Ealing couple tell of their joy after meeting their sponsored child in Haiti
Sally and John Anniss from Ealing have just returned from Haiti where they met Melissa, the girl they have been sponsoring for almost three years through child development charity Compassion UK.
59-year-old Legal Receptionist Sally Anniss and her husband John forded rivers and drove along bumpy roads for five hours for the opportunity to meet Melissa last month.
"After a few hours, the tarmac road ended and we then drove for about two hours along a rough gravel road. Along the way, we crossed a river where the bridge had collapsed following the hurricane of 2016. As the bridge had not been repaired, we literally had to drive through the river" Sally reminisced.
Eight-year-old Melissa lives in the coastal community of La Source, home to approximately 2,500 people. Typical houses there have cement floors, brick walls and tin roofs. Many residents experience poor health, and infections, fevers, lice and diarrhoea are very common.
Many adults in La Source are unemployed. Those lucky enough to find jobs typically are employed on plantations, as fishermen or work as subsistence farmers earning the equivalent of Â£42 per month.
However, the couple's sponsorship of Â£25 a month is giving Melissa the chance to have a different future.
Their support enables her to be part of her local Compassion project where she receives nutritious meals, emotional support, medical attention and the chance to get a good quality education.
Although education in Haiti is highly valued and technically free, the majority of Haitians cannot afford to pay for uniforms, textbooks and supplies, and most primary schools in Haiti are expensive private schools.
The school drop-out rate is increasing, particularly among girls, and education remains a privilege of the upper and middle classes.
So for Melissa, who dreams of being a nurse, the opportunity of a free education is literally life-changing.
"We visited two Compassion projects in Haiti where we saw well-constructed buildings, with children who clearly enjoyed attending school at the projects. There was a real buzz about each of the projects and the staff were enthusiastic and dedicated" Sally said.
Sally described Melissa, who is being brought up by her aunt and grandmother, as a "beautiful, bright little girl with a lovely smile."
The couple visited her home, met her family and swapped gifts with Melissa, who presented them with some special drawings she'd made for them. John and Sally gave her a new school backpack full of gifts.
"We had the most amazing, enjoyable and fascinating adventure," Sally said of their trip. "We hope that Melissa will continue to develop and work hard at school and that she will be able to share the benefits of her education, sponsorship and what she has learned with others in her community."
The couple also reflected on the benefits they felt they had gained through sponsoring Melissa and two other children from Haiti, Erby and Kevens.
"Meeting each of our sponsored children was the most joyous and exciting experience. And receiving letters from our Compassion sponsored children is also a great joy. Our eyes have been opened to the reality of the lives of children in Haiti" they added.