When Yanwu and her family moved to the U.S., she felt her life had a new purpose. Becoming a Holt sponsor — along with her young son — was part of her life’s mission.
Yanwu had been an arts consultant in her native Hong Kong. But when she, her husband and 5-year-old son moved to Los Angeles in 2019, she felt driven — or called — to take her life in a different direction. Yanwu wanted to contribute more to families and children, helping them strengthen their relationships with one another. Soon, she began working at a local community college, assisting recent immigrants with student services. She began taking child development and family counseling courses. But as Yanwu recalls, “This calling from God was not just a career change.” It was something far bigger. “It was a life change.”
One day, in the fall of 2019, Yanwu was at church when she learned about Holt’s child sponsorship program. She remembered how many years earlier, while living in Hong Kong, her husband had sponsored children in China. So she thought to herself, ‘This is it: I need to sponsor a child too!’
After some consideration, Yanwu decided to sponsor a 7-year-old girl from Ethiopia. She knew she wanted to engage her 5-year-old son, Sam, in the sponsorship process, and she chose Meseret because she was close in age to Sam. She also thought Sam might have a natural interest because he already had some familiarity with East African culture. Back when her family lived in Hong Kong, Yanwu knew a pastor who had spent time in Uganda and Ethiopia. Upon her return, the pastor shared photos of the children she had met with Sam and other kids in the congregation — explaining who they were, what their lives were like, what foods they liked to eat. Sam was intrigued!
For more than two years, Yanwu has given consistently every month as a Holt child sponsor, providing much-needed funds to help bring stability to the lives of Meseret and her family in rural Ethiopia. On occasion, Yanwu will send additional funds for school supplies, food or birthday gifts, and in return, she receives updated reports about her sponsored child, including photos that she shares with Sam. Over time, Yanwu and Sam have learned that thanks to their sponsorship dollars, Meseret has been able to attend school safely — even during the pandemic — and is now in grade 3. She is healthy and strong, social and playful — an active girl who enjoys playing with her siblings and neighbors.
In early 2020, Yanwu decided to sponsor a second child, this time an 8-year-old boy named Tigabu who also lives in Ethiopia. And this time, Sam agreed to step up and help! As it turns out, Sam had recently received some “red pocket” money for Lunar New Year, a gift from friends and relatives, and Yanwu discussed with him how this money might translate into helping a child in need. She explained that $10 spent on a toy could provide a child with a year’s worth of school supplies, or that $25 could help hungry children receive a school lunch. Surprised to learn how far his red pocket money could go, Sam decided to become a sponsor. “It was a good values education for him,” Yanwu says.
In the two years since he began sponsoring Tigabu in Ethiopia, Sam has continued to share his red pocket money every year with his sponsored child. He has also helped his mother send cards and letters. When younger, Sam would simply draw a heart and sign his name on a card, but now that he is older, he may try to write a letter.
In short, Yanwu says the whole experience has been really positive. “Sometimes Sam will take the photos of both of our sponsored children and we will talk about them before he goes to sleep,” she says. “We read their information to understand why they need a sponsor, and we learn what they are doing daily to help their families, like filling water buckets or picking tree sticks for cooking.” Sam feels proud to be a sponsor and says, “I don’t want to buy expensive toys — because these children need help. I want to go to Africa to meet them one day. I want to ask, ‘Do you always see wild animals?’”
For her part, Yanwu has continued to advocate for child sponsorship in her community — and recently encouraged a friend from church to sponsor a child from China, a 5-year-old girl. Her friend just happens to have a son who is a close friend of Sam, so this might be an experience the two boys can share. “So often, we are interested in what activities, what fun we can plan for our children,” Yanwu says. “But it’s good for parents to educate kids about [things like sponsorship] too.”
Yanwu also recognizes the power of collective giving, citing how even small donations from many people can make a big difference. She recalls the miracle of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and draws a parallel, saying: “Generosity is like a [rolling] snowball! Even if you have a little money and share it, you can feed a family for years.” In her case, Yanwu has not only helped two families in Ethiopia, but she has opened up a world of caring to her son — a world where people of all ages can step up and happily help one another.
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