Five-year-old Eesha* lives in a small village in Bangladesh. Her father is ill, and her mother died a couple of years ago, leaving her teenage sister to care for her. The odds are stacked against Eesha. Where she lives, 40 percent of girls never get to go to school, and only 20 percent finish high school. In her entire village of 1,200 people, only four women have university degrees. In a country where two out of every three girls will be married off before they even turn 18—a practice driven largely by poverty—Eesha’s sister may become a child bride soon. And statistics suggest that Eesha will one day have to get married and drop out of school, too, unless something interrupts the pattern.
My family and I sponsor Eesha through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries’ Child Sponsorship program as a way to interrupt that pattern. Eesha is close in age to our own daughter, but their opportunities are so very different. My daughter will benefit from easy access to schooling in the United States, but education is a privilege for Eesha. My girl will be able to choose the person she wants to marry, but girls in Bangladesh typically have little choice in the person they marry, or when. And my child will probably find a job one day that pays a living wage, but that’s not a given for Eesha in a country where 76 percent of people live on less than $2 a day.
I believe my daughter is oh so special, but she is no more special than Eesha. Both girls have special value because they were made in God’s image. Both girls have God-given dignity and the potential to do amazing things. Yet being born into different circumstances can make all the difference. Still, I believe things can change for Eesha. I believe that she can grow into the person God created her to be.
According to Esther Duflo, an economist who studies global poverty, hope is a powerful thing in a child’s life. In a lecture she gave at MIT in 2012, Duflo said, “Hope can fuel aspirations; for example, a successful role model can change the expectations of what a girl can achieve, and thus affect her own aspirations for herself, or her parents’ aspirations for her. In turn, these aspirations can affect behavior. … A little bit of hope and some reassurance that an individual’s objectives are within reach can act as a powerful incentive.”
Through NCM’s holistic child development programs, girls (and boys) around the world are gaining access to education and opportunities for their future. Through Child Sponsorship, Eesha is gaining that little bit of hope and some reassurance. And as my daughter prays each night for her friend in Bangladesh, I believe that she, too, is gaining hope for a better world for all of us.
My family sponsors Eesha because we believe her future can be different from what the statistics predict. We sponsor Eesha because we believe in hope.
* Children’s names are changed for their protection and privacy.