Opinion: “I was released from poverty by Compassion.”




Digital Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to welcome today’s Guest Writer, Noirine Khaitsa. Noirine is the Senior Manager of Sponsorship Product Support, Compassion International.

Noirine writes: Global poverty can seem overwhelming. When you look at the numbers and consider that poverty has been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic, it can feel like there’s nothing we can do to truly make a difference. Currently, nearly ten per cent of the world’s population is living below the poverty line at $2.15 per day and if global trends persist, 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty by the end of the decade, which is eight times the size of the UK’s population.

There’s a story of a young boy that comes to mind when considering global poverty. The boy, when he saw hundreds of starfish washed up on a beach, started picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean. An older man saw what he was doing and scolded him, saying: “You won’t get to all of them, you’re not making an impact, you’re wasting your time”. The boy responds: “What I’m doing makes a difference for each one that gets back to the ocean”.

That is the simple truth of ending poverty. Each life equipped to break free from poverty is so important, and when one life is helped so are those around them. Through my work with the international child development charity, Compassion, I have seen that it is possible to make a difference to an individual, and through that individual, we can positively impact a family, a community, and eventually a nation. One person can decide to sponsor one child, but when that multiplies out and more of us decide to act, not only do we see transformation in one life, but the potential transformation across millions of lives.

In my role, I ensure that children sponsored through Compassion’s programme receive the support they need. We partner with thousands of churches in 29 countries to provide local-led interventions and create a support group of people around each child that truly cares about them. I’ve worked with Compassion for ten years now, but after completing university, I knew that I wanted to encourage children and families living in poverty, to tell them that there is hope, and that change is possible.

And I could tell them this because I had been there.

I grew up in poverty. My mother was alone looking after her family of six and then eventually eight children. She was a primary school mathematics teacher in a township in Uganda, and as such wasn’t paid well. We struggled to eat, we lived in a tiny house, and all children slept in the same room. I would wonder why we couldn’t be like other kids in my class, who had the food they wanted, who always had enough books, who had a new bag and shoes for every school term. We were barely surviving. My mum was never really there because she left home when we were still sleeping to get to school early, stayed late into the evening to tutor and taught on Saturdays to get extra income. We didn’t have enough, and we also had to raise ourselves. That was my life growing up.

My mother found out about the Compassion sponsorship programme through a church announcement. My immediate younger brother and I were both registered, and it changed our lives. I graduated from the programme, went to university and now help to lift other children, like me and my siblings, out of poverty. None of this would have been possible without support.

I was released from poverty by Compassion, working through my local church and I have witnessed first-hand that the cycle of poverty really can be broken. I also know many others, who were in the Compassion programme with me, whose lives have also been transformed.

There was one boy who was in the programme with me. As difficult as my family situation was, his was worse. His biological mother had passed on before he joined the programme so he and his brother were passed around to live with different relatives. He and his brother found food in the field and ate raw grasshoppers because they were never sure of eating at home. They made their own bedding and slept without coverings. All this changed for the better when he was enrolled in the Compassion programme. He was able to go through school, he is now a Level Three Power Line Electrician, and he is able to take care of his family. I look at all these testimonies around me, personally and professionally, and I am motivated to know that we are contributing to the eradication of poverty.

Ending global poverty is an overwhelming idea, but I absolutely believe we can do it.  I have seen that in the stories that I have shared and many more that I’ve witnessed. I have myself and my family as an example. All my siblings and I have had an education. We were able to make it through difficulty because of the support that my mum received from the community-led Compassion programme. Poverty has been cut out from our family tree and now I have the privilege of seeing this same transformation daily on a global scale as part of my job.

Noirine Khaitsa: “Poverty has been cut out from our family tree.”

South Korea, where Compassion began its work, provides a national example. After the Korean War, there was a lot of difficulty. For 40 years, Compassion worked in the country. Today, South Korea no longer needs Compassion’s support and instead helps others, around the world who are in need. In the country, Compassion went from delivering programmes directly to children, to fundraising there to support others around the world. It happened there and it can happen again. We must keep hope alive. Even when it seems like we are making little progress, every small demonstration of progress means that lives are being changed and that is what leads to great change.

It’s tempting to feel hopeless in the face of data that shows poverty is getting worse. How can I tackle a problem as huge as poverty? God can do immeasurably more with what we choose to give to Him, there’s a ripple effect when a child is sponsored. It’s not just their life that’s impacted, but also their family and their community is changed. In my case, a child grew up to steer the programme that impacts millions of children across the world. I am evidence that helping an individual makes a difference. You can make a difference.

How do you tackle a problem like poverty? Begin with a child  compassionuk.org/sponsorship/

All Photo Credits: Courtesy of Compassion UK.

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