With the Eyes of a Child: What I Learned When I Met My Sponsored Child
Since returning from Nepal, all of my friends and family have asked what it was like to spend time there with Ganga Ghar.The truth is, it’s been hard for me to wrap up all the amazing experiences of the trip into any sort of concise answer.
From my home in Milwaukee, Nepal is about as far away as you can possibly get... and it felt that way. As with any different culture, there were things that surprised me (systematic power outages), things I fell in love with right away (the food), and things I could have done without (pollution).
But there was also a deeper exciting sense of just how far away I was from anything familiar: like being a child again and discovering everything for the first time. I learned new words, tasted new tastes, smelled different kinds of flowers, and saw the biggest mountains in the world.
When the team left Kathmandu for Dhading on day 3 of the journey, I knew I’d be meeting Parbati, the little girl I sponsor, but didn’t know what to think. I was excited and a little nervous. I didn’t know how I would feel in her situation, but I did know how I used to feel when I was put on the spot to show off a new skill or the latest thing I learned in school, so I hoped she wouldn’t feel like that.
Each team member taught a brief lesson at the Bal Mandir School, where sponsored kids from three schools in Dhading gathered during their holiday break. During my lesson on food, little Parbati was the most outspoken volunteer, shouting out her favorite foods in English: “strawberries! mangos!”
Most kids don’t get to meet their sponsors, and know them only through letters, pictures, and the support their family receives, so we both felt lucky and special to have this opportunity. I could tell she had been anxious and excited to meet me too, and after we ate lunch, she braided my hair and beat me in a jump rope contest.
Later that night I went to visit her home, and in the candlelight of the “load sharing” power outages, she showed off her English skills telling me about her favorite games, her favorite subject (science), and how she could make candles stay upright by melting them to the wooden table. Her family was gathered in the small house, and her mother showed me the cooking area attached to the main room and explained via interpreter that Parbati always likes to ask for her dinner in English.She was proud to talk about her daughter’s progress in school, and Parbati gave a big smile when she shared her latest test score, but frowned a little when she added “but it’s not 100.”
The way that Ganga Ghar’s sponsorship program is set up, it has a huge impact not only on the children themselves, but also on their families. The help with food, clothing, and education expenses takes a great burden off the family income and allows kids like Parbati to attend private schools that give them the best preparation for their future.
If I had questioned the effectiveness of sponsorship before, here was my proof. After only one year in a private school, Parbati was speaking English at a higher level than kids who were about to graduate from public schools. As the trip progressed, I spoke with more public school kids and others who weren’t in school, and realized the vast difference between them and the children who are able to attend private school. The thought of all the unrealized potential among the kids is staggering: future doctors, teachers, engineers, and more that don’t know their capabilities.
Parbati might have been in that group a year ago.
Cynical people will say that one person can’t make a difference, but during my trip in Nepal I met about a hundred kids like Parbati who prove otherwise. Sponsoring gives an individual the chance to really impact the lives of a child and their family, and after meeting Parbati, I know just how big that impact can be.