How to change the world in one morning
During my recent trip back to Mwanza I had the privilege of spending time with our church while they made preparations to open the Compassion Children's Centre. My job one morning was to sit in the community centre and wait while a team from House on the Hill Church and Compassion Tanzania went into the neighbourhood to invite families to register their children for the project. For most of the morning, I passed the time chatting to some of the many volunteers who were waiting back at the building and watching life go by on what appeared to be a normal day in this part of Mwanza.
My family and I were sent to Mwanza in 2011 by Newcastle Christian Life Centre and started working with local people to build a church congregation that would have a transformative mission to the people of that city. By the time we left to return to the UK in 2017, the church was established with a local leadership team, a community building with land to expand and a vision to reach the community on the hill in Nyashana. One of the key ways this vision was to proceed was to partner with Compassion International to open a child sponsorship centre. I honestly didn't think that less than a year later I would be returning to Mwanza to witness the registering of some of the first children to receive sponsorship and education support.
The community of Nyashana sits on top of a dusty, rocky hill overlooking Mwanza, Tanzania's second largest city and Lake Victoria, the world's second largest lake. The neighbourhood is peaceful but full of noise and activity. From the window of the community centre I could hear the sounds of music playing from several directions, dogs barking, cockerels crowing and children playing. I could see dust thrown into the air by piki-piki motorbikes racing along the dirt road, men walking and groups of women, many carrying loads of all shapes and sizes on their heads. And always children wherever I looked, sat on steps, carrying water to their homes or just playing.
On this ordinary day, it was also a reality for many families that providing for the day-to-day needs of their children was a struggle. As I waited in the church building, I pictured parents wondering if they would be able to afford to send their children to school, if their sons and daughters would have a future better than their own or whether they too would have to fight to feed themselves and their families. And then a member of our team appears at the door with the news that there is hope, their child can go to school and get tuition to see them through their exams; that there is support to get the child the things they need to stay in school and build their lives for a better future. In the space of one conversation, the world has changed for that family and a vision for the future begins to open up like it didn't before.
It was around mid-day when I saw the first of the families appear on the road, walking towards the church. There was no mistaking them because they were dressed in their best like they were going to a wedding. First a grandmother with her granddaughter whom she had cared for since the child's parents had died, then a mother and father with their three year old son, then more and more families appearing on the dirt road coming to start a new chapter in their lives. One marked with a hope they didn't have just one hour before. One by one the families entered the building and the process of registration began.
It was easy to see how the lives of those families was changed on that morning. But in a very real sense, the world was also changed. By offering a small amount of help to enable those children a better chance of reaching their potential, that community, that city, that country and therefore the world will now have access to the amazing potential of those young people when it may have otherwise been hidden under poverty. It is those children who will now have the opportunity to build the solutions for their own community and ultimately impact the world in which we all live.