My name is Gilbert Mfitundinda. I come from a beautiful community in rural Uganda where the last mountain gorillas live. As a child, I would walk every day over the green hills, enjoying the view of the mountains and the lakes. It was breathtaking.
I would pass by small pieces of land being farmed, and I would see the farmers planting, pruning and harvesting. Watching this every day and working the land myself, I began to understand that we are created to take care of God’s creation, to co-create with God and bring things to life.
But my family was poor. Even the poor called us poor.
We lived in a makeshift house. The walls were wood, patched with mud, and the roof was grass-thatched. Whenever it rained, we would get drenched, along with our treasured items.
I am the youngest of eight children. Growing up, we all slept on our dirt floor, and my brothers and I would huddle together for warmth. My family grew everything we ate. But if there wasn’t anything to harvest, we wouldn’t have a meal. There were many days when we had empty stomachs.
Six of my seven siblings dropped out of school. I assumed that would be my fate too.
At the time, I didn’t have someone to tell me, “Gilbert, the life you’re living now does not define you.”
I did have people who told me, “Nobody in your family has made it in life, and you will never make it either.” And I believed them.
But then someone gave me the best gift I ever received.
I was sponsored through Compassion International. This was by far the greatest gift anyone ever gave me because it changed my hopelessness into hope. Unlike most of my brothers and sisters, I was able to stay in school and graduate. I was able to receive health care when I needed it. I was able to receive things like a mattress — the first one my family ever owned.
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But more than anything, sponsorship changed my understanding, my attitude and my perspective. Poverty had taught me that I would never amount to anything. But with the gift of sponsorship, I had someone writing me letters, saying things like, “Gilbert, we love you. Gilbert, God has great plans for you. Gilbert, you have a future.”
And it was those words of encouragement that helped me fix the broken pieces of my life.
I don’t know where I would be without this gift of sponsorship.
I don’t even want to imagine it. Most likely, I wouldn’t have gone to school. I would have probably married by age 16 or 17 and have many children by now. But I wouldn’t be able to care for them. I would have a life of struggle.
But because of sponsorship, I was able to finish school and eventually study at university. What’s more, I just completed my master’s degree in organizational leadership, and I am working as a project manager and social media manager.
And I am very excited to say that I got married in June, 2019! My wife, Julia, has a real heart of compassion for people. She also loves and supports Compassion’s ministry. In fact, we met while both working for Compassion.
That’s why instead of wedding presents, Julia and I asked people to sponsor a child.
Our goal in life is ultimately to help others and to make the world a better place. We could have asked for blenders or other physical items for ourselves. But we know that those are only temporary. And we love using the few resources we have now to bring life to others. That’s the art of co-creation, just like I once watched those farmers bring life from the red dirt of Uganda.
Child sponsorship works. As a child, I never thought life had anything to offer me. But sponsorship helped me regain the hope that I really needed. And now I am able to build the kingdom and bring new life for others.
Sponsorship is the greatest gift I ever received. You can give this same gift to children in extreme poverty.