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A ‘special journey’ to Kenya brings child sponsor to tears

Lauren did not expect to see her wedding photo hanging on the wall in a remote village in Kenya.

Colourful stickers held down each corner of the photo, a happy image of her and her husband signing their wedding papers; her in her white dress and a white flower in her hair; and him dressed in a smart shirt and vest.

Following Lauren’s initial surprise of seeing the photos were feelings of love and joy.

“It was very overwhelming and it brought me to tears,” Lauren says.

Lauren was visiting eight-year-old Michael, whom she had been sponsoring through ChildFund Australia.

After two years of correspondence, it was the first time Lauren and Michael had met in-person.

Lauren was far from home in NSW, but the kindness and warmth of Michael and his family – and seeing the photos of her life proudly displayed in their family home – made her feel like she was among loved ones.

“I had always wanted to visit Africa and in particular Kenya,” Lauren says. “Meeting Michael was the driving force and highlight of the trip.

“It was one of the best days of my life.”

Lauren’s sponsor trip in 2012 began with visiting Michael’s school, where she was greeted by dozens of students and teachers who had organised a welcome lunch for her. “There was a buzz in the air,” Lauren says.

Lauren was then given a tour of the schoolgrounds, and a group of students held a tree-planting ceremony, before she sat under a tree with Michael and his friends to draw and talk.

“The visit not only strengthened my bond with Michael and his family, but I also experienced, first-hand, how my sponsorship was positively impacting Michael, his family, the school and the community,” Lauren says. “It was such a special journey.” The most memorable part of the trip, says Lauren, was the smiling faces of the children in Michael’s family and at his school. “I was welcomed and embraced with open arms.”

Lauren with Michael (in grey shirt) and his family, in Kenya in 2012. Meeting Michael and his family was “one of the best days of my life,” says Lauren.

Eleven years after signing up in 2010 to be a child sponsor, Lauren continues to sponsor Michael, who is now 17 years old.

She has seen Michael’s English progress rapidly over the years through their correspondence.  “Initially, when he was much younger, the letters were written by family friends on behalf of his family, although Michael would draw pictures, write some words and sign his name,” Lauren says. “These days Michael writes beautifully telling me about life, family and future goals.

“It is evident to me that he is a grounded, strong, happy and determined young man. I am blessed to have seen him grow and to have been welcomed into his family with open arms.

“His family have shown me such kindness and love over the past 11 years and I feel we have an extremely strong bond.”

Today, Lauren is also sponsoring 15-year-old Sorm from Cambodia. Although the pair have not met in-person, they have formed a meaningful connection through regular correspondence. “Sorm is a beautiful, kind, gentle and intelligent young girl whose smile lights up the world,” Lauren says.

After seeing the positive developments in Michael and Sorm’s lives and communities, Lauren has recommended sponsorship to her friends and family. “Sponsorship not only benefits and changes the life of one child, but their families and communities at large,” she says.

“I was fortunate enough to have a safe and healthy childhood, having grown up in a loving household.

“I wish the same for all children.”

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