Why Give Overseas? Reflections from a Kupenda Volunteer

by Kupenda

A blonde woman helping a young child with an arts and crafts project.

This season we are reminded of the “good news that will cause great joy for ALL the people.” (Luke 2:10).  Thank you for being a part of this work! During this season of giving, I thought it would be fitting to highlight a former volunteer’s newsletter article below on why she believes in supporting children here and abroad.  You can read more from our Kenyan staff and volunteers in our latest newsletter. During this time of giving would you consider a gift that will positively impact children with disabilities in Kenya and Tanzania?  See why Becky believes it’s a gift worth giving…..

Why Support Kids Overseas?

By Becky Dowling, Kupenda volunteer

“Ya know where I’m from, Miss Dowling? Kenya!” As I looked down with surprise at the plucky first grader who had just thrown her arms around me, I was struck by how easily I could picture her in the uniform dresses worn by the children at the Gede Special School in Kenya, which I had visited two years prior. Instead, she wore the polo shirt-and-khakis uniform assigned by the Revere, MA school district where I teach English as a second language to children in very low socioeconomic situations. “Do you know that I’ve been to Kenya?” I replied, and then added “Jambo!” for dramatic effect. She almost fell over with shock and then began excitedly speaking to me in Swahili. Laughing, I told her that the word for “hello” was all I knew. Since that day last year, she and I have shared a unique bond: love for a beautiful but troubled country on the other side of the world.

When I traveled to Kenya in June 2011 with a group of 17 volunteers, I felt largely supported by my community. Family and friends gave above and beyond what I could ever repay because they believed in Kupenda’s mission to love and take care of those forgotten by the world. Interestingly, I did receive a critical reaction from a very few. Why not take that money and use it to support children in the U.S.? Why do Americans feel a burden to go save Africa when their own communities need saving as well? Admittedly, I struggled with these voices during my time in Kenya. While it was a life-changing experience and privilege to teach and befriend the children that Kupenda supports, I wondered if those comments carried more weight than I had been willing to give them. Should we serve children in Kenya, or would Jesus prefer that we stick to helping children with disabilities in our own neighborhoods? I have wrestled with this question, especially since I work with so many children who do need significant help, but have found the following realizations helpful and convicting.

There are far more similarities than differences between the children I teach in Revere and the children who attend schools with Kupenda’s support. While most would not consciously argue that the humanity of any two individuals differs at the core, it took a first-hand encounter with a vastly different culture for me to experience just how similar we are. Children around the world with all varying abilities react with the same relish to undivided attention. They react with the same devastation to instability and abuse. They cry when they are hungry and thrive when they are fed. Children cling to hope far longer than adults do—often in the face of impossible obstacles—until the light of that hope is snuffed out through the realization that help will not come. In Revere, help comes in the form of parent education, caring teachers, rigorous education, and government-subsidized breakfast and lunch. In Kenya, help comes in the form of sponsors such as yourselves, who support children with disabilities to attend schools where they will be cared for, fed, and educated. Help also comes through the training of local leaders, pastors, and parents to care for the children in their own communities. Hope comes through the sharing of God’s Love and the promise that one day, all injustice will be made right (Isaiah 30:18-19). Kupenda is not just sending children to school. It is training Kenyans, Tanzanians, and Americans to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus to children who by earthly standards are “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).

As I continued to ponder the critical question, I wondered, “What does this mean for us back in the U.S.?” Jesus’ call to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31) reaches far beyond our neighborhoods or city limits. It is a call to love our global neighbors in whatever way we cannot to make us feel better about ourselves, but to provide the hope needed to change a child, a community, and a nation. Every time I get a hug from my little Kenyan friend in the hallway at school, and every time I greet a new, frightened student who has just stepped off a plane from a war-torn, poverty-stricken area of the globe, I am reminded that the world is our neighborhood, its inhabitants are our brothers and sisters, and if a lack of care is present, its children become our responsibility. Today, my response to those who posed the question, “Who should be served?” is that I believe our goal is to use whatever we have to minister to whomever we can, both on our streets and around the world. After all, that’s the worldview with which Kupenda was founded.

Merry Christmas!
With much love and gratitude,

Cynthia Bauer
Kupenda for the Children
PO Box 473 Hampton NH 03843
[email protected]g

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