June and a Little Girl From Africa
- Published on Thursday, 29 May 2008 18:49
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
In February of 1995, June and I jointly through an organization called "Compassion International", sponsored a young girl from the poor section of Nairobi, Kenya, Africa.
Note: Compassion International was founded by Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952. (The year that June and I were married.) Compassion began providing Korean war orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training.
Today, Compassion International helps more than 1 million children in 26 countries.
Compassion is a Christian religious based organization that is presently celebrating their 64th anniversary (2016) of bringing children up from poverty.
Compassion's motto is "Releasing Children From Poverty in Jesus Name." They are a Charter Member of ECFA. (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability)
June and I first learned of the "Compassion" program through our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Pastor David Glesne the senior Pastor and his wife Mona were and are currently involved in sponsoring a child under this program.
The first little girl that we sponsored was Joyce Wambui. Although June and our monthly contribution was/is a modest amount by American standards, the impact in the Nairobi economy is quite significant. In Kenya the average per capita yearly income is only $370. Christmas and Birthday gifts are also provided in addition to the monthly support.
(Below right is photo of Joyce Wambui taken in 2001)
The amount of money contributed monthly provides a nutritional weekly meal, health check-ups and medical care, provides textbooks, school supplies and trained teachers. Certain clothing is also provided. June and I would also send periodic letters of encouragement to Joyce.
After 7 + years (1995-2002) of continuous sponsor ship, June and I were advised that Joyce had successfully completed the education program. Joyce, who was in Primary school in 1995, had completed primary school and vocational school and has a trade as a dressmaker. The letters June initially received from Joyce were difficult to read as her English was rather stumbling and disjointed. While her present English is not perfect, it is easily readable.
With the notice of the completion of the sponsorship of Joyce, June and I also received an emotional, thoughtful and touching final letter from Joyce. Some excerpts are:
"This is to thank you …for contributions towards my entire life. I have appreciated your long-term commitment to educate me. I received school uniform; shoes, fees and home clothes through your support…May God bless you for your concern and love to me. Thank you for your uncountable gifts you ever sent to me and letters….There is nothing I can give in return for all you have done to me – only to wish you Gods blessing an protection and the same compassionate heart to remain in you to assist others. God bless you. I will pray for you and I will never forget you. I will miss your sweet letters. We shall have to meet if it is not on this world then the land above. God bless you. – Joyce Wambui"
The sponsorhsip of Joyce covered the years of 1995 to 2002. (7+ years) This was the period of primary school through vocational school where Joyce graduated as a dressmaker. It was in January of 1998 that June was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. June and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in 2002, the same year that Joyce graduated from the program.
(Below right is photo of Sheila Awuor taken in 2002 - Age 6)
June and I had already signed on to sponsor another little girl from Kenya. (October 2002) This girls name was Sheila Awuor. Sheila was a little 6-year-old child from the hills of Kibera Slums in Kenya. Her birthday was Monday August 26th, 1996. Sheila is a part of the Kibera Church of God Child Development Center. In February 2006, Sheila was transferred to the PCEA Silanga Church Child Development Center.
"Sheila lives with her father and her mother. She is responsible for carrying water, caring for children and helping in the kitchen. Her father is sometimes employed as a laborer and her mother is sometimes employed as a laborer. there are 4 children in the family. Playing ball games, hide and seek and running are sheila's favorite activities. She regularly attends Sunday School. She is in primary school."
"Sheila lives on the plains of Silanga, home to approximately 340,000 residents. Typical houses are constructed of dirt floors, mud walls and corrugated iron roofs. The most commonly spoken language is Kiswahili. The regional diet consists of maize, beans, bananas, fish, bread, beef, rice and potatoes. Common health problems in this area include malaria, diarrhea, typhoid fever and AIDS. Most adults in Silanga are unemployed but some work as day laborers and earn the equivalent of $30 per month. This community is said to have needs of improved sanitation, street lights and scholastic materials."
(Below right is photo of Sheila Awuor taken in 2012 - Age 16)
Sheila is in primary school where she continues under June's and my sponsorship to the present date. June and I started sponsoring Sheila after Joyce's graduation in 2002. In the years 2003-2004, Alzheimer's starting taking over more and more of June's life. It was early in the year 2005 that June required the full time care of a facility that specialized in caring for Alzheimer's residents. I started to graudually assume the full duties of the sponsorship for Joyce in the year 2002 as June traveled more deeply into the shadows of this terrible disease.
Note: On October 23rd, 2008 June passed away from complications of Alzheimer's while a resident in the Alzheimer's wing (Villa) of the Benedictine Health Care Center at Innsbruck, New Brighton, Minnesota. After almost 11 weary and exhausting years of battling Alzheimer's, God finally took June home. When June left this world, I lost the love and light of my life.
I have continued the sponsorship of Sheila in June's name and in June's behalf as a joint sponsorship in June's memory. I receive regular letters from Sheila to which I try to make an immediate response. I enclose an occasional picture of June and myself. I have tried to explain what has happened to June, while at the same time giving an assurance that our sponsorship will continue. I also try to encourage her in her school work. I have noticed that Sheila's command of the English language has also taken great strides with much improvement over the past few years.
June and I are now working on our 22nd year of sponsorship in the "Compassion" program. (2016)
Stan's Update on Sheila...(April 2017).. I would hope that this young lady will have dreams that we can help her fulfill... I have told her that June and I started out with nothing and had an unbelievable life...
I am encouraging her to shoot for the moon...she is already talking about going to the nearby university and is so appreciative of what June and I are doing for her...counting her own local language, she is also studying French and her English is coming along fine...(22 September 2016)
I just received the Spring 2017th edition of "Compassion" Magazine...special mention was made of June and my efforts to permit this young lady to realize her dreams...the following was noted about Sheila:
"Because of your support, Sheila is already impacting her family and her community. And who knows, one day she might even change all of Kenya"
We have sponsored Sheila since 2002)
Although the children that June and I have sponsored have all been African children, the organization is world wide and you can find opportunities for sponsorship in all major countries ..
For those interested in contacting "Compassion International" at their website for more information or to start the sponsorship of a child as your, own...Click the below link:
Pam O'Halloran - Sedona, Arizona - (23 July 2012): "Loved the story, Stan. I sponsered children from India for years. Still have all of their letters. It was always wonderful to learn of their success. Thanks for sharing!"
Janice Kennedy - Coon Rapids, Minnesota - (23 July 2012): "Tom and I sponsor a little boy from Kenya and a little girl from India thru C.I. It's a wonderful organization!"
Christine Wilhelmy Noland - Little Canada, Minnesota - (23 July 2012): "I sponsor 3 girls overseas via Compassion Int. 1 in Bangladesh (she's 9 now). 1 in Kenya (14) and one in Uganda (19). I started 8 years ago and I enjoy every letter I receive and enjoy writing them. I know people that have gone thru other agencies, and they cannot come CLOSE to my awesome experience with Compassion. I get 1-2 letters a month from Rina in Bangladesh."
Connie L. Malm Anderson - Trego, Wisconsin - (24 July 2012) : "WOW. Wish we had the funds to do this..Stan you certainly are a...A cople of years ago I found information on NANCY'S NOTIONS web site about making little dress's for the girls in Africa...I share this info with a sewing buddy of mine..she really went to town and made several of these dresses and sent along...I was only able to made a few at the time, but this posting of yours has inspired me to make more..I also found info and pattern to make shorts for the young men. I would like to gather some friends from church and get them sewing also...as always prayers are with you...and with your Sheila...."
Robin Stewart Stone - Charlotte, North Carolina - (24 July 2012): "Love the letters, Stan! So glad they finally got rain, but hate to hear about the terrorists. Is sad reading about the children over there....wish we could help them all...Sounds like they're doing good! If only there were more jobs or the family could move where work is. Thanks for sharing!"
After an almost 12 year journey into the shadows of Alzheimer's, early one morning in late October 2008, an exhausted June felt God's gentle touch on her shoulder and heard the words: "Come Home June!" As June lay like a wounded soldier on a battlefield, it was God's Angels that ushered June into a Heavenly Kingdom to the sound of a chorus of Angels...and into June's new home, a "Mansion on the Hilltop", where there is no pain, nor illness nor tears...June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website in the drop down menu under the "In Memoriam" label - just Click on: