The children in our program not only have the opportunity to obtain an education and experience the hope that lies therein – they also witness firsthand the transformative impact of giving in their lives. This culture of benevolence often perpetuates itself, and those who have received give back when they are able. Such is the case of a humble and sincere gentleman who visited the Children Incorporated headquarters in North Chesterfield, Virginia over the summer to tell us his story.
Reverend Solomon belonged to the first generation of Children Incorporated kids at our affiliated project the J. Calvitt Clarke Home, named after our founder’s father, in Dornakal, Telangana in India. From 1967 to 1976, Reverend Solomon’s sponsor – an individual to whom he attributes the enriched life he leads today – helped to support his education. He went on to graduate from high school and college, and returned to the same organization that manages the home that offered him invaluable assistance throughout his childhood, working as an accountant from 1980 to 1982. Dedicating his studies to theology, he became a pastor about a decade later, and started working with Word and Deed India, an organization that provides rehabilitation and treatment to those suffering from leprosy, as well as runs schools and hostels for underprivileged children.
Through the years, Reverend Solomon has thought of his sponsor often, and continues to do so to this very day. He treasures what a gift his sponsorship was, as it meant better lives for him and his family – and ultimately, better lives for so many more children in India. Reverend Solomon went on to found the nonprofit organization Oikonomos Ministries India with his wife Naomi in his home state in 2001. It began with 63 kids, and currently serves 610 orphaned and impoverished kids in the area.
“I didn’t hear from my sponsor, but I knew they were there for me,” Reverend Solomon told us. He is there for the Oikonomos children in the same way his sponsor was there for him, ensuring they receive basic necessities. He also pastors at Beth-EL Baptist Church and ministers locally, offering spiritual care and counseling as well as career guidance to the young adults of Oikonomos who are pursuing university studies.
“You must make use of this opportunity”
On this, his first trip to the United States for a pastoral training conference, Reverend Solomon made it a priority to stop by the Children Incorporated headquarters to tell us – and you – how sponsorship positioned him and seven other kids from his village on a marked path to success. “I remember hearing in school that Children Incorporated was in Richmond, Virginia,” he said. So when he discovered that he would be traveling to Virginia, he made the decision to pay us a visit.
Through the years, Reverend Solomon has thought of his sponsor often, and continues to do so to this very day.
Reverend Solomon proudly showed us photographs of other former sponsored children who had become bank managers, top-ranking police officers, and other successful professionals. “Poverty drove us to study well,” he said. “We thought, ‘You must make use of this opportunity and succeed in life.’” He told us of the extreme poverty from which his family suffered greatly, and he recounted to us an incredibly touching story:
When he would leave for the J. Calvitt Clarke Home as a boy, his family would give him enough money to travel to and from the home – and if they had it, a bit more for spending money while he was away. On one occasion, upon arriving to his house from the home, Reverend Solomon found that his mother was not there. When he asked his father where she was, he was told that she had gone out looking for some change for rice, because she wanted to be able to feed her child while he was visiting from school. Reverend Solomon felt awful about this, and upon his mother’s return, gave her the money she had given him months before; he had managed to save it, because his sponsorship covered all of his needs while he was away. His family was able to eat that night.
Years later, married with two daughters, and the executive director of a nonprofit organization, Reverend Solomon finished his story with tears in his eyes, and with such a grace that can only reverberate from raw gratitude. The cracking of his voice as he became emotional and the earnest air about him revealed the kindness that resides in his heart as a result of the compassion shown to him as a little boy.
Our common mission comes full circle
Reverend Solomon closed his visit by telling us about a question he had asked himself on his way here: “What can I do for Children Incorporated, because Children Incorporated has done so much for me?” Both our work and his is made possible by sponsors and donors. So it didn’t take him long to come to the conclusion that he would thank us by sponsoring a child in India himself. While his organization transforms hundreds of young lives there, he wishes to transform the life of a child through the same organization that linked his sponsor to him so many years ago.
From one sponsor having made a difference in the life of just one child, hundreds of people – children and communities alike – are now benefitting. Reverend Solomon takes great pride is how instrumental his own life has been in lifting up his village, as he is a living example of what its people’s lives can become when they are presented with possibility. Little could Reverend Solomon’s sponsor ever have imagined: the support that began fifty years ago and lasted for a decade is now a driving force pushing an entire community forward in Telangana, India.
HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN INDIA?
You can sponsor a child in India in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in India that is available for sponsorship.