What it was like to meet my sponsored child, Kaviya
Jane Mundy recounts her memorable trip to a CCFC-supported community in India
By Jane Mundy, CCFC child sponsor
I met Subha and Lipi with the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) in India at the Madurai airport one hot morning. During the two-hour drive to Kaviya’s village, I was excited and nervous. I hadn’t thought much about how Kaviya and her family would feel about meeting me or how the day would unfold.
Reading about how your donations are helping communities is heartwarming, but going there, meeting your sponsored child, that is something else.
As we drove through Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, Subha explained the work CCFC is doing here and in other villages. Sivakasi is hot and dry — ideal for the production of matches and fireworks.
We passed many match factories — huge concrete blocks with narrow slats, the only source of light and ventilation. This is where many children and women worked before organizations like CCFC came along. The mid-morning heat was oppressive; I couldn’t imagine how anyone could work for hours in these factories.
Subha told me that just 20 years ago this place was like 19th-century England. Child labour was rampant. I tried to get the images of children inside these hellish buildings out of my mind, to replace them with children dressed in their school uniforms sitting in classrooms.
Kaviya was wearing her school uniform. I could tell she was nervous, too. Even now, when I think about this moment, I get teary-eyed. I couldn’t believe the entire village (including 58 CCFC sponsored children) came to greet me, and what a greeting!
I was given garlands and blessings before the drummers and dancers performed. And, what a show. Yobu, 12, should be a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance? When Kaviya gave me a poster she made, which included a drawing of ice cream (she had asked my favourite food in a previous letter), I thought my heart was going to leap from my chest.
We walked to Kaviya’s home, which comprises a small outdoor “patio” filled with plastic water jugs and one room with a bed where Kaviya and her sister sleep. Their grandmother sleeps on the floor, and their father sleeps outside. They have a tiny black-and-white TV donated by the Indian government and floor-to-ceiling shelves brimming with their belongings. I sat on the one plastic chair. Their grandmother showed me a photograph of her daughter who died giving birth to Kaviya, and she started crying. I couldn’t suppress the tears any longer.
Next up, the community took us on a tour of their village. One family proudly showed me the bio-intensive garden — nutrition is a big issue here. I was shown how CCFC’s local partner SPEECH brought drinking water and grey water (gently used water that hasn’t come into contact with human waste) to the village as well as a simple box containing villagers’ anonymous written grievances. Everyone seemed so happy.
I gave Kaviya backpacks filled with gifts, and she was obviously overwhelmed. They had only seen TV ads about cosmetics. Kaviya, her sister and a friend tried the lipsticks and asked Lipi if they could only wear lipstick in the winter. A boy came running into their room — he wanted to play with her new football, but Kaviya told him she gets to play with it first after she sorts out her gifts. Lipi explained that you put hair conditioner on and look like a film star. The girls blushed. Her father was inquisitive and wondered if he too could use it. Kaviya was clearly not ready to give anything away. As for their grandmother, she was speechless and shocked to see so many gifts.
The neighbour girls were happy for Kaviya. (I was concerned they might be jealous or resentful and wondered if I should have brought a container of hotel amenities for everyone.) They chatted about how to wear cosmetics, particularly the glittery eyeshadow. Kaviya opened the bag with notebooks and crayons. They looked at the colour chart and thought the crayons were for making bindis (facial decoration). They had never seen so many different shades, and how could so many red colours be in one box?
“Our world is hot, hotter and hottest, so come when it is hot,” Subha advised. If you can’t visit, it means so much to send letters. If your sponsored child doesn’t hear from you, they might think you don’t like them. “Kaviya is so happy to see you,” Lipi told me. “She always wanted to be a doctor, and now she is more determined after meeting you. Kaviya and her family will pray for you every day.”
Kaviya asked if I will come back. Definitely. I don’t know who got more out of this visit, me or Kaviya. I do know that, of all the travelling I have done, this was the best trip.
About Christian Children’s Fund of Canada:
Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) is a child-centred international development organization and a member of ChildFund Alliance. For more than 55 years, CCFC has worked with children, communities, donors and other partners — changing lives through improved health, education and clean water. CCFC works in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas, to support more than 700,000 children, youth and community members.