Stories

My trip of a lifetime to India!

When ChildFund called to tell me I had won the Trip of a Lifetime competition, I felt so many emotions all at once: surprise, happiness, amazement and utter terror.

My husband, Roxley, and I had only recently started travelling. Like all parents, our lives had been dedicated to our kids but with them both in university we were beginning to set our horizons abroad. Yet, India was a whole new frontier for us!

We booked a two-week trip to India, in which we would spend two days in Sarita’s community, meeting her, her family and many others. We had expected a small celebration but thought our two-day visit would mainly be a low-key affair where we would find out more about the work ChildFund is doing in this area in remote, rural India. Were we ever so wrong!

When we arrived in the community we were first taken to ChildFund’s local partner office where we were greeted by about 800 school children clapping us into the centre. It was like the guard of honour!

After meeting the local project staff and learning more about the work they are doing in Sarita’s community, we were taken to her village where it was an eclectic mix of colour. People from all the villages had come together they were dressed up in costumes and were dancing and celebrating.

 

Children from the community where Lee-Anne sponsors a child gave her a warm reception

There were literally hundreds of people there. We walked in a big procession to where we were to meet Sarita, under decorated umbrellas and upon hand-sewn banana leaves that were placed at our feet as we walked. It was really quite amazing, a royal welcome to say the least!

Then came the moment when we spotted Sarita, standing with her family. She is just a beautiful, young woman with amazing grace. She walked up to us very shyly and smiled before performing a traditional welcome of washing our feet, which completely humbled us.

Though she was shy at first, it was wonderful to watch her come out of her shell throughout the day. I loved chatting and laughing with her.

Sarita has six brothers and sisters. Her whole family sat down with us, all wide-eyed, listening and asking questions. We asked each other many simple things about our lives. They even asked us if Aussie chickens lay eggs!

At one stage, Sarita’s father placed mine and Roxley`s hands in his, looked us both in the eye and spoke to us. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but I knew the intent. He was thanking us for our support. I find it quite emotional to talk about because it was just so heartfelt and a moment that I will never forget.

Lee-Anne and her sponsored child, Sarita

Sponsorship is a bit of a trust thing. A sponsor has to trust that an organisation is supporting those who need it most and are making sure that as much of the funds as possible are reaching where they should. We originally chose ChildFund because we felt that it was the type of organisation that would ensure this but when we saw it in person we were absolutely blown away by the difference that has been made in this community through sponsorship.

It was completely obvious that in the last 10 years their lives had been transformed from a struggle to survive, high infant mortality, high death rates, no immunisations, many deaths in child birth, lots of sickness and little education to now seeing children happy and healthy and going to school. You can see real change in people’s lives.

How do we know this, you may ask? Because we played with children at a local school. We met youth who were being taught about HIV and reproductive health problems. We sat in on a mother`s group learning about the importance of immunisations. We watched as midwives were being trained.

We listened as elders of the villages talked about two little girls who, very sick with malaria, were transported to the closest hospital (a few hours away) by ChildFund`s local staff in the middle of the night and are alive and well today because of them.

And we smiled as Sarita`s parents told us about how sponsorship put a roof on their house and helped to keep their children in school.

We were completely amazed that we could actually see how sponsorship is changing the lives of people in this community. Sarita now has chances and choices, and I can see in her eyes she has hope €“ hope for the future.

Our Trip of a Lifetime was an incredible experience that has changed us and changed how we think. We will always be grateful to ChildFund for this amazing opportunity.

If you`re thinking of sponsoring a child, I say go for it! I can tell you, you will make a difference in a child`s life, their family`s lives and their whole community.

Watch more from Lee-Anne’s trip

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