My world is made up of pictures. I’m a photographer. Arriving at this profession was a journey that started with Compassion at the age of 14.
Looking through the pages of Compassion’s magazine, I was moved by images of the world around me – both the goodness and the injustices that prevailed. I yearned to open others’ eyes, through the medium of photography, in the same way these images opened mine.
I don’t remember the moment I decided to sponsor a child or even how I selected the child I would sponsor. What I do remember is being 14, wanting to help a child, but having no income.
I gathered together a small group of friends, and we split the sponsorship by using our allowances. I collected the money, wrote the letters to Kimuna, and shared Kimuna’s letters with the “team.” Letter writing was an important part of my childhood and adolescence.
I waited anxiously by the mailbox to receive updates on Kimuna’s family, goats, school, crops and soccer games.
“The Team” went their separate ways during college, and I would not have been able to maintain my sponsorship without the help of my parents. As I struggled to find myself, figure out how to balance an account and keep money in said account, Kimuna’s letters were always there with prayers for me!
It’s a humbling experience to have a friend struggling to survive, yet asking how he can best pray for you.
Soon I resumed my sponsorship duties and continued the journey into my twenties discovering what it means to be an adult. I relocated, got a job and started a business. On the days when my bank account over-drafted, I seriously wondered if I could continue the Compassion endeavor. Doubt would creep in, but echoing louder were Kimuna’s letters of perspective and reassurance.
When I gave him gift money for Christmas or his birthday, he would offer letters that often read like receipts: one package candies, two packages of seeds for crops, one goat. It was amazing to see so little money go so far to meet his basic needs.
One day I received a letter asking for my prayers.
A storm had destroyed much of Kimuna’s home. I called a representative at Compassion who was exceedingly helpful in assisting me with the process of offering a special gift. That month I sent extra and was shocked to receive a letter back recounting the purchase of doors, roof repairs, and a myriad of other repairs that led to a comprehensive restoration.
I had given so little. I had so little to give, but the meager amount made such a tangible difference in the life of someone a world away. This was what I remembered each month my account dipped dangerously low. I knew I’d find a way.
In recent years Compassion sent me an updated photo of Kimuna. I decided to place it in my wallet near my I.D. Throughout my day, every time I open my wallet, I remember to say a prayer for him and his family.
It seems ironic, this process. It offers the perspective that I have a wallet. I open it daily. I buy things: groceries, gas, or the occasional latte. Others do not have this luxury.
Life continued on in this way: letters arrived and were sent. Prayers were said. Until two monumental things happened — I turned 30, and I received a voice mail from a Compassion representative notifying me that Kimuna graduated from the program.
My heart went on a rollercoaster ride that has not ceased. It is a staggering realization that half of my life has been lived with Kimuna a part of it. I grew up with him.
The woman on the voicemail also said that Kimuna has taken up trade as a carpenter and hopes to own his own shop in the future. My heart leaps for joy to know he has sustainability for himself and his family.
Kimuna will always be in my heart, but I’ll also keep the photo in my wallet where I’ll be reminded to pray for him continually and where I’ll keep the perspective I would not have gained without him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristen Kidd is an Advocate and Photo Documentarian living outside of Philadelphia. She believes that everyone has a story to tell and in finding that story and telling it.