The Story Beyond the Sponsorship


Whenever a "sponsor letter" comes from the Ilula Children's Home, I think about what child sponsorship means. It has been my privilege to sponsor children myself, but also to see firsthand how sponsorship benefits children -- with the chance to go to school, to be in families, to have the needs of their hearts and bodies and minds met. When I visit orphanages in Kenya, I get to talk with the children behind the neatly-handwritten letters. When I get a letter from a child I sponsor, I think about all the stories that I learn when I enter a children's home in Kenya and the children take my hands and sit with me and talk.

Not long ago, I spent the afternoon sitting in the grass next to a soccer field where children from the orphanage were playing games. Next to me sat Clara.

Clara is a shy 12-year-old girl, who I diagnosed with HIV a little over a year ago. I had come to the children's home to have dinner with my Kenyan friends who run the place, and as the evening went on, I got the "Oh, by the way…" request for medical care that is familiar to a doctor in any off-work setting. I never go to a children's home without my stethoscope, no matter how social the visit was intended. Someone is always sick.

This particular "oh, by the way…" turned into shepherding coughing, sick Clara through our AMPATH clinic. I diagnosed Clara with HIV and ushered her into the world of HIV treatment.

On this sunny Saturday afternoon by the soccer field, Clara gradually shared more and more with me about her health, her medicines, her memories of when she was diagnosed with HIV, and her adventures in class 6.  Clara is incredibly proud of how much weight she has gained since starting the HIV medicines. Her grades in school have also improved as dramatically as her CD4 count. She is still very small for her age, but she is no longer the scrawny, sickly looking child I saw a year ago.

Bit by bit, as we sat in the grass, we talked about how hard it is to take the medicines, what it means that there is no cure for HIV (but how the medicines can make the virus "sleep"), and what her future might look like.

I was sad and angry when Clara's HIV test came back positive (though not surprised), but she remembers that day when I first took her to the HIV clinic as "a gift from God." Clara had been sick, sick, sick, and during her previous hospitalizations, no one had been able to figure out what was wrong with her. Clara told me that the other children had made fun of her for being so small and sickly. She was worried she was going to die, just like her parents.

And now, with the help of the HIV medicines, she sees herself as "strong and healthy." And, happily, she is right.

I love to learn the stories of these children of my heart. I did not write this to try to convince anyone reading it to give money. And I know that $100 a month is not a small thing -- but it also means CLARA, strong and healthy and laughing and doing well in school and feeling loved. 

(And look at what today's sponsor letter - from a "sister" to Clara - says: "I want to change the world by finding the cure of AIDS that's why I am trying my best in school")

sponsor letter


Posted at 14:59


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