Changing the Life of a Child by Lauren Kiessling

I remember my first exposure to extreme poverty.  I was sitting on a bus with other youth from my church (IFC). We were passing through a town in the coastal region of Guatemala, all of us eager to perform the evangelistic skits we had memorized, pass out the school supplies we had collected, and get pictures with the children we would meet. The bus suddenly jolted to a halt. Something was in need of maintenance, again. We all sighed heavily but were still excited to reach our final destination. I looked out the window to take in the scenery. My attention was immediately drawn to a young girl, perhaps five or six years old, working on the side of the road. When I asked our guide what the little girl was doing, she told me that it was common for children to work odd jobs for small change. Sometimes, these children were being exploited by adults that would force them to labor and later surrender their pay. Others were simply trying to supplement their parents’ meager salary of $1 a day.

I was horrified. I felt guilty, angry, and powerless, and what I was doing on the trip began to seem completely insignificant. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t discount youth missions trips as meaningless, but I couldn’t even begin to compare my life experiences to those of this little girl. What could I or my peers possibly offer?

In reaction to what we had seen, several of my friends and I decided to pool our small incomes and pay for a child’s education. The ministry that had hosted in us in Guatemala, Hearts in Action (link to http://www.heartsinaction.org/en), had recently begun a sponsorship program that would provide children with education at the HIA school, nutrition assistance, and weekly Bible clubs to teach children about Christ’s love for them. Once I started sponsoring, I couldn’t stop (I have sponsored three other girls since then, two in Guatemala and one in Senegal, West Africa).

Child sponsorship gave me a tangible way to address, in a small but personal way, the injustices running rampant on our planet.

Child sponsorship gave me the opportunity to build relationships with people on the other side of the world, whom I otherwise would never have met.

Child sponsorship has helped me to maintain a healthy perspective on my finances. Too often, I worry about having “enough”, doubting God’s provision for my life. Sponsoring children who rely daily on God’s provision for their basic survival needs has challenged and strengthened my faith in God.

My first experience with extreme poverty almost 10 years ago has come full circle, as this year I have the opportunity to work with Hearts in Action, this time through their Lima, Perú branch. For the next few months, I will be helping to recruit sponsors for their new child sponsorship program (PIES http://www.pieskids.org/). Later this fall, I will be interning with their organization and working directly with PIES kids in Perú. I am excited to return and spend more time with the children Hearts in Action is serving, many of whom I have come to know personally through my time there during summer vacations.

Would you be willing to sponsor? PIES Perú (Programa de Incentivos Educativos de Superación), which also means “feet” in Spanish, is looking for 25 sponsors to start up their program. Hearts in Action has been running PIES in Guatemala since 2000, and has an excellent reputation for improving children’s lives through better education, better nutrition, and discipleship in the Christian faith. For only $35 a month, you can provide a child with access to nutrition programs, health checkups, school supplies, tutorship, and healthy lunches, among other benefits.

For more information on PIES, please contact me (link to lauren.kiessling@gmail.com) or piesperu@heartsinaction.org.

PIES letter

Letters from the family of a sponsored child: “A smile of a children for someone is a blessed act…Every child in the village wants to be sponsored by someone.”  Changing the life of a child is changing the world.

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