COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – October 7, 2021 – Exchanging letters is the main way sponsors and sponsored children interact and build a relationship at Compassion International.
Sponsors are invited to write to their sponsored children, and children in Compassion’s program write to their sponsors at least twice a year.
However, once children graduate from the program and the sponsorship relationship comes to a close, the letters stop.
This year, for the first time ever, several Compassion alumni returned to write one last letter to their former sponsors in this inspiring video.
One letter featured in this video comes from Kennedy.
Kennedy grew up in a well-known slum outside of Nairobi, Kenya called Mathare. According to Kennedy, Mathare is not a place people are proud to say they are from. And the literal term Mathare means “to struggle” or “to fight for” because people from Mathare have to fight for everything. For boys in Mathare, drugs and crime were so prevalent that making it to the age of 16 became a milestone because they had escaped prison or death.
Kennedy describes the typical home in Mathare as having two parents and five children, all living in a shack that is 10 feet by 10 feet. Kennedy’s family had 10 children, and they often joked that each family member had one square foot to live in. His family didn’t have beds and slept on cardboard. The closest bathroom was a 10-minute run away from home, and the closest school that his parents could afford was a 2-hour walk, barefoot.
He was sponsored by Darrell and Denise when he was eight years old. They didn’t have children when they sponsored him, and they told Kennedy he was their first son. They wrote Jeremiah 29:11 in their letters (which became his favorite verse) and told him he was destined for greatness, he was handsome, and he was enough. Now, 11 years after Kennedy graduated from Compassion’s program, he writes one final letter:
Dear Darrell and Denise,
Receive heartfelt greetings from me. It has been 11 years since I graduated the Compassion Program. And I tell you, I have experienced total freedom from poverty in Jesus' name. I vividly remember the day I received that yellow letter notifying me that you have chosen me to be your sponsored child. From this day, I knew I had a chance at life and death was arrested and my life began.
When you sponsored me, I was just another malnourished kid with brown hair, a big stomach and weak bones. If I made it past sickness, I would have succumbed the typical narrative of every young boy in these lands. I would have either gotten into crime and drugs, which were always available around me. There [were] not any positive people to look up to or to mentor me. My family was definitely at the heart of poverty. We did not eat up to four days a week sometimes. I did not know love and Jesus. I was not free.
When you sponsored me, all that changed. On your first letter, you told me the phrase, "We love you." It was the first time I ever heard that. My heart was filled with joy. Soon after that, I got my first ever gift, which was my first pair of shoes. My family also got a mattress, and we graduated from sleeping on dirt floors on cardboards to a comfortable mattress.
My community celebrated my sponsorship because they believed I was one child rescued from the normal societal script and there was going to be greatness in our community from me. There was a sense of life and hope.
As a family, we began having at least three meals a day. If only you knew how much food was given to our family, you'd understand what it meant. I was enrolled in school. I knew someone thought of me and prayed for me and that I was loved.
I enjoyed going to Compassion center regularly. It was the safest place to be. We would sing, dance, and eat a lot. I looked forward to all your letters, as they were the only times I read the phrase, "We love you."
I wanted to tell you, thank you so much for helping us rebuild our house when we lost it to flames. Thank you for helping with the medical bills when I almost lost my eyesight. Thank you for giving me a chance to be introduced to Jesus. And for all the encouragement, prayers and support. If only you knew how much all you did impacted me, you'd be so proud of who I have become.
I want you to know that all you did made a difference, and it was all worth it. It mattered, and it was enough. Today I am a free man, married, and a father of two, Gabriel and Malkia. I am alive and healthy, educated, empowered, and out of the slums. I want to let you know that I am also a sponsor of one little girl from the same slum I grew up in.
Growing up, I looked up to you and wanted to be just like you. You served in the military and loved God. I wanted to let you know that the day you retired from service, I walked into a recruiter’s office, and enlisted in the U.S. Army as an engineer. I want you to know that not only did you give me a chance at being free, but you inspired me to be a guardian of freedom.
You should be very proud for all that you did. If only you knew that one day I'd become a soldier. If only you knew that I'd become the dad I am today. If only you knew that one day I would go on and sponsor another kid in my community and be a source of hope to others.
I want you to know that I am forever grateful to you for releasing me from poverty in Jesus' name.
Nearly 200,000 children and youth like Kennedy are waiting for a sponsor at Compassion. And 50,000 of those children have been waiting for more than a year, a much higher number due to the pandemic.
A sponsor’s $43 a month connects a child living in poverty with a loving, church-based program, medical checkups, nutritious food, health and hygiene training, educational assistance, access to special services like surgeries or disaster relief, mentoring, and the opportunity to hear about Jesus.
And just like Darrell and Denise’s encouraging letters did for Kennedy, a sponsor’s love brings hope to a child that will last a lifetime.
To learn more about sponsoring a child, visit compassion.com.