Huwaida came into our lives in January 2007. I was visiting the agency website after receiving a special mail appeal to consider sponsoring an older child who otherwise would "age out" of the program before ever having known that someone cared about him/her and their village as a whole. It's heartbreaking to see these faces of kids 15 and older waiting on the lists. They know fully well that their pictures were taken for potential sponsors to view, and they wait. When I searched for an older child in the database I specifically targeted Sudan, and when I saw Huwaida's picture and short bio I knew she was the one.
She is now 17 and I'm feeling the pinch of guilt that I haven't written to her nearly as much as I wrote to Seuli (actually, the translated communication we had was with Seuli's father). I'm not sure how the agency ceases the sponsorship once a child reaches the maximum age; my guess is that age 18 is the cut-off. Since mail takes about four months one way this means that I really need to ramp up my letters and cards to Huwaida. She has been so gracious in her (translated) letters to us, genuinely indicating her pleasure about a small gift or a colorful card. She herself has responded to the agency's interviews about her life and her family's living condition, which has given field reports a personal touch. Huwaida is a very fine young woman and I think very strong.
Her community is near Darfur where conditions are so dire. Actually living conditions in her family and village far exceed poor Seuli's in Bangladesh. Seuli's toilet was a field outside their hut. Huwaida's family uses a private latrine for their toilet facilities, and the family's water comes from a borehole with a hand pump that is situated about 1/2 mile from their home. Huwaida's family lives in a house made of unfired mud bricks with a corrugated metal roof. Her father is a market seller. She has four younger brothers and a sister who just married.
Huwaida attends what is called primary school. Her drawings are lovely. In my imaginings for her I see a spark ignited that will make her want more for her life than the inevitable. I imagine conditions happening in a perfect synchronicity that would give us the financial ability to bring her to the U.S. to complete her education. She exhibits innate leadership qualities that could take her far and then take her home to be of service to her people. She could change the role of women in Sudan, she could be the catalyst that would cause the world to demand an end to female circumcision on that continent, she could defer marriage until she was ready and then they would plan their family . . .
But these are dreams and the reality is that, even with the fine work the agency is doing to better the conditions of her village, Huwaida's security can be dashed with one year of drought, or a sudden coup d’état that pits one tribe or village against another, or by rape. I hope and pray that she won't endure these horrors. I also hope she won't become embittered by what she must endure in her young life. And I hope my next small package takes less than four months to arrive in Sudan, where I hope it makes Huwaida smile.
I selected Plan USA for our children sponsorship agency after researching them and similar agencies. I chose Plan USA because it is not affiliated with any church or religion, and its mission isn't about spreading any doctrine. In fact, Wellington is Christian, Huwaida is Muslim, and Seuli is Hindu. A comment from the website:
Plan is a global partnership of caring people founded in 1937 to bring hope and help to the world’s poorest children.
Plan began as a child sponsorship organization. Today, we are one of the oldest and largest organizations of our kind—our grassroots, self-help programs assist more than 10 million children and their families in poor communities around the world.
We are proudly private, not for profit, and respectful of local religions and cultures—we have no agenda other than helping kids. Plan USA is one of more than 60 countries bearing the renowned Plan logo.
Your donations to help children through Plan USA are tax deductible and greatly appreciated.