16 Apr Christmas Gifts & Coronavirus
Every year, Lahash child sponsors get the opportunity to choose a special Christmas gift for the child they sponsor. The staff at each ministry partner location across East Africa joyfully purchase and prepare all the gifts, and plan a wonderful day of (belated) Christmas celebrations for all the kids and their families. But like many of the most highly-anticipated events for people all around the world, this year’s celebration gatherings were canceled due to the growing threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
The virus has been slower to reach East Africa than many other parts of the world, which allowed time for Lahash and our ministry partners to prepare and strategize the best possible ways to help protect the vulnerable families we serve. Should the virus become widespread in East Africa, the effects would be devastating on families who already struggle with the effects of poverty, hunger, and disease every day. So, as much as the staff, kids, and families all look forward to the Christmas Gift Distribution Celebration, they knew it was important to prioritize safety by forgoing the large gatherings and coming up with alternative plans.
The hundreds of kids in the Lahash Sponsorship Program were divided into small groups so they could come to their program centers at staggered times and receive their gifts. It was a different atmosphere than other years, but also gave each child the chance for a more extended special moment to be the center of attention. We just received stories about three of these special kids! As you read them, you’ll see exactly why these gifts from sponsors mean so much, and why our tireless ministry partners even problem-solved around a pandemic to make sure the gifts made it into the hands of the kids!
Ange’s family includes her mother, older brother and older sister. Ange’s mother is HIV positive and has advanced cancer; her father is no longer living. Ange’s mother was the only breadwinner for the family until she became too sick to engage in any kind of work. Food access is one of the major challenges for this family. Sometimes the family receives food donations from their neighbors, and they also receive assistance from Lahash’s ministry partner in Rwanda.
Ange’s sponsors gave her food items, clothes, shoes, and also a cooking gas cylinder that can be refilled and reused. In such a dire situation, these gifts communicate love and care not only to Ange but to her whole family. Because of the Lahash Sponsorship Program and its ministry partner in Rwanda, Ange and her family know that they are not making this difficult journey alone.
Edit May 1, 2020: Since the publication of this story, we received the sad news that Ange’s mother passed away at the end of April. Our heart goes out to this family as they face such a tragic loss in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. We are thankful for our caring ministry partners in Rwanda who are committed to extending the love and support of the entire Lahash global community to Ange and her family in this time of grief. May God comfort and provide for them, and may they know they are not alone.
Godfrey is 13, and lost both his parents years ago. He has been in the care of his mother’s sister ever since. The aunt has three other kids, and is not employed. His uncle is a small-scale street vendor. Godfrey’s relationship with his aunt and uncle is good; they love him and take care of him the same as their other children. Godfrey is a jovial and outgoing boy.
Godfrey was born with HIV, which means good nutrition is critical to support his overall health and to help him build immunity against opportunistic diseases. Good nutrition also helps children maintain a healthy weight and comfortably absorb the medications that help them manage HIV. But due to the income challenges of their situation, Godfrey’s family can’t afford adequate food for everyone and supplemental nutrition for him. He depends on the extra nutrition supplied by Path Of Hope, the Lahash partner ministry that cares for him.
In this year’s Christmas gift from his sponsors, Godfrey was so excited to receive various food items in bulk! He also received a new set of clothes and a solar lamp. The food items will help see him through this season when the pandemic threat further limits food access for his family. The solar lamp will be a source of light for everyone in the house, and will also help him keep up on his homework in the evenings. Although his health status puts him at grave risk if he was exposed to the coronavirus, the gifts he received were perfectly suited to support him well at this critical time.
Nyemo lives with her mother, three siblings, and three other cousins who lost their parents. Nyemo’s dad also passed away some years back, and her mother is HIV positive. Nyemo’s mother is the sole breadwinner for her big family, and she works with a local private security firm as a security guard. This is not the best job for her given her health condition, nor is she able to earn enough to adequately meet the family’s needs.
Nyemo has sickle-cell disease, so she gets sick quite often and is regularly admitted to the local hospital for treatment. She is in the Sponsorship Program under the care of Grace & Healing Ministry, which often supports her by paying for her medical care and supplementing nutrition for her and the family. A few months ago during heavy rains, Nyemo’s family house was swept away by the flood waters. They now rent a small house in Dodoma town.
Despite the many obstacles she faces, Nyemo is not giving up on her future. She wants to become a tailor. Grace & Healing Ministry will support her in pursuing a tailoring course, and this year her sponsor gifted her a sewing machine! This will not only help her perfect her tailoring skills, but it will give her a major boost in establishing her own shop after completing her course. This gift means a great deal to Nyemo because it represents her sponsor’s love and care, and it’s a symbol of hope for today and the promise of better things to come for her family in the future.
In the midst of this global public health threat, Lahash is more determined than ever to support and advocate for East Africa’s most vulnerable children. If you’d like to join us, we invite you to consider sponsoring a child, or making a one-time financial gift. Thank you.