Imagine this: It is a cold winter night. You are five years old, hungry and huddled under an apartment stairway. You are unprotected from the wind and snow, and unprotected from the drunkards around you. You sit in a corner, shivering and crying for fear that you might be attacked.Most adults would be intimidated, let alone a child.Yet, Burenkhaan Erdenechimeg had to live through that as a young five-year-old Mongolian boy. Not only would he and his mother collect glasses and cans to survive, he eventually lost his mother on the streets. For a vast and largely-undeveloped country like Mongolia where almost half the population live below the poverty line, many families struggle to make ends meet. Children then become the victims of poverty, alcohol addiction and prostitution.
Young Tsege, an eight-year-old girl born blind in the right eye, led a life filled with hardships and heartache. After her parents divorced and her dad left with her brothers, her mother lost the few animals they owned to a disastrous snowy winter, and both of them were left helpless, without income. Insufficient food explains her stunted stature as her meagre diet was unsuitable for a growing child. Eventually, her mother moved to another province in search of work, and she had to live with her father, stepmother, and four brothers.She missed her mother greatly. Due to her disability, Tsege was often teased in school. She developed a low self-esteem and would keep to herself.
Relationships built, lives transformed
Then in 2011, both Burenkhaan and Tsege experienced a year of positive transformation. Tsege met her child sponsor Crystal Goh. While both were unable to understand each other’s language, an undeniable connection was made. Crystal was so inspired and touched by the little girl’s story that she decided to sponsor Tsege.
Knowing that someone cares for her, coupled with World Vision’s efforts to help children in her community, Tsege has found hope and has made new friends in school. She has received training on character-building and learnt how to cope with her disability.
Today, her life is filled with more laughter and joy. Even though they are separated by distance, Tsege does not regard Crystal as a stranger. “I miss her very much and she is my very dear sister,” said Tsege.
While Tsege found an ‘elder sister’ to call her own, Burenkhaan embraced a new family too. A couple from New Zealand sponsored him by providing him with critical support and education.
“They’re my ‘dad’ and ‘mum’ and they’ll always say that they love me, even when I’m back in Mongolia. ‘Mum’ would tell me not to worry about my future,” said Burenkhaan.
Now a strapping and optimistic 17-year-old, Burenkhaan’s grades have improved as well. He achieved second placing for English in school. It would not have been possible without his newfound parents’ financial and emotional support.
“My life has changed a lot. I’ve not only gained a loving family, I now feel that my life matters and that I’m capable of being loved.”
Crystal, a child sponsor with an incurable vocal disorder, frequently drew inspiration and hope from Tsege. She could recount many moments when Tsege became her source of encouragement.
“As a child sponsor, I’m supposed to be the one to make Tsege’s life brighter but instead, I’ve been so touched by her quiet strength and giving spirit,” said Crystal.
Tsege was in Singapore recently to perform a duet with Crystal for two weeks and during one of the performances, Crystal felt very discouraged. She recalled: “The sound system was bad and the audience was distracted. I wanted to give up. When the song ended, I felt I had let Tsege down but to my surprise, she looked at me and simply said ‘I love you’.”
A child is calling today!
One billion children still live in abject poverty, with less than US$1 a day. More than 20,000 children under the age of five die from hunger daily, and one in seven go to bed hungry each night.
An estimated 5.5 million children are trafficked annually for forced labour and sexual exploitation. Some are as young as five years old.
In 2011, 67 million primary school-aged children were reportedly not enrolled in school. And close to 19,000 children under five die of preventable causes like pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.
These figures are real. The children’s futures remain bleak and hopeless, and they need help urgently. Child sponsorship can give these poor and vulnerable children sustainable hope and love. Let them experience what Burenkhaan and Tsege have so wonderfully received.
Sponsor a child!
Could there be a beautiful sight yet to be unveiled in your life?