By Jan Hardy and Bert Elson, Sri Lanka child sponsors
Where to start?
Bert and I began our association with World Vision back in 1982 when our first child was born. Back in those days there was a Federal Government benefit, paid to all new mothers, called Child Endowment. I hadn’t known about this and therefore hadn’t counted on it. We were very aware of how fortunate we were to live in Australia, so it seemed to us quite fitting that this Child Endowment be redirected, via World Vision, to help children in some less fortunate place. Over the following 20 years we sponsored three children in Brazil, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, being connected with new children as projects eventually wound up in one area and moved to another.
In 2004 we were sent a profile of Niththiya and I sat down to write my introductory letter. I’d never heard of where she lived and wasn’t even sure how to correctly address our sponsor child. She had two names, but which one was her first name? I asked. A response came back almost immediately – “You can call me whatever you wish, but my name is Niththiya!”
Her letters were always interesting and lively and referenced things we’d previously written about. There was this wonderful spark of communication between us! (I have kept all her letters and pictures and was very touched, when we eventually met, that Niththiya likewise had kept all of ours.) We were mightily impressed that this young woman from a farming village had continued her education right through school and was currently completing tertiary studies in civil engineering. How inspirational is that?
I’m not exactly sure when it was we decided to visit Sri Lanka. It was partly in the knowledge that sooner or later our time would run out, that inevitably Niththiya would complete her studies and/or the World Vision project in that area would close, and we would lose that connection with someone who had become virtually a part of our extended family. We recognised that the chance to meet Niththiya and her family would be a wonderful experience. Once the idea took root, it was hard to step away from. We ran it past World Vision, did the paperwork and booked the tickets.