Letter from Thandiwe - MBKG Pannai (Family Village Farm), India - November, 2006

Thandiwe Gobledale is a Global Ministries Intern at the Family Village Farm. This Home for children has been a part of the Global Ministries Child Sponsorship Program since the 1960s.

Thandiwe Gobledale is a Global Ministries Intern at the Family Village Farm. This Home for children has been a part of the Global Ministries Child Sponsorship Program since the 1960s.

"So Jesus called a child, made her stand in front of them, and said, "I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. The greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles themself and becomes like this child. And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me." Matthew 18:2-5

Amitha* has two older siblings. Their father abandoned them when Amitha was two. Amitha's mother Monika works as a coolie, part-time manual labor for which she earns a daily wage, whenever work is available. She lives alone with her children, and when she goes to work there is no one to look after them. Monika cannot support herself and her three children, so she applies to have Amitha, the youngest, come and live at M.B.K.G. Pannai (also known as Family Village Farm) where Amitha will be guaranteed three meals a day, basic health care, clothing, shelter, and an education. With the recommendation of a leader in Monika's community, Amitha is admitted to M.B.K.G. Pannai.

Watching Amitha swinging on the cheerful yellow swing set, I find it hard to believe that she and the other children I see playing and studying, the children who call to me, "Thandiwe akka, Thandiwe big sister," come from such backgrounds. As I listen to the rhythmic creak of metal as she swings forward, backward, forward, backward, I wonder how such a history affects a child's psyche and sense of self-worth? How does Amitha feel about herself and her own background? I imagine, when she does think about it, that Amitha experiences a myriad of emotions - perhaps the pain of abandonment, perhaps a lower level of self-esteem, perhaps gratitude for the opportunities she has here that she would not have at home. Whatever she feels, Amitha is a child who laughs and plays, who bickers with the other children, who scrapes her knees and elbows and who seeks attention, approval and affection from the adults around her. Right now she is leaning back as far as she can, almost sweeping the ground with her hair, as dark and shiny as raven feathers. Certainly, the children's awareness of their backgrounds and personal histories varies with age; for the youngest ones, M.B.K.G. Pannai is the only life, home and family that they know.

When I arrived at M.B.K.G. Pannai the questions most frequently asked of me by the children, other than my own name, were my parents' names and, for those sponsored by individuals in the United States, whether or not I knew their sponsors. Family is the primary social structure in India. Pannai children, living separately from their biological families must therefore identify themselves with people from outside, their sponsors for example. For these children, sponsors are real people: they have names, they write letters and send gifts and sometimes photographs. They play a real role in the children's lives. Letters, visits and the steady flow of sponsorship money enable the children to continue to live here and be cared for, and the children often lift up their sponsors in their morning and evening prayers.

My family has long sponsored a child in northern India - Diksha* is a young Tibetan refugee whose family has relocated to Darjeeling, West Bengal. When we remember, my mother and I go shopping for new clothes, hair accessories, stickers and stationery supplies for Diksha. I always assumed that Diksha herself would receive our packages and birthday cards. Being on the receiving end of things, I see that this cannot be the case, because some sponsors send gifts and others do not. Furthermore, not every child has a sponsor. So the gifts, clothes and school supplies are set aside and divided among all the children. Some of the gifts may be given to the child on his or her birthday or another special event, but this will only be if each child can receive a gift. The clothing may be reserved for Christmas or another holiday when all the children receive new clothes.

A tug at my pink polyester churidha (the long tunic worn over baggy pants with a scarf around the neck that many women here wear) calls me back to the present. Praween, a mischievous little boy with a charming grin who lives in the nursery points to the swings. He wants a push. I take his hand and help him onto the swing, and he rewards me with a wide smile.

I look at Amitha still pumping her legs in rhythm at the swing next to us. While Amitha* comes from a family that cannot support her, in my observations of her and other children here, she has a sense of being loved and cared for by her sponsors. She thinks of them often and regularly holds them in prayer. Without their knowing it, her sponsors are the benefactors of a little Indian girl's gratitude and love. I think of Jesus' words, "Whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me." While sometimes as a sponsor one can forget the profound impact of one's gift, Amitha does not forget it.

Please pray for the children of M.B.K.G. Pannai as they live and grow here without their families. Pray that they may feel loved and valuable and that they may have a strengthened sense of self-worth.

Please also pray that each of us may nurture in ourselves the humility, reverence and joy that children know and exhibit so unreservedly.

Shalom,
Thandiwe Gobledale

*While this scenario and all names in it are fictionalized, it represents quite accurately the case history of many children who live here. A few have no parents or relatives to speak of, some children's parents may have died or abandoned them, but most do have family who simply cannot afford to care for them.

Are you interested in sponsoring a child? Contact:

Mrs. Linda Lawrence
Administrator
Global Ministries' Child Sponsorship
700 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
1-866-822-8224 x3222
216-736-3222

Do you already sponsor a child? How can you build a relationship with your sponsored child?

Correspondence with sponsors is very meaningful - in a lot of ways, I believe it is as important as the money you send, especially for children like those at M.B.K.G . Pannai who may have a sense of abandonment. While much, if not all of the correspondence occurs from the sponsor's end of things, your prayers, letters and photographs give your sponsored child a sense of being loved and cared for, of mattering to someone. It also makes you, their sponsor, a person and not simply a checkbook.

As a sponsor, be in touch not only with your sponsored child but with the organization where your sponsored child lives. Feel free to ask what issues they would like you to hold up in prayer, what supplies they need or what current projects they have for which they could use assistance. Currently, here at M.B.K.G. Pannai, we are working to build up our libraries and to encourage reading among the children thus improving their English skills. English is particularly important to the children who live here because King's Matriculation School (the school that the M.B.K.G. Pannai children attend, which was founded specifically to meet their educational needs but has since enlarged to enroll children from neighboring villages) is an English medium school. So we can use new and used children's books.

School supplies - mainly pens, pencils, rulers, erasers, pencil sharpeners, crayons and markers - are also always in demand and can be divided among the children of school going ages. Other art supplies can be used for special occasions. Hair accessories for girls and small toys for boys are also easily distributed. M.B.K.G. Pannai has some special projects such as the painting of the cottages and nurseries for which it needs money. A sponsor could also give money which can be designated for a birthday party to celebrated a group of children's birthdays, or for extra fruit at meals, or for a special meal for all the children. The site's sponsorship co-ordinator will know best what needs are specific to his/her site, and sponsors can get in touch with him/her with questions in this regard.


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