Jul 26 2012
This is Nahid, the Afghan girl we’re sponsoring through the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization, or AFCECO. She’s 10 and has family in the Nuristan Province.
Two years ago, we were stuck at home for a week because we were all down with something or the other, and I managed to read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, which made me feel like rounding up every kid in Afghanistan and herding them all to safety—simplistic and naive, I know, but I had to do something to help. I looked up adoptions, but at least in Afghanistan, non-Muslims aren’t allowed to be appointed guardians of Muslim children. (The differences between Islamic and Western adoptions are highlighted here.)
Subsequently I found myself on the AFCECO child sponsorship page, where I spotted a brown-eyed girl who reminded me of my own daughter and signed on to become her sponsor. It’s a small sum that we’re contributing monthly, for a package that’s supposed to take care of her basic needs. The money’s deducted automatically and we don’t hear from them unless Alf’s maxed out his credit card.
There is one other thing that sponsors are required to do, which you don’t hear too much about, and that’s to write letters to your kid.
This post sums up how I felt about the letter writing:
I have never really put much stock in letter writing. I mean, we write—sure—but no more than maybe four times a year; when he writes us, we write back. I just don’t really see how much a five-year-old can get out of a letter from a strange white woman…
But that’s not what the post was about. As I read on, I realised that maybe these letters could mean something more. The writer of the post talked to a few young adults who’d been sponsored, and here’s what one said:
We save all our letters. And even though when we were little, Compassion workers read them to us, when we grew up we could read them ourselves. So we go back and start at the beginning. We read every letter again to get to know our Sponsors better.
It’s tricky writing to someone that you hardly know anything about, who’s possibly had a lot less to be happy about in life. On one hand you want to be as warm and real as you can be, but on the other, you don’t want to be seen as flaunting your blessings in someone else’s face. I don’t think I’ve perfected the art of sensitive sharing, but I try to write my letters as if I were talking to a friend, and I avoid mentions about newly acquired material stuff—these aren’t things I would normally rave about anyway.
Here’s some of what Nahid and I have written to each other in the last two years:
Sorry for taking so long to write. I haven’t had a pen pal since I was a little girl and I didn’t know where to start. :o)
About me: I’m a mom of a four-year-old girl named Layla (it’s similar to Laila), and we’re from Singapore. My husband Alf is a teacher, and I do a little bit of writing and editing work, as well as run a photography business. But most times, I do mom stuff with Layla like taking her to parks or watching her play with her friends.
When they sent me your profile, it didn’t have any information on it, so I don’t know anything about what you like or how you spend your days. Write me if you can and tell me more! Hope to hear from you soon.
I love cake! Thank you for drawing that! My mother’s birthday is coming up in November and I’ve said I’ll make her a cake. I don’t cook that much and I don’t bake, so I’m afraid my cake won’t turn out well!
My daughter Layla did some drawings recently. She drew her father (my husband), and yes he does wear glasses, but his hair isn’t really like that. :o)
She also drew a girl standing next to a giant horse. She doesn’t like her girl drawing because she thinks she made the ears too big.
Oh, and we went out to get some chocolate desserts at a cafe yesterday, and the waiter stopped at the table to draw us a cow!
Layla asks if you could draw something with her name on it in your next mail? She’d be really thrilled!
I’m so sorry for not writing in December; we’ve moved to a new home and there was a lot of packing and people we had to meet to get everything settled. It was a little complicated!
Where we are right now isn’t our real home—we move again in March. Most of our belongings are still in boxes so we won’t have to pack again.
We’re still getting used to our temporary home, where the walls are blue! We miss our neighbours and are further than we’d like to be from our favourite places, but Singapore’s so tiny you can almost definitely get from one end of the country to the other in about an hour, if you take the train. What’s nice about our temporary home is that there are large windows, and I’m sitting on the floor and looking out the windows now as I type this letter to you.
I love the picture you drew in your last letter—it’s so colourful and cheery! My husband Alf and I have been trying to draw lately; we’re not good at it yet but we’re trying!
I looked through a couple more of my mails and discovered that I seem to have started off each one by apologising for not writing earlier!
For today, I would like to remind myself to write a letter every month—whether or not I get a reply—on the off chance that all of this might actually mean something more to a little girl from a different world.