SASHA ALMEIDA

How an ANCOP Child Sponsorship Experience Can Help Change Lives

My name is Sasha Almeida and I am a 28-year-old female Canadian who has lived a privileged life compared to the suffering others have endured around the world.  

However, my parents always stressed the importance of helping those in need of our help whether it be the homeless, destitute, mentally/physically ill, and those who just need a helping hand.  My parents are part of Couples for Christ (CFC) and a few years ago, they began participating in the child sponsorship program of Answering the Cry of the Poor (ANCOP). They asked me to sponsor a child because we should do what we can for those who need our help.

I always said “Yes, I would”, but never followed through, because I used to feel that I didn’t have enough money to sponsor a child as I could barely afford my own expenses.

Dad’s ninja move bears fruit

One day, I was visiting my parents and my dad asked me again if I would sponsor a child. And without fail, I agreed half-heartedly, thinking he will not ask again for a while.  However, my amazing dad went and got a flyer and plopped it down in front of me to fill out and, to be honest, it was the beginning of something very special to my heart.

My very first sponsored child was Akash, who was only six years old from Orissa, India, and what really made me happy was that he wants to become a teacher!   When I started to receive letters from him, with his photo and his progress in school, the feeling I experienced was like something I had never felt before.  I was so proud and happy and filled with love, because to me, he is my adopted son and I think about him every day.

I couldn’t shake the need to do more, so I asked my dad for another form in order to sponsor a girl from Africa, and my dream came true! Her name is Harriot and is the same age as Akash.  Both were born in 2010 and she wants to become a nurse.

I do worry for Harriot as she is a girl in Nairobi and the political and civil unrest makes me nervous. But I know God will look after my adopted son and daughter and lead them to opportunities that will enhance their lives as well as those around them.

A Christmas trip for keeps

This Christmas, I had the opportunity to travel to Bhubaneswar, Odisha to meet with the priests my dad worked with to bring ANCOP to India, and also to meet my sponsored child, Akash.  After everything these amazing men of God have done, I am happy to say the movement is sweeping across the country and around the world educating children who have been almost forgotten by society as a whole.

These priests were so kind and full of joy, laughter and intelligence that it was infectious and inspirational. We even met and ate dinner with the Archbishop of the Orissa, which I can say I have never done before.

Spending time and speaking with the priests of Bhubaneswar was an eye opener for me.  Although we have never met before, they were so welcoming to both my sister and me, and it felt as if we were family from the beginning. The laughter and conviction of these men really moved me.  They took time out of their extremely busy days to drive us around and show us the beauty of Odisha.  They did this out of the kindness of their hearts.

We then went to visit Dhanmandal where my sponsored child, Akash, lives.  I did not know what to expect when we visited an all-girls orphanage in Goa (which in itself is another beautiful story to tell another day). 

At first, I knew these children might be weary of foreigners speaking a different language; but they were so sweet and welcoming as they greeted us by presenting us with beautiful flower arrangements and touching our feet as a sign of respect, which is a custom of their tribes. 

After that, we were treated to a beautiful dance by both the girls and boys which was a joy to watch with the beautiful music playing and the pure innocence of children unaffected by the materialism that has gripped our society as a whole.

After lunch, we distributed the candy, crayons and soccer balls we had brought with us.  This brought joy to their faces.  

What moved me was when we were giving out candies, they waited in line and just took one. We had to coax them in Oriya, their native language, to come take more.  At first, they were hesitant as they are not afforded this luxury like we are.  But once they were sure we weren’t kidding, they happily came back over and over to get more until all the candy was gone which brought joy to my heart.

Seeing them play with the soccer balls made me realize how much I truly take things for granted at home, but at the same time, how life’s circumstances brought me to this position where I am able to help in the way I can.  

Finally it came time to do what I had been waiting for the last year; to speak with my sponsored child.   Speaking to Akash, through an interpreter, and holding his hand was a big moment for me.  He seemed so shy and surely did not fully understand the scope of what ANCOP is doing, but to me, he is perfect.  

He has made me very proud as he is going to an English Catholic school and his sister is sponsored by my grandmother who resides in Goa (which we did not plan at all!).  Children, given a chance at education, can contribute to their families, their villages, and society as a whole.  By educating one child we, educate a whole generation.  

My trip to Orissa was a rejuvenating experience.  Love can overcome the hatred, anger and destruction of the world.

I would like to end with what Mahatma Gandhi said:

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body.  If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.  As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

 

Contributed by Sasha Almeida, Canada, January 2018.

Edited by Noemi Pamintuan-Jara

View some pictures of her visit to India here: http://cfcancop.org/photos.aspx?aid=22

Do you want to help other students like Akash and Harriot? Contact ANCOP today at Landline (+632)709-4868 local 49, Mobile (+63) 915-118-4552Email: ancopeducation@cfcancop.org to ask about their Education Programs! Read more about ANCOP at cfcancop.org

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