What are some of the struggles you have faced as a sponsor?
The hardest, no, the cruelest, part of being a sponsor has been “losing” some of my sponsored children. Some have been forced to return to their families to help relatives who were ill or disabled. Some have simply disappeared, and my very realistic fear is that the girls have been sold into marriage because their families need the money to survive. I think about these lost children often. One such story has a happy ending. Afsana, the first child I sponsored, was in an orphanage in Pakistan. She and her family returned to Afghanistan, to Farah, the heart of Taliban country. The school Afsana attended was closed and, for a while, the whole family disappeared. I feared the worst, but Jamshid tracked them down near Herat and Afsana and I, once again, exchanged letters.
Tell us about one of your children, and about your relationship.
Maria is a very special person in my life. Now a young woman, I have seen her grow perhaps more than any of the children I love. What defines Maria is heart, determination, and ambition. When we first met, she knew very little English. But, even then, her letters showed her drive and curiosity. These days, we write long, juicy letters, telling each other what we are doing and thinking. Recently Maria’s mother came to the orphanage and tried to persuade her to come home, get married, and give up all this crazy education stuff. Maria absolutely refused! There is something strong and determined inside this sweet and loving girl, and that makes her very special.