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May – the young footballer | A rising female star in Myanmar

13-year-old May was introduced to football at age nine – little did she know that she would be enrolled in an academy and winning prizes for her regional team just a few years later! Living in an impoverished community in Myanmar, May’s family often struggles to make ends meet, but World Vision provides support by helping them with school materials, rice and mosquito nets.

May practices in the 2,000 capacity stadium on a grass pitch. Football training is her favourite part of the week. Her position hasn’t come easily, but May also knows she’s lucky – not everyone has the talent or circumstances to reach the top. “My brother was a qualified player in the area where we live. He is really into football. However, when we both went in for an interview to qualify to attend the Institute of Sports and Physical Education, I was the one chosen,” said May. Since then, she has made her parents and brother proud.

“My father plays football with me whenever I need someone to practice with,” said May. Her father owns a shop that sells rice and curry near an area popular with tourists. World Vision provides their family with school materials, rice and mosquito nets.

At the academy a proper nutritious meal program is arranged for all the girls. May works hard to balance training with her schoolwork. The football training session in the morning is from 6-7am and the evening session resumes from 3-5pm. School lessons slots in inbetween from 8am until 12pm.

 

Friends are vital for May and football helps create a team spirit. “My friends call me Thay Thay (meaning small) because I am so small. They love me very much,” May smiles.

 

May shows off the picture of her accepting the prize taken at the U14 Girls’ Regional Championship for Southeast Asia 2015, in Vietnam. Her team made Myanmar proud; reaching third-place and the prize for “Fair play”.

She has made her parents very proud of her. Her team won first prize in a match against another town. “It was the most amazing moment to win first prize and receive a cash award. The success is also the result of support from my parents,” said May. “I sometimes help my parents at their shop,” she said. “I gave the cash award to my father and mother. I am trying hard to help my parents open a bigger shop that sells rice and curry,” said May.

 

“I also try not to miss out on my studies. I don’t want to fail them,” says May. She does her schoolwork every day after 5pm when she finishes her football training. “It was because of my mother’s encouragement to attend the Institute of Sports and Physical Education, that I enrolled,” she said.

 

May’s brother introduced her to football when she was nine and she’s loved it ever since. Whenever her brother needs someone to play football with, she’s all too eager. Out of the two of them, she’s been the one fortunate enough to be chosen to attend the football academy. She is the second youngest of four siblings and her father said she has made the family and the country proud of her.

World Vision’s work in Myanmar started in the 1980s. In that time we’ve focused on providing healthcare, education and skills training to children living in the poorest communities, and giving a helping hand to families like May’s, providing them with better economic security.

Giving back comes full circle

Former sponsored child Reni has built a successful career and gone on to sponsor children herself.

For Indonesian-born Reni Setianingrum, child sponsorship has been a gift that lasts a lifetime. The long-term support she received has had a lasting impact not only on Reni’s life, but also on the Australians who sponsored her – and now the children she herself has gone on to sponsor.

Reni, now 38, was sponsored by Tasmanian couple Lyn and Norm Huett when she was seven. At the time she was living in a Lombok orphanage, where her mother worked as a cook.

Inspired by Lyn and Norm’s letters, Reni began learning English. “It definitely gave me hope for me to keep on going, to study, and to be a good kid. Knowing that someone on the other side of the world, knowing that they care about me and making me feel part of the family, knowing life is not so bad, kept me going as a student,” she said.

Reni studied hard and finished school. She then secured a job on a mine in Indonesia. In 2006, she applied for a mining job in South Australia – and got it.

In 2013, Reni travelled to Tasmania to meet Lyn and Norm and personally thank them for the important role they played in her life. “It was amazing,” Reni said. “It’s like a dream come true, meeting the people that are part of me, who I am and what I’ve become now.”

Lyn and Norm also later met Reni’s parents, being among a proud group of family and friends attending her university graduation ceremony in Melbourne. The graduate diploma in management helped Reni gain her current role as a contracts coordinator in Adelaide.

Reni credits being sponsored as the spark that drove her to achieve. Aware of the opportunities she gained, she wanted to give something back – and now sponsors two children through World Vision.

“I want to repay the favour, I want to give hope to another child in a similar situation to where I was years ago,” Reni explained.

In 2013, she had the chance to meet her own sponsored child, Aldo, in Peru. “His family are farmers and [sponsorship has] given them facilities and training to manage animals. My donations also mean Aldo can do things like study and play soccer.”

Reni is living proof that giving to those in need can shape entire lives. “Sponsorship doesn’t just improve living conditions,” Reni said, “it gives children hope – and that’s the greatest gift of all.”

Reni with her former sponsors Lyn and Norm at her graduation ceremony in Melbourne.

Support children like Reni, who deserves the opportunity to grow up and live healthily. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child .

A small amount of money transformed 400 children’s lives and counting

Sophie Hoult, VisionFund International

Eight years ago, Cho Cho and her husband were living separately in order to make ends meet. He was in Malaysia working as a taxi driver; and she lived near Myanmar’s capital doing what she could to survive.

While struggling with her husband’s absence in a community where men have more authority Cho Cho noticed that young children were lacking basic life skills that was affecting them at school later in life.

With a dream and a small amount of money Baby Bright Education Centre was born.

When we arrive at the centre on a hot day in January the nursery children are asleep. Lined up in rows, quiet and still. In the next room, teenagers are dutifully yelling responses at the teacher, as they work towards their enrolment exams.

Not long after we arrive, the rows begin to stir, and small, joyful faces file past, on the way to their lunchboxes. After lining up to have their hair combed, the afternoon begins, and the small sleeping figures transform into a mass of smiles, curious gazes and boundless energy.

Cho Cho smiles at the children and tells me that a year after the school opened, she heard about VisionFund (World Vision’s microfinance institution) through a friend and received her first loan of about NZD$290. With it she proudly purchased supplies for the pre-school, something she has done with a subsequent 10 loans from VisionFund. Baby Bright is so successful her husband moved home from Malaysia and he too now runs his own business thanks to VisionFund. Currently they earn NZD$2,170 a month, more than double their income eight years ago.

As we move through the centre, I realise how it is only the size of a small house. Cho Cho has managed to utilize this space for nearly 400 students, over 100 of which are nursery children. Space is definitely an issue, so Cho Cho tells me she continues to work and save, in the hope of expanding and improving the lives of more children.

She turns to me with her big smile and shares her dreams of opening a private school, and continuing to combine her business nous with her calling to serve and empower children. As the economy in Myanmar continues opening itself up to the world, women like Cho Cho will be at the centre of preparing children for the global world, and giving the next generation the best possible start.

Support people like Cho Cho, who shares the same belief as us that children deserves the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by donating to our Giving with Vision fund.

A $4 meal for a taste of home

For Mayssa, a Syrian mother displaced by conflict, the $4 she rations for each meal is enough to give her three children a little taste of home. What would you be able to make with $4 per meal?

What to cook today? It’s a question posed by many families regardless of their background or nationality. For Mayssa, a Syrian mother of who fled to Lebanon, the priority of her meal planning is cost. “I set a limit of four dollars each meal,” she says.

Before the outbreak of war, Mayssa had never needed to budget for her family’s meals. Mayssa fled Syria in 2013 with her husband Abed, and her three children, Shahed, 10, Amjad, 6, and Omar, 5 after their home was bombed and destroyed. They had hidden in a neighbour’s basement during a bomb attack and emerged to find their house and possessions destroyed. The place they had once called their home was nothing more than a burning pile of rubble. This prompted Abed to ask Mayssa; “what are we still doing here? What more shall we wait for?”

“We knew we would have a hard time supporting our children in Lebanon, but at least they would be safe” said Mayssa. When they first arrived in Lebanon, Abed supported his family by working day and night as a labourer. He travelled daily an hour and a half each way to Beirut to find work.

“My husband provided food and shelter, and we were very grateful. However, in the past two years, his health deteriorated and he couldn’t breathe properly anymore,” said Mayssa. Abed’s asthma had become worse and he was no longer able tolerate the dust and sand. He was forced to choose between his health and his work in construction. Despite the financial setback, Mayssa was happy her husband chose to take care of himself.

Mayssa and her family became forced to rely on income from her sister, Ghayda, though Ghayda also had three children of her own to provide for. “When she learned of Abed’s situation, Ghayda stepped up and informed us that she will work in the field to help us in supporting both families, and she did,” says Mayssa.

Even with Ghayda’s hard work, there was scarcely enough to go around to feed nine people. Mayssa recalled; “every day I woke up and asked myself: how will I feed all six children?”

Mayssa and Ghayda’s situation improved when they were added to World Vision’s monthly cash assistance programme. “I can only say that it was life-changing,” said Mayssa. Receiving the cash assistance meant being able to cook the Syrian meals the children craved; food that reminded them of home.

“I know I have to use the money wisely – even when it comes to food. Therefore, I set a limit of $4 to each meal,” she explained.

Meal preparation has become a family event with Omar helping with the shopping and Shahed helping in the kitchen. Peas and rice is a family favourite and they gather together for lunch each day. “Its delicious!” shouts Omar.

While serving food for her children, Mayssa shared the recipe:

“In a big pot I add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the oil is warm enough, I add the meat until it is no longer raw. I then add the peas and mix them with the meat. I wait for a couple of minutes before adding the spices. For this, I use one tablespoon of black pepper and three cubes of Maggi seasoning and I mix. At the same time, I wash the rice. In a separate pot, which I fill most of it with water, I pour in the rice and wait for it to boil. Usually, I use one cup of rice to two cups of water, but when I’m cooking for the entire family, I sort of lose count,”, she joked. “Shahed helps me in stirring the rice every couple of minutes. When the rice is almost done, I add the peas in the same pot. My last step would be adding one tablespoon of salt to the meal. Finally, I turn off the heat and wait for 10-15 min for the meal to cool off.” Mayssa prepared three plates and served in each plate Peas & Rice. In separate glass cups, she poured yogurt and explained, “it is a Syrian tradition to eat yogurt with this meal.”

Ingredients for ‘Peas & Rice’:

1 bag of long-grain white rice
Half a bag of frozen peas
Meat
1 tablespoon of Black pepper
3 cubes of Maggi seasoning
2 tablespoons of salt

The Syrian crisis is now in its seventh year. Over a million Syrian refugees currently reside in neighbouring Lebanon. Our work in Lebanon has been providing Syrian refugees with education, WASH, child protection and cash voucher support to households. So far, we have helped 240,886 people in Lebanon, but many more need help. Find out how you can support our work in Syria.

World Day against Trafficking in Persons

In the next hour, dozens of young people living in Myanmar and Cambodia will leave home with the promise of bright jobs in big cities that will open doors to a better life. Unfortunately, this dream is often a nightmare.

Upon arriving in a richer country, they’re forced to work jobs that are exploitative. They work long hours for little to no pay. They are forced to do tasks that are dangerous. And they are left to stay in places that are humiliating. Today, on World Day against Trafficking in Persons, we advocate against human trafficking as a crime that exploits women, children and men.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally.

 

Millions are trapped in jobs they were coerced or deceived into and which they cannot leave – primarily forced labour and sexual exploitation. Women and girls represent the greater share of forced labour victims, 11.4 million, or 55% of all trafficked in persons.

Here are the stories of trafficking survivors who compel us to continue our anti-trafficking work.

Phyu: Sold to become a bride

Phyu was 17 when she left school and decided to leave her home in Myanmar. A broker tricked her to work in China with promises of a good job.

When she arrived, a Chinese man paid $3,200 USD for her.

She was wed, beaten unconscious, tied and gagged before being found by police and returned to Myanmar.

After her return, World Vision helped her to attend sewing training and provided sewing machine to start her business. Now, Phyu is an advocate on trafficking and shares her experiences to educate other young women.

Pannha*: Smuggled into another country, jailed with her baby, forced to beg

(*Pannha’s name has been changed to protect her identity and safety.)

As a widow with a five-month old baby, Pannha trusted a relative when he offered her a job in Malaysia. Poor and hopeful to improve their living conditions, she accepted the offer.

Every day, she and her baby were dropped off early in the morning and brought home around midnight. Pannha and the baby worked over 10 hours a day. On some days, she was forced to beg on the streets.

“I did not deserve to fall in this trap, but unfortunately I did, and I had to endure this,” Panha says with upset face.

Although she worked hard hours, the money never came.

She was eventually arrested, thrown in jail and nearly had her baby taken from her. After revealing that she was cheated into this life, she was sent home to Cambodia.

Through World Vision, Pannha received counselling and was provided with basic living essentials: food, tools for farming and training. Now, she grows cabbage around the house with a few mango, coconut, pomelo and orange trees, and wishes to enjoy her future.

Suon: Labouring for pennies a day on a ship

In Cambodia, Suon owned plots of land but although he worked hard, the income he received wasn’t enough to support his family. He decided to work in Thailand and was told he would lift and move rice sacks.

Instead, he endured heavy lifting on Thai transport ships for 15 hours a day without a weekend. Suon worked hard, with the expectation of earning a lot of money to bring home to his wife and children.

One day, he asked permission from his manager to visit home and his wages. He was refused. Suon kept asking for the next few months but he was not allowed.

“I was afraid that I would not be allowed to come home forever,” adds Suon.

Suon was only allowed to return home after lying to his manager – “I told him [the site manager] a lie that my wife and child died, then he let me go home,” Suon says.

He returned home with only 1,100 baht ($34 USD).

Now, Suon reflects on his beautiful life with his wife and seven children. “I am happy to be at home working on a plot of land. What I enjoy the most is spending time with my children. I can take a rest as much as I want,” Suon says. World Vision provided the family with a water pump motor to increase their harvest and discusses with other men the dangers of trafficking.

You can help by signing up with World Vision child sponsorship programme where people like Phyu, Pannha and Suon has a second chance in life to live a full life. Click here to Sponsor A Child today!

Perseverance Is Her Story

By Michael Czobit

Yui near her home in Jatujak.

Yui’s university classes started at 8 in the morning and ended at 4 in the afternoon. Work started at 6. Sometimes, her shift would be just a few hours. Other times, Yui would be at the 7-Eleven until 2 a.m. Then in the morning, back to class. Depending on the day, she’d also make the time to take her grandmother to the hospital for hemodialysis, which was needed three times a week. “I was very tired,” Yui says. “I felt discouraged, depressed, stressed. But I didn’t lose hope.”

It’s February 2015, and I’m sitting at her home in the Jatujak community in Bangkok. Yui, 21, is actually a nickname. Her first name is Pairin. She tells me how she had found ways to cope. She’d read manga (Japanese comics), talk to friends and listen to rock music. “I am happy that you are here today,” she says. “I am glad that I can tell you my story, because telling you my story also encourages me. Telling you about my hardships, my pain, is relieving.”

She no longer works at the convenience store, and a few months earlier she finished her degree in finance and banking studies. Her reaction to earning her degree is understated. “Life as usual,” she says. But don’t be mistaken: Yui was happy. I could understand her anticlimactic reaction—she had worked so hard and still, there was more to do—but I disagreed with her assessment.

Yui had recently passed on a job at a bank and was now waiting to hear back about another in the finance department at a Thai brewery. She was hopeful about her prospects. Why she wanted one job over the other came down to two factors: location and hours, both favourable at the brewery, which would allow her to continue to care for her 70-year-old grandmother, Ampai.

Yui’s parents separated when she was born and she has lived with her grandmother ever since. Yui’s uncle, his partner and his daughter also live at the home. But caring for Ampai, who has struggled with several illnesses, including diabetes and failing kidneys, has mostly been Yui’s responsibility. Thankfully, her uncle has a job that covers the majority of Ampai’s medical expenses.

My own grandma had hemodialysis when I was young. My family took care of her; although it was a group effort, my mom did the majority of the care. The countless appointments and worries can be overwhelming. I always admired my mom at how she carried on during those years, and I knew that what Yui had managed, caring for her grandmother while attending university and keeping a job, required extraordinary effort. But I had no doubt about her strong feelings for Ampai. “I love my grandmother very much,” she says. “I don’t want to leave her by herself.”

While Yui grew up, Ampai was the family’s breadwinner. Yui’s grandfather died soon after she was born, and to support her, Ampai worked as a street sweeper. So yes, hard work runs in the family.

Yui and her grandmother at their home.

Also while growing up, Yui became sponsored by a Canadian through World Vision’s sponsorship project in Jatujak. Before her granddaughter’s sponsorship began in March 2006, when Yui was in Grade 7, Ampai wasn’t earning enough to buy Yui’s school supplies, uniforms and books. That changed, and in more ways than just materially speaking: Yui learned. She participated in educational field trips and day camps. She took part in leadership and health workshops, including one about HIV and AIDS that, too, changed her life.

It is never easy to speak with someone about health issues, and when I share personal information about someone or her family, I always ask for permission, which Yui gave me. In 2009, Yui’s father, Ampai’s son, learned he was HIV-positive. This news scared Yui. Her knowledge about the disease was limited and her father’s status strained their relationship. Two years later, in her first year of university, Yui attended an HIV and AIDS workshop held by World Vision. It was a revelation. “When I received the training, I learned how to live normally with my father, how to spend time together,” she says. Her fear went away and their relationship improved. She says she is now close with her father and that their bond has been renewed. (World Vision has also supported Yui’s father with medical assistance.)

In all her time as a sponsored child, Yui stayed committed to her education. She desires a job so she can support her grandmother, and she dreams of paying off a school loan and buying a home that sits on non-government-owned land. Through her sponsorship, which lasted into her first year of university, Yui, participated in a bachelor’s degree project that paid for her books, uniforms and some home expenses. “I want to thank the sponsor for giving me an education,” she tells me. But I know that as much as she has received, Yui has already matched, and in many ways surpassed, it in her own efforts.

In her last years of schooling before university, Yui had taken a vocational course in accounting where she learned about the stock market, which sparked her desire to earn a banking  degree. Just as she has never invested in the stock market looking for a quick buck, she earned her success with perseverance. Not easy to accomplish, and impossible not to admire.

This article was featured on worldvision.ca

Jhumri Biswal is a beauty with a vision for the disabled

By Impuri Ngayawon Shimray and the Media team, World Vision India

Out of 46 contestants from all over India, Jhumri Biswal, age 20 from Bhubaneswar, is one the 12 shortlisted finalists for the first ever Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired to be held at Mumbai in January 2017 by the National Association for the Blind (NAB).

Jhumri at her typewriter.

At the tender age of eight Jhumri was hit by a truck and sustained a head injury. The blow to the head lead to a breakage of an optical nerve and after a few days, Jhumri lost all sight. Once home, Jhumri was taken out of school, because she was “blind.” Jhumri was happy in the beginning because she could miss the drudgery of school, but soon realised that her classmates were moving on and were learning and experiencing new things. Blindness restricted her mobility and that affected her playtime, going out, hanging out with friends, and having fun. Sadness and depression started setting in and the feeling of being left out and always being dependent on others ate into her. Jhumri’s parents understood this and felt helpless.

A local health worker suggested Jhumri join the local school that taught blind children through Braille. This was a life-changing experience for Jhumri, because it gave her a channel to learn new things and grow. She continued to learn through the tactile writing system for two years, after which she returned to regular school to continue her education. Braille books were available for students till grade seven. But after that, she had to depend on an audio recorder and a Braille typewriter that she received from World Vision’s outreach program. Her sister would read the chapters from the book and Jhumri would make notes on the Braille typewriter. Her speed at typing also grew in these years.

With her interest in knowledge and the zest to learn more, Jhumri was motivated to participate in community activities, especially on the issues of rights of special children. She participated in World Vision India’s ‘Our Voice Assembly’, a platform for children with disabilities to come together to talk about the issues they face, learn their rights and entitlements, identify challenges; and advocate for themselves. Jhumri was part of many consultations of children with disabilities at the state and national level, where they came up with recommendations which were then sent to various political leaders. Jhumri is one of 2,300 children with disabilities that are part of ‘Our Voice Assemblies’ across 18 states in India.

Jhumri was later chosen to represent the voices of children with disabilities at the World Vision Triennial Council in Tanzania. In Tanzania, she highlighted the apathy of the current educational system towards disability — about 99% of children with disability don’t go to school because of a lack of study material, disabled-friendly spaces and trained teachers.

But these barriers did not stop Jhumri from continuing her education. She is pursuing her graduation (3rd year) at Ravenshaw University in Cuttack. In early 2016, she heard of the first ever Miss India Contest for the Visually Impaired organised by the National Association for the Blind (NAB) and wanted to participate. She believes this contest will give her a platform to share her story and show others that disabilities need not be limiting.

Jhumri is looking forward to the finals in January 2017 and while she may win or not win, she is already a winner with a vision!

A Father’s Love

by Ramon Lucas Jimenez, Field Communications Specialist, World Vision Philippines

How do we measure a father’s love? Is it the amount of food he sets on the table for his family? Is it the beautiful and expensive material things he gives to his children? Or is it the attention he gives to his family and the quality time he spends with his children?

For Mark, an eight-year-old boy from a rural community in the southern part of Cebu, Philippines, a father’s love can be measured by the simple things his father does for him and his older brother to make them feel loved and special.

Despite being raised in a simple home, Mark has no problem being happy and cheerful every day, because his father is always there to provide him with his basic needs.

Aside from being supported by World Vision’s child sponsorship programme, the genuine love of their father helps Mark and his older brother live a life that is full.

Each day, his father wakes him and his brother up and lets them prepare for school. While they take a bath in a makeshift bathroom in their backyard, his father prepares food for their breakfast and for their packed lunches.

Mark enjoys breakfast time because they eat together and his father always prepares his favourite meal, fried eggplant.

After breakfast, his father often walks with him to school, which is just a stone’s throw away from their house. His father sometimes waits for Mark outside his school if he is not busy attending to his small vegetable and fish farm. He also helps his sons with their assignments at night before he tucks them into bed.

Single father

Chris, Mark’s father, has never left their village since he was born there. He is a farmer, a trade he learned from his father. He grows root crops, fruit trees and farm animals as a means of earning income.

Chris’ wife left their family. For years, Chris has singlehandedly raised his two sons with a father’s sustaining providence and a mother’s loving care.

It is also in their small village where he met a woman who eventually became his wife and the mother of his two sons. They were a complete and happy family then.

After more than 10 years of being married, Chris’s livelihood was not flourishing. Being a man who hadn’t set foot in college, his capability for supporting his family is limited to the meagre income he earns after he sells his harvests.

Hardships continued to follow, which made Chris’s wife leave for a decent-paying job in a distant city. After years of working away from her family, she never came back.

“She found another one,” shares Chris. “I wasn’t mad at her. All I thought about after I heard the news was the welfare of my children, now that they didn’t have a mother.”

Chris promised himself that he would double his efforts to provide for the needs of his two sons.

Being a loving father, Chris also makes sure that the motherly needs of his sons are attended to. He talks to them and guides them if they have problems in school; he also cooks for them and makes sure that they are nourished.

“I still want my children to feel a mother’s love. That is why I try my best to provide it to them. Sometimes when I am busy, I send them to their grandmother,” adds Chris.

World Vision helps Chris

Chris was thankful when he found out that his eldest son’s education would be sponsored by World Vision. His son is provided with school materials and timely gifts. Chris also shares the gifts with his youngest son, Mark.

“World Vision is a big help to our family, especially in my kids’ education,” says Chris.

Loving father

Indeed, Mark and his older brother are blessed to have a loving and caring father. They still visit their mother, who has already settled with a new family. But for them, their papa Chris is enough for them as their father and mother.

“Love nako si Papa kay palangga ko niya (I love my father because he takes care of me),” says Mark while sitting beside his father.

Planting a brighter future

By Xuan Thiem Le, World Vision Communications Officer, Vietnam

D410-0174-09-cropAting Ai with his cousins and a birthday greeting card he received from his Australian sponsor.

As a recent graduate of Quang Nam Forestry College in central Vietnam, Ating Ai, 22, speaks with passion about protecting woodlands and the natural environment.

His enthusiasm is not just a reflection of his academic studies. It arises out of painful firsthand experience of slash-and-burn farming techniques that kept his family desperately poor.

As a child, Ai camped out with his family on their plots of land in the hills around their home in the Dong Giang district of Quang Nam province.

“They cut trees in deep forests and burned them to plant more upland rice,” he recalls. “Unintentionally, they destroyed their forests and caused soil erosion.”

The primitive farming methods led to ever dwindling harvests. Although Ai’s father could sometimes supplement the family’s diet by trapping wild animals, they went hungry for three or four months every year.

To make matters worse, the desperate quest for food persuaded Ai’s parents to set their children working in the fields rather than sending them to school.

None of Ai’s three elder sisters completed more than two years of elementary education. For a long time it looked as though Ai might never enter a classroom at all.

Seed of Hope

The establishment of a World Vision development program brought dramatic changes for Ai, his family, and their community.

Ai was among the first children in his village to become a World Vision sponsored child.

One of the immediate benefits was Ai began receiving support to attend school at the ripe age of 9.

“I would have [remained] illiterate if my parents were not encouraged by teachers to send me to school when World Vision came to my village,” he says. “I still remember how joyful I was when I first came to my first class — although most of my classmates were several years younger than I.”

One of Ai’s most vivid childhood memories is running home to show his parents his certificate of merit after a stellar performance in his first year in school.

Further encouragement came from Ai’s Australian sponsor.

Ai still keeps and treasures the first letter he received from her. It was a card for his birthday — something that had never been celebrated before. The card was the first piece of correspondence Ai had received in his life.

“I still remember the strange joy when, for the first time in my life, I held in my hands such a beautiful greeting card,” he says.

Things began changing for Ai’s mom and dad, too. The World Vision development program taught local farmers improved agricultural techniques and animal husbandry.

As their agricultural yields grew and their fortunes improved, the family began raising cows and growing acacia trees to supply wood chips for the papermaking industry.

World Vision also supported villagers to set up a traditional community house is used for community meetings, harvest festival celebrations, and a place for children to play.

Ai helped carve and color designs on the building’s wooden beams.

“My favourite subject at school was arts. It helped me a lot to give a helping handing hand in decorating the house,” he says.

Future Growth

Ai’s mother died of liver cancer when he was 14; three years later Ai’s father succumbed to the same disease.

But by then Ai had sufficient resources to finish school and go on to higher education. As a college graduate, he hopes to secure a position as a forest ranger, preferably serving the community where he grew up.

Ai’s life experiences have given him a profound respect for those who reach out to help others.

As a youngster he wanted to become a soldier because he often saw them abandon their guard duties to help with the rice harvest or repair villagers’ homes.

“I still keep those caring images in my heart,” he says.

Today, he hopes many more children like him will find sponsors.

“I learned from my parents’ farm that plants grow strong from fertile soil,” he says. “I experienced through my life that my sponsor’s love and care fertilized my hope to shoot up to a brighter future.”

This story was featured in World Vision Magazine.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

by Michelle Chun
World Vision Malaysia

My little bit is making a difference somewhere in the world; that’s what I’m conscious of everyday,” said child sponsor, Joyce Lai who is CEO of Educ8 Group Sdn Bhd as well as a merchandising company. Joyce currently sponsors two children through World Vision Malaysia.

Her first sponsored child was Shalini (age 14) from Kangayam, India, whom she sponsored from 2008 until early 2014 when World Vision successfully phased out of the area as the community is now self-sustainable.

“When I first decided to become a child sponsor in 2008, it was because I wanted to help children and was looking for ways to do so.”

A few months after becoming Shalini’s sponsor, Joyce went on a Sponsors’ Visit to Kangayam, where she saw firsthand how her contributions were being utilised to help Shalini and her community.

Joyce surrounded by children during her visit to Kangayam, India

Joyce surrounded by children during her visit to Kangayam, India

“The entire visit was overwhelming and emotional for me, mainly because I was really quite amazed at how my contribution was making such a big difference.

“If you look at the value of money today, RM65 is not much. What I like about World Vision’s model is that it’s all about sustainability: developing skills and investing in permanent solutions.

“It’s not about handouts or about giving for eternity; it’s about pulling them up to their feet and then giving them a little boost so they can carry on themselves,” she said.

During the visit, Joyce was also deeply affected by the work of World Vision’s field officers.

“I felt like my heart was expanding like a big balloon and would burst.

“They sacrifice and give up so much of their own lives, living with the communities to gain the trust so necessary to transformation; their faith must be very strong,” she said, tears welling in her eyes.

When Joyce returned home, she began corresponding with Shalini, who wrote back with tales of everyday life in school and at home. Once, Shalini sent her an entire scrapbook describing her family, community and interests.

In return, Joyce sent storyboards filled with images and short descriptions, introducing Shalini to her family and friends, her work and her travels. She would also send practical gifts.

Looking back on the six years in which she was able to journey with Shalini, Joyce hopes her letters and personal stories have inspired the teenager to hold on to hope.

“I believe we as child sponsors can be the ‘satellite’ that opens up their world to the possibilities beyond their circumstances. We plant hope and dreams in them so they can be inspired to do well in life,” she said.

Joyce finds it rewarding and liberating that Kangayam and the people there are now able to stand on their own feet and believes that their lives will continue to improve from there.

What was the best thing about being a child sponsor?, Joyce replied, “It is learning how every little bit counts in the path to sustainable change.

“Many of us tend to say, ‘Ah, someone else can do it lah.’ But when you’re conscious of what’s going on, you’d take the five minutes or spare what you can to be more caring and giving

“It’s my little bit that is making a difference somewhere in this world; that’s what I’m conscious of everyday,” she said.

Joyce beams as she proudly holds up the scrapbook her sponsored child, Shalini made for her.

Joyce beams as she proudly holds up the scrapbook her sponsored child, Shalini made for her.

Indeed, every bit counts. When you sponsor a child, at least six more children in the community benefit. To find out more about child sponsorship, please call +603 7880 6414 or email admin@worldvision.com.my.

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