Monday 14th March 2016 is a day I will always remember.
I’ve been sponsoring Preeti for 8 years, I started when she was 4 years old. Over this time I’ve often shared with my family that it was a dream of mine to meet her and her family so when a letter arrived in the post outlining the opportunity to visit I couldn’t believe that this could actually happen for me. I responded right away.
Like lots of people, in the run up to the trip I’d been very busy with work and life in general, I hadn’t given myself time to really think about what was going to happen over the next few days, what it meant to me, what it meant to the other sponsors and what it might mean to Preeti and her family - then before I knew it I was waking up in India on the morning of my visit. As we dodged and wove our way through the chaotic traffic, people, and constant noise of Patna I tried to consider and make sense of all the feelings I probably should have given time to weeks, maybe even months before.
I was still trying to process everything as we turned off the main carriageway and carefully made our way down the side of an enormous fly over, rickshaws and mopeds navigated the maze of potholes, children, cows and chickens around us. Eventually our cars came to a stop outside a community building, the steps were lined with children patiently awaiting our arrival and all around were their families.
There were smiling faces in all directions. I couldn’t believe the number of people who had come to greet us.
The welcome itself was overwhelming and after a moment I spotted Preeti on the steps. Seeing her for the first time is still something I struggle to explain, for 8 years I’d sent and received letters and photographs, for 8 years I had wondered about the little 4 year old girl whose picture I clicked on, and here she was right before my eyes, a real child! All grown up. Feelings that had been quietly simmering under the surface, feelings I’d been trying to make sense of suddenly became clear. I got it!
Sponsorship is about real children, real families and real communities. Without this visit I’m not sure I would have ever really understood the enormity of it; the importance of it.
Back at her home Preeti and I shared stories about our lives through a translator, we also discussed the nuisance of us both having 2 brothers! After a while a train trundled past and this was the moment that the visit became particularly special for me. Smiling, Preeti took my hand and excitedly led me through dark hallways and stairs cases to the roof of her building, chatting and gesturing all the way. After a while she raced us back down the stairs and out into her community.
She confidently led me through the lanes, navigating vehicles and crowds. All the while she held onto my hand talking enthusiastically about her home. She took me to see her place of worship and also to meet her grandparents.
Even without our translator we talked and laughed with each other like old friends and despite us not sharing a language I knew we understood each other. It was a magical experience.
All too soon it was time to leave and like any long distance friendship it was hard to say goodbye and we drew it out as long as we could. A real connection had been forged and I was so proud of the young lady she has grown to be. It was clear that my visit had meant just as much to her as it had done for me.
Why don't you make the journey to your sponsored child's community to visit them and see more of how your donations are being put to great use. Find out more about visiting your sponsored child »