Today I received two letters from Compassion kids and something I've never received before, a stack of letters from each of the directors of the 25 centers that my kids attend. The pastor letters help fill in the things that you don't get from the kids' letters, like what it's really like to live in the area where they live, like Henrique's pastor in Brasil:
Our church is located in Catuana, a poor community with about 7,000 inhabitants. Some parents work in companies outside Catuana, hampering the education of their children due to the displacement. We have suffered from the increased use of drugs by our teens. Each time the victims are younger. Girls continue, even if discreetly, entering into prostitution. Because a highway divides Catuana, there is a great flow of traffic, so child prostitution always happens here.
How does Compassion help. In addition to several other things, the pastor says:
Through much effort, we have convinced some young people to leave their addicted lifestyle and go to drug rehabilitation centers. The church has been repsonsible for keeping them there until the end of their treatment.
Leniel's pastor in the Dominican Republic says
The community of Ponce comes the poorest and most neglected children in the community. These children come from families with very limited resources and grow up in an environment surrounded by crime, drugs, and violation of the laws...I have been able to witness the transformation in our children with regard to their education. Even parents have changed their habits and are now making sure that their children stay at home after attending the center rather than wandering the streets without reason.
Theresa is from Ghana and her pastor writes:
Challenges in our farming community are a high unemployment rate, high rural urban migration, low income levels, broken families, parental neglect, child abuse, high illiteracy rates, idol worship and inadequate toilet facilities. There are only three public toilets in the community, but we have 21,000 people living here. I see the Compassion Center positively changing one child at a time. Caregivers report that the basic needs of the children are now being met.
One of the pastors from Kenya (there are 10) describes his community:
Siany Church is located in one of the slums of Kisumu Town. A good portion of the land is flat and during heavy rainfall it is seriously flooded. The drainage system is not well dealt with and the population is high, hence we experience cholera outbreaks during rainy seasons. A good number of houses are tin roofed and mud walled. It becomes more difficult when it rains because some houses get flooded, putting the child's life at risk. HIV/AIDS prevalence in this area is also very high so that either one of the parents is dead or both are alive but infected and on drugs. malnutrition and social problems like prostitution, criminality and indifference are some of the immediate notable trends currently having a stronghold in the slums.
Looking at the positive, he adds:
With the short history of the Center, great and tremendous results have been realized. Though we are not able to alleviate poverty in this community, there is some improvement in the families who have children at the center. At least the sponsored children are able to go to school in full uniform. We are also able to pay for children's remedial fee, whereas other children are sent back home and cannot stay in school. Health screenings are being done once a year. Social standards are very low, but through support, the center has initiated programs which have helped sponsored children improve in interaction with other children. The sponsored children are disciplined, responsible, neat, physically healthy and above all, God-fearing.
Another pastor in Kenya says:
One challenge we have as a center is lack of clean water. Mostly the water available is salty, which causes respiratory tract infections in the children. Compassion is trying to curb this by providing water filters to the caregivers.
The pastor of the center in Uganda says:
Our sponsored children attend Center programs and are equipped with livelihood skills. They receive computer training. They know the consequences of drug abuse. They are taught about personal hygiene, eating a balanced diet and the benefits of sexual purity. The children's talents are also developed through sports and music competitions. Children even participate in service opportunities to help the elderly.
The pastor of the center where little Fred, to whom I feel the closest, writes:
A dilapidated area and most of them do their living the hard way. Some of them have no decent houses. Children sometimes are not properly taken care of. You an see children roaming around the streets with no slippers on, or no shorts or shirts. Most of the parents don't even have enough money to see a doctor whenever their children are sick.
Again, the difference Compassion makes:
For the past six years we have witnessed the transformation of our children in the Center. Children have learned proper table manners. They have also improved in the way they relate to others. They are taught to think or imagine their future dreams, not in a selfish manner, but in humbleness. Change is constant and we fully trust the Lord He will be with us all throughout.
All of the pastors stress very strongly the difference that sponsor letters make in the life of the children, some of whom have never heard anything positive said about them from their families, or have never been told before that they are loved.
When I see that Compassion, Int'l gets the highest rating among charitable organizations, when I see how they go the extra mile to make the sponsored children as much a part of your life (and vice versa) as possible, when the pastors write these letters to make you more aware of what is going on in the projects (each letter is a page long) and when I read things like the letter I got recently from Miche which begins "Today, I am so pleased to be writing to you. It is like a water spring running in my heart." and when I read things like I did from Samuel today that he's been performing better in his academic work and recently won an award for being the most disciplined student in his class, I know that I may not be changing the world, but through Compassion, I am making a little difference in the lives of a few children. And that ain't bad.