Mary and Adel Mekhail sponsor eight children and have previously sponsored 14! Meeting four of their sponsored children in Kenya and Ethiopia was an experience they will never forget. Read about the time they met Erick, who has just graduated high school and is studying to be a mechanic. 
 
It was a 6am start when we met George our host and Kevin our driver and headed to Mombasa, Kenya, to visit Erick. Mombasa seems to be going through some major road construction projects and I don’t think mechanics are going to run out of a job anytime soon. Which is good news for Erick, who at 19, has just finished high school and will be starting a three-year mechanic course away from home. 
 
We arrived at a town where we could go shopping with George for a gift basket for the family and something for Erick’s siblings. We bought flour, oil, sugar, rice and earrings for Eric’s four sisters and mother. 
 
After another hour of bumpy roads, we arrived at the project. The project director was welcoming, friendly and cheerful. We started with prayers and a welcome before being introduced to Erick and the project team.  

 
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Children playing at the Compassion center 
 
The moment we met him I will never forget. There were so many children running around and then we recognised Erick from the pictures in our sponsorship letters. He was wearing a bright red t-shirt and looked at us with a big smile on his face. It was so heart-warming!
 
Erick is a very soft-spoken and slender young man. He seemed attentive to what was needed and willing to help. For the whole time, he didn’t seem to be able to wipe the smile off his face. We went for a short, extremely bumpy drive to visit Erick’s family at their small mud house. 
 
We were welcomed by the family at their home. They had plastic chairs and some tree logs in a big circle under the trees, with a couple of small tables in the middle. We introduced ourselves to the family and they did the same. There is dad, mum, four younger sisters and a brother, an uncle and auntie and their family and an auntie who is an elder in the church. She led us in prayer and we sang and prayed for them as well. 

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We gave them their gifts as well as the ones we bought from New Zealand (a couple of New Zealand t-shirts and caps, a solar lantern and toothbrushes). I said we were happy to share the gifts with them. Then they brought us a full box of coconuts, bananas and sago (a type of starch) as a gift as well as a wrap-around for me in Mombasa blue, white and black. A couple of years ago, the local government decided that all buildings in the city centre of Mombasa have to be painted white and blue, so that was where the colour got its name. 
 
Erick’s family home is a mud house with a few rooms inside. They have electricity and one light bulb in one room. The floor is uneven like all of the roads and courtyards. 
 
We said our goodbyes to the family and Erick headed with us back to the project to a home-cooked lunch in the project office. Rice, chicken in broth and spinach, very tasty Tanzanian food. 
 
We went for a tour of the project/school classes and service areas and talked about the needs. They needed a fence, as the project is open on all sides and this is a safety concern for the children when they are doing outdoor activities. The teachers end up being a human fence. They would also like to have a resource room to keep the kids interested in other activities. We hope to donate to this project so the children can have a safer place to play.
 
We said our goodbyes to the staff before driving back to Mombasa arriving around 5pm. 
 
On the way back George, our host, told us that he was once a Compassion child. He was an orphan who lived with some family friends and on Saturday he would go to the project to eat. The staff realised that he needed to be included in the programme, so he was sponsored. He finished his schooling, got a university degree in psychology and did a leadership course through Compassion as well. He is planning to finish his PhD and go for a lecturing job at the university. 
 
Back at the hotel, I got a nice necklace to give to George. He had mentioned there is a lady in his life that he is planning to propose to. He was very happy with the necklace and said he will give it to her on Valentine’s Day.
 
I can highly recommend sponsoring a child and building a relationship with them through letters. Now we have a deeper relationship with him after meeting his family.
 
I was on the verge of tears of joy just seeing the wonderful work Tearfund’s partner does. The staff are just wonderful, their heart is in it, and it’s not just a job for them.

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