Ixmiquilpan, my chance to finally meet her had arrived.

The day was very special, not only was it the day I was to meet Anabel it was also my birthday. It started with my dream birthday present of a Spanish Ricky Martin CD! Then we were picked up an hour early by our interpreter and driver for the day. Lucky we were ready.

The whole experience in Ixmiquilpan where my sponsor child lives was totally overwhelming, humbling and made me feel quite guilty and angry as well, angry at myself and other people back home (not these lovely people!) for doing so little. I have never experienced anything like it.

The morning started with a hall full of people clapping for me in appreciation as I walked in. They were all so happy to see me and thankful for the money I give. This is where the guilt started setting in as it really is only loose change to me. For the millionth time this trip, I promised myself to donate more money when I got home.

They showed us a presentation and asked us some questions and we asked them some. The language barrier was quite frustrating as, even though the translator was good, I wanted to be able to say more things for myself, especially with the great hospitality we were shown.

The presentation was about what ChildFund Mexico`s local partner organisation does in this area. It was very inspiring. All the programs are about making people self-sufficient and ensuring the money you donate does not just go to the child and their family but the entire community too. They have 289 children who have sponsors there (or godparents as they call us) and another hundred who need them.

Since 1994 when the organisation was started here by local families, they have managed to achieve things like close to 100 per cent literacy rates, far better nutrition and water for all (there wasn`t enough water for everyone back then). It is a very dry area with hardly any water so you can see why people struggle. They went out of their way to show how helpful the programs they run are and what a difference our money makes. They wanted to make sure we understood that the money does reach them and that it has enormous benefits.

We then visited a community centre they had built and saw some parenting classes in progress. They also teach cooking and nutrition to the parents. We tried some of the food too which was very good! We also visited the secondary school and talked to a class and visited a honey factory where they make honey from a type of cactus.

We had discussions with Anabel and her family and shared many photos and stories.

This whole time we kept getting applause and messages of thanks and were followed around by people taking photos like we were celebrities, which I guess to these people we were. We were the first sponsors to have visited. We had some presents for Anabel and her family, lollies, jewellery and some stuff from Australia including some great t shirts, caps and toys that mum sent over (we were unable to carry them for so long) which were much appreciated.

In short, it was a totally amazing experience which I hope will be life changing. You hear the ads at home about how one dollar a day can make a difference and it seriously can. I seriously urge everyone to sign up to one of these organisations, as you really do make a difference. It is so easy to do and you get regular photos, letters and updates. I can highly recommend ChildFund Australia as I know what a difference it makes. This is sure to be one birthday I will never forget.

This story was originally published on Sharon`s own, where`s Sharon blog.