|Esperance Age 5|
I have a confession to make here; I barely recall the figure skating show that night. I'm sure the skaters were as terrific as usual, and I did have fun watching with my mum, but my mind was wandering. I remember trying to sneak peeks at my new little girl's packet. It was impossible to read in the dark lights, but I tried! I spent the show wondering what she was doing at that very moment, wondering how long it would take until she knew I had sponsored her, and mentally writing my first introduction letter to her.
During the intermission I memorized her packet information. Esperance (My knowledge of French was good enough to recognize that her name meant Hope), lived with her parents and would be six on August 8th of that year. She enjoyed playing ball and her chores were fetching water and child care... Wait, what? I did a double take at that one. Child care? She was only five herself!!! I couldn't imagine that the neighbours' were hiring five-year-olds to babysit, so that probably meant she had younger siblings, right? (Turns out I assumed correctly, she had two, including a newborn sister.)
|Esperance Age 6|
It was late at night by the time the show ended and we got home (I don't live in any of the cities that Canadian Stars on Ice performs in, so it was a bit of a drive!) so I didn't get a letter written to Esperance that night, but the next day I eagerly wrote to her and introduced myself. Shortly after I received a letter from her in return that a project worker had helped her write. (She was only five!)
|Esperance Age 7|
I replied to that letter as well, telling her how happy I was to receive it. And then I made a mistake.
See, I was brand new to the sponsorship world and no one had ever told me how much the children valued letters. I hadn't the foggiest idea! Maybe the fact that I cherished her letters so dearly should have clued me in?
Oh I loved my girl, and I eagerly stared at her photographs and read her progress reports and I always meant to write... soon. But I guess I expected that she would just know this? That she'd realize how much she meant to me because I faithfully paid for her sponsorship fees each month? That a little girl in Rwanda could read my mind?
|Esperance age 8|
It's not like I never wrote to her, but I probably wrote two or three letters max. in a period of a couple years. And then one day I was thinking about her and suddenly realised that my last letter to her had been an entire year ago, at least! I don't know about you all, but when I was about eight, a year felt like a long time. Somehow I felt that the time that had slipped by was significant, and it was like God suddenly impressed upon me just how important letters were.
|Esperance Age 9|
I sat down and wrote her a long letter that day, and at the end of it I apologized to her for taking so long to write and I made a promise to her that I would write a lot more often. That was over three years ago now and I've written once or twice a month since.
I didn't realise how much of a difference letters could make.
|Esperance age 9 (holding letters I've sent)|
Our relationship blossomed and I suddenly felt like sponsorship was what I was meant to do. I sponsored a couple more kids (I'll tell you their stories another time) and joined an online sponsorship forum called Our Compassion where I admit, I bragged about my girl as if she were my own daughter.
|Esperance Age 9|
Note: Esperance is sponsored through World Vision, and this forum is for Compassion sponsors (which I also sponsor through), so what happened next can really only be described as a miracle.
See, one day I posted a photograph of Esperance on the Compassion forum and another sponsor named Lea looked at it and said that she recognized that photo, not the exact one, but the background area, the child's pose, everything reminded her so much of her own little girl's photographs. We compared notes and sure enough, our children belonged to the same World Vision project! I fired off a letter to Esperance and received the reply shortly after, yes, she did know the girl named Lea, (Lea sponsors Lea, no name confusion intended). They lived in the same neighbourhood and went to school together, although they were a grade apart.
|Esperance Age 10 (wearing necklaces, bracelets and a purse I'd mailed to her)|
And then Lea announced she was going there to visit Lea. We didn't know if it was possible, there was a very short amount of time to arrange it, in fact Lea was already IN Rwanda before she found out, but it was managed. I literally cried with joy to find out that Lea was going to meet my Esperance... And it's probably a good thing you can't see me just now, because the memory of it is still bringing tears to my eyes faster than I can wipe them away.
|Esperance age 10, I believe this is the photograph that Lea first recognized as being similar to one of her own child's.|
Lea not only visited Esperance, but she visited Esperance's parents and siblings, all of whom I've been writing to and receiving letters from over the past couple years. She saw their home. She took photos, photos of my girl smiling from ear to ear, dressed in a dress I'd sent her, surrounded by siblings who were all wearing little cross necklaces I'd made them awhile back. She took a video of my girl waving to me and for the first time I got to hear her voice as she told me hello! (in Kinyarwanda! )
And now here's a few more photographs of Esperance, the girl who started it all. :)
|Esperance aged 11|
|Esperance age 11 with her mother Cecile and a couple goats and groceries she bought with some money I sent. |
Her green outfit was also new.