Interviewed by Katherine Jones
In October 2016, Child Ambassador Anne Hicks traveled from her Seattle-area home to Kenya to run for Team World Vision in the Nairobi half-marathon. Along the way, she stopped in Ethiopia to fulfill a long-held dream: to meet the first child she sponsored through World Vision. Of all of her sponsored kids, Rahemet has always written Anne the longest and most emotive letters, fostering a special kinship between the two. Their much-anticipated meeting exceeded every expectation.
Getting from Point A to B (and C)
I flew 16 hours from Seattle to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, then took another 1-hour flight to Dessie. From there, it would have been a three-hour walk to the ADP where Rahemet lives, but because of local conflicts, World Vision deemed it too dangerous for me to travel. So instead, they drove Rahemet and father from their village to Dessie. At age 15, it was Rahemet’s first car ride—and her first time to get carsick.
When Rahemet and I met, words were not necessary. She was thrilled to meet me, and I to meet her. She walked right up to me and gave me the biggest hug, melted right into my arms. And her dad, Ali—he walked in all beaming, the brightest smile I’d ever seen. He hugged me, and while he couldn’t speak English, he kept touching his heart and raising his hands to heaven. He expressed so much joy and gratitude to me, and pride and excitement for his daughter.
I brought Rahemet a dress. Knowing the family was Muslim, I was careful to buy one that covered her. When I gave it to her, her eyes lit up and her father looked approving, so I assume it was appropriate. I also gave her a blue head scarf, which she skillfully put on right away. For the family, I brought a solar-powered flashlight because they have no electricity and live in a traditional mud hut.
Coffee Is King
Making, serving, and drinking coffee is a ritualized social event in Ethiopia. The production process—conducted by their version of a barista—takes about half an hour. They start with green coffee beans, roasted over a fire in a pan. After roasting, the beans in the pan are passed around for guests to sniff and appreciate the aroma. The beans are then ground and mixed into a coffee pot. The resulting brew, super-strong but not bitter, is then poured into teeny cups. They often serve it with popcorn.
On Overcoming the Awkward
How do you get past the awkward? I don’t know that you do. But the good thing is that the experience of being with your sponsored child is more powerful than the awkward. Plus, the World Vision staff [on the ground] are so good. Many of them, like our interpreter, are former sponsored children, so they recognize the special connection between sponsors and their kids. They know how to draw out the moment. Rahemet and I might have been unsure how to talk, but our interpreter was good at asking questions and facilitating conversation.
Advice from One CA to Another
As a CA, a visit to your sponsored child can provide you with some of your best storytelling material to then convey to an audience of potential sponsors. There’s nothing else like being able to see firsthand where your sponsored child gets her dirty water and see her living environment. To see firsthand what life is like for her. To sit on the same dirt floors, and experience the lack of running water and electricity.
To make the most of your opportunity, you’ll want to prepare before you go. Think of questions you want answered. When you’re there, ask about your child’s water situation, her education, and the other areas of community development. Ask questions such as, What do you do for income? If they’re farmers, What do you grow for crops? Gather their stories so you can bring them back and share them with your people. Meeting your sponsored child will change the way you talk about sponsorship.
And even if you can't make the journey, you can still pull from the stories of your CA friends when you share. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal!
Click here for more stories from the field!
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.