World Vision child sponsor Shannon, from Victoria, travelled to Uganda to meet his sponsored child, Geoffrey. He shares his reflections with us.
As the World Vision land cruiser negotiated the final few metres of the dusty brown track to the hand-made huts within the Area Development Program (ADP), a small group of women emerged chanting a welcoming song. I was in the middle of Uganda and had arrived at the home of Geoffrey, our sponsored child.
This was a huge contrast from seven years ago. My wife Reiki and I were in a shopping centre enjoying a hot chocolate and muffin when we noticed a World Vision stand with photos of children. How could we be indulging ourselves when there may have been children out there actually missing meals?
This was our first contact with Geoffrey; a person whose picture for many years since has sat on a mantelpiece next to those of our three children, Spencer, Jett and Zak. We’ve loved receiving updates on Geoffrey’s school and health progress, and of course new pictures.
This year, as a friend and myself were organising a trip to Africa, an email to World Vision made a visit to Uganda a possibility. After police checks and approval from Geoffrey’s family, the itinerary was set; I was about to experience what would become a highlight of our trip.
When you first arrive in Kampala you’re confronted with a large population of hardworking people who have limited opportunities. You may come across children sitting with their hands out begging, corrugated iron homes without running water, certainly no electricity and likely no toilets.
With my mind open to what we may be exposed to within the World Vision project, we excitedly awaited the staff who would take us there. After a quick tour of the area we were given a warm welcome from the local women, who had a song for us.
Meeting Geoffrey was pretty exciting. It was like meeting a relative for the first time. Geoffrey was very nervous but the soccer ball I gave him soon broke the ice. I did wish that my wife and three sons could have met Geoffrey, but the next best thing was Geoffrey talking via my mobile phone (I kid you not, Africa’s mobile phone service is better than Australia’s). It was pretty cool to see Geoffrey and his family in the middle of Uganda talking to my son and wife home in Australia.
We walked to see his school and where he walks daily to bring home water. We had a lovely meal with family and neighbours and I shared pictures of my Australian family and images of my son at school. It was great to see such a happy, healthy person with a nice, friendly family.
The contrast from the previously mentioned scenes in Kampala to the World Vision project was fantastic to see. There is awareness of HIV and AIDS. Ninety-eight percent of the locals now have working toilets and basic sanitation is maintained, and there is even propagation of seedlings and production of corn, pineapple, potatoes and bananas.
World Vision’s efforts have helped to establish a medical centre, primary schools and the development and upkeep of water pumps throughout the area. These successes mean they are now able to focus on increasing attendances at the schools.
To cut a longer story short, the World Vision project works. To think that the small amount annually that I personally give can make a difference to the lives of a family is remarkably humbling and rewarding.