Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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After more than two decades since leaving ChildFund’s sponsorship program, Samuel says his former Australian sponsors helped him understand the importance of family and become resilient to the many challenges he faced in his life. They also inspired him to achieve his goals.

Samuel, now aged 40, says he looked up to his former sponsors Perry and Elaine, who live in Queensland, as a child.

“They are my role models in family life,” Samuel says. “From their positive relationship, I did well academically, and felt cared for, valued and respected. I have more self-esteem and confidence, and feel more relaxed in facing the lows and highs.

“They shared their awesome photos of their wedding, house, and family van, and some family photos with me when I was a sponsored child. These pictures, and the letters they wrote, showed me the value of family and work.

“They inspired me.”

This is the powerful impact sponsorship can have on the life of a child, in the words of a sponsored child himself.

Growing up in Uganda

The second youngest of four children, Samuel grew up in a small, disadvantaged village in Uganda. Samuel’s mother raised him and his three sisters on her own, working as a pre-school teacher for a living. Occasionally his mother sold baked goods and took on food catering jobs for extra income.

She worked hard to make sure her children were well fed. “She prepared the best meals for us, including porridge,” Samuel says. Meals often included sweet potato, millet bread, beans and groundnut stew.  

“We never had much, apart from the constant promises of a better tomorrow from her if we worked hard,” Samuel says of his mother.

As the world moves to fight the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of children in Africa are going hungry as a locust plague destroys crops.

Swarms of desert locusts have been wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of hectares of farmland and pastures in Kenya, since arriving from Somalia and Ethiopia in December 2019.

It is the largest locust invasion in Kenya in 25 years. Farming families have been left devastated, struggling to feed their children and earn a living.

Five-year-old Mary, who lives in a disadvantaged community in Samburu County, says she is hungry “most of the time” because of the plague.

Since the locust invasion the lunchtime meals served at her school are no longer enough to keep her full throughout the day. Teachers and school co-ordinators have been forced to reduce the size of lunches because of fears of further food shortages as a result of the swarms of locusts destroying farmland.

Goat’s milk, a highly nutritious drink for children, has also become scarce in schools, increasing the risk of young students like Mary becoming malnourished.

At home, Mary’s situation is no better. Her parents rely on the sale of aloe vera plants to feed their five children and ensure they can go to school.

But the locust plague in recent months has destroyed their aloe vera crops, says Mary’s father Paul.

“With aloe vera we would be able to make US$1 daily and use it to buy some food for the children, but now we have nothing,” Paul says. “Life is really tough.”