It was never our intention to have a large family. Of course, you could argue over the figure that turns a medium-sized family into a large one. With 13 children in ours, I think my husband Mike and I can safely say that we crossed over into ‚Äėlarge-family territory‚Äô long ago!
It was child number six when we finally realised just how much we loved another child coming into our family ‚Äď not just Mike and me, but all the family rejoiced when a new baby joined us. We're now¬†mum and dad to¬†13 children ranging in age from 2 to 23, and we‚Äôre also the proud grandparents to one-year-old Oscar.
As well as our 13 children, we also sponsor four children around the world, two through Compassion UK. We began sponsoring Opisia nine years ago when she was just eight years old. Her very first letters would ask: ‚ÄúWhen will you come and see me?‚ÄĚ
They still do.
Opisia was being raised by her father and grandmother in Uganda. Her father was the main wage earner and her grandmother was a subsistence farmer. Two years ago, as our family sat on the beach facing the Adriatic Sea during our two-month long travels, Opisia sent us the very sad news that her father had been killed in a road traffic accident. Her grandmother is extremely poorly and life is difficult. The vast difference between her life and ours in that moment was overwhelming.
Opisia‚Äôs constant gratitude towards our support is sobering. Sponsorship makes such a difference to her life ‚Äď a life that is a world away from that which my children know. It is a financial amount that is so little to us, yet creates a completely new path of opportunity for her. We have recently started to sponsor a teenage boy in Haiti. We are still getting to know him.
Last year, my daughter Caitlin and I were due to fly out to Uganda to visit Opisia, but our own circumstances took a tragic turn. In the space of five months, I lost my father and my 34-year-old brother to cancer, both during weeks when we were due to fly to Uganda. The pain of losing two of the closest members of my childhood family is raw and indescribable, yet we had all the benefits of living in the developed world to help us. Both men had been wonderfully cared for in hospital; I had a warm, secure home to return to and a job I could rely on.
As a mother, watching my children experience the loss of not one but two close family members was heart-breaking enough. That my children‚Äôs grief was not further compounded by hunger, sickness or having to find work to earn money to support the family was a blessing I took for granted. In fact, it was something I didn‚Äôt even consider ‚Äď until I compared it to Opisia, whose experience of life, death and grief has been far, far different to my own.
How could I even begin to empathise with circumstances I know so little about? How, when we have so much, do we appreciate so little? How can Opisia exhibit an enthusiasm and a gratitude that I still cannot match? And how is it that Opisia, who is blossoming into a wonderful, intelligent, compassionate young woman, is helping me more than she knows, without realising it?
The reality is that our monthly donation provides Opisia with more than just an education, food, clothing and healthcare. It provides her with hope ‚Äď something so intangible yet so meaningful. A word often glibly said yet incredibly powerful and undoubtedly vital in shaping lives.
And we must never underestimate the power of hope.
Because as long as a person can hope, they can keep moving forward, no matter what the circumstances.
You can give hope to a child, like the hope Tania has given to Opisia, by sponsoring a child this Mother‚Äôs Day.¬†
Give a child hope today
By Tania¬†Sullivan. The Sullivans blog about Larger Family Life¬†here.¬†Caitlin and Tania have rearranged their visit to Uganda for a third time so watch this space for stories and updates as they meet Opisia. ¬†