About a month before I left on a trip to Africa with Team World Vision, the fundraising arm of World Vision that raises money through marathons, I received a packet in the mail. Inside was a picture of Isaac, a smiling seven-year-old. He had been assigned to me by World Vision as a sponsored child. The kids on child sponsorship mailings are always beautiful. But were they really just using bright smiles to pull at my heart strings?
According to the marketing materials, for just $35 a month, I could ensure that projects deemed as top priorities by Isaac's community were funded through my donations. Though the dollars wouldn't all go directly to Isaac like some child sponsorship organizations', he would benefit directly once water projects were funded and schools were built. When I travelled to Kenya earlier this year, I got to see for myself what child sponsorship means in real-time.
As we swerved back and forth down the dirt path leading to the Cheptigit Primary School in Kenya on a desperately ragged, gnarled, arid landscape that resembled the surface of the moon, I wondered what it would be like to meet Isaac in person. World Vision had chosen this site so our group could see a "before" example. They would be drilling a borehole the following week, but up to this point, Cheptigit had no clean water, and no improvements to the school or village. The terrain looked uninhabitable, and yet this was the area Isaac and his family called home.1