Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mebra and Isaac's Story

Look how big they've gotten!

Mebra and Isaac were brought to Amani when their mother died in childbirth. Their father, Simon, could not provide for them but visited them often and was the inspiration for this program. We were very excited when Mebra and Isaac returned home in the fall at three years old. They live with their older brother and Simon. Simon uses the sponsorship money to pay for a house girl to watch the twins while he works during the day. The twins are doing wonderfully at home and will begin school next year.  Here is a snapshot of our last meeting with Simon:
Simon sits across the table from us not making eye contact and speaking quietly so that we have to lean forward to hear. He is the father to three children- two of which are in our sponsorship program- and he rents a boda (motorcycle) to support his family. He is asking us to purchase the boda for him so that he doesn’t have to pay the rent on it any longer.  He tells us he is losing money by having to pay 8,000 shillings to rent it every day (4 USD).
“How much?” we ask.
“1.7 million shillings (700 USD).” He says.
We get a little angry. We don’t have that kind of money. We can't just dish out money left and right to whoever asks. Why would he think it’s okay to ask for so much when we are already giving him a supplementary income each month?
And then I stop and wonder:
Did we create this mentality?
We as a sponsorship program. We as westerns. We as humanitarians. We as a society.
We give hand outs and don’t make people work for it. We make them believe they can’t save money and do things for themselves and even if they can there is no point because we’ll just give it to them. We aren’t empowering them- we are making them reliant on aid, rather than empowering caregivers to provide for their own families.  We’re not helping them help themselves. From what we have seen, sponsorship in the form of monetary hand-outs is not at all sustainable. The service of long-term sponsorship, we believe can actually be a disservice to families and within communities here.
So we tell Simon no. No we won’t just give you 700 USD- not only because we don’t have it but because we don’t think that would actually help you in the long run. So we tell him if he can save half of it we will match what he saves and then he can buy his own boda (motorcycle). Once he has his own boda we will transition him out our sponsorship program because a boda man who owns his boda will be able to support three children.   
We believe that hand outs eventually need to stop .  That with any form of sponsorship, there should be a plan for transition.  We feel that financial planning, and helping Simon save for his own boda will be a great learning experience and in the long run will empower him to care for his own family. Sometimes a family needs that hand out to start out, and get back on their feet.  Long term we want all of our families to be able to provide for their children on their own and we think this plan to save for a boda is perfect for this specific situation.  We know that each situation will look different.  We will have to adapt the transition out of sponsorship to each family and their unique circumstances.
We are excited for the day that Simon can hold his had high, knowing he is the one who worked for the money to pay Mebra and Isaac’s school fees.  We look forward to the day home visits are no longer necessary, and sponsorship is no longer needed for Mebra and Isaac

-Megan & Kelsey

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