In December, the small town that sits in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania comes to life. In Moshi, parents walk the streets hand-in-hand with their children and music from shop speakers reverberate across the town like a unified choir. The excitement can only mean one thing: It is Christmas time.

Not far from the town centre, a young boy is walking home from church. He is also looking forward to Christmas, but it hasn't always been the case. Poverty had once made life so difficult for Fadhili and his family that Christmas was just another day to struggle through. His parents worked hard and offered their children what they could, but without a stable income, the simple joys of life—and even his basic needs—slowly escaped Fadhili.
Fadhili-walking-home-down-a-dirt-road-(1).jpg
Fadhili walking home down a dirt road.

“The school always sent me back home because I had not paid my school fees. It was really embarrassing having to stand in front of my whole class before we were told to go home,” he says.

Constantly being sent home impacted his studies, and soon he was struggling in every subject. But just a few kilometres from his home, a partnership was about to start that would change the young boy's life. In 2013, seven-year-old Fadhili was registered in Compassion's Child Sponsorship Programme along with 100 other vulnerable children in the community. With his school fees and school uniforms covered through the programme, the young boy no longer feared being sent home from school. As he began attending activities at the child development centre, he learned about Jesus and began making new friends. One of the new people who came into Fadhili’s life was his sponsor.

“My sponsor’s name is Tom. He started sponsoring me when I was eight. Though we have never met, we communicate through letters,” says Fadhili. “I was having a tough time in school with my studies, but when I read in Tom’s letter that he was praying for me, I felt encouraged and started working hard in school. He not only prays for my studies, but he also prays for my family.”


Fadhili-reading-Tom-s-letter-(1).jpgFadhili reading Tom's letter.

It was Tom who changed Fadhili's perspective on Christmas. In the weeks leading up to December 25, letters from sponsors all over the world make their way to child development centres and into children's eager hands. Through the letters, children get the chance to hear how their sponsors will celebrate Christmas and what it means to them. “The joy in the eyes of these kids when they receive letters is hard to miss," says the Project Coordinator. "When we hand them out, you will find the children gathered in groups reading the letters. Even those who have not received a letter will be in the group. "It was one of these moments that impacted Fadhili. “I never used to get excited during Christmas, but Tom, changed that when he told me that Christmas was his favourite day. I also started loving it,” he says. As his sponsor shared the true meaning of Christmas, Fadhili realised how special the celebration is. Now, every year on Christmas eve, he hops on the back of his father’s motorcycle and they ride to church for the evening service.
 

Fadhili-sitting-with-his-younger-brother-and-sister-(2).jpgFadhili sitting with his younger brother and sister.

To Fadhili, Christmas is more than the new clothes he receives at the centre as a Christmas gift; more than the special meal he enjoys with his family at home. It is the day of remembering the birth of Christ. As he follows the narrow path that leads to his home, Fadhili returns with joy in his heart. He's already looking forward to putting on his gift of new clothes and celebrating ' the birth of Jesus on Christmas day.
 

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