DRC_Louise, 16, Bienvenue 12, Alice, 8, and her mother Patience are pulping the cassava leaves
Minute Read

The difference one year of sponsorship can make,

even in a pandemic

Dinner for two... non-existent Christmas parties … and a bit too much loungewear. For many of us, last Christmas was a big departure from the norm, marked by on and off lockdowns and socially distant gatherings. But for many living in countries that were already facing a crisis before the pandemic began, COVID-19 disrupted a lot more than holiday traditions—and many are still struggling to recover. 

“Last year, Christmas was like a day of mourning,” says sixteen-year-old Louise in the DRC. Like so many others, the pandemic hasn’t been easy for her family. Being home from school meant that she and her four siblings missed out on a nutritious meal they usually would have received at school. She knew this put pressure on her mum, whose income had already been halved. 

16 year old Louise and her mother Patience from DRC

But Louise’s mother, Patience, feared something else as well. As a single parent to four daughters, she lay awake at night, worrying about her girls’ safety. Without the protective layer of the classroom, girls in the DRC are at greater risk of violence and exploitation. World Vision has shown that school closures during crises can increase teenage pregnancy by 65%.  

For Patience, this statistic became a reality when her daughter, Louise’s sister, was raped. The days that followed were a nightmare of every parent’s worst fear made real. And then, they discovered she was pregnant. Traumatised, afraid, and struggling just to keep going for another day, Christmas passed by without celebration.  

“We used to celebrate Christmas very well,” explains Louise. “We got toys, dolls and clothes, and went to church with our friends. But during the pandemic, everything changed. We couldn’t celebrate, no one could go out and there was no food.” 

From facing hunger to the trauma of sexual violence, the COVID-19 pandemic has been more than a disruption to Patience’s family life—it’s put them on the knife edge of survival. Concerned about her daughter’s safety, Patience dedicated herself to caring for her until she gave birth, which meant her ability to work was diminished even further. But throughout the turmoil, sponsorship has been a constant lifeline for the family. The support from Louise and her sisters’ sponsors have meant that Patience has been able to remain above water, even at her darkest hour.  

Sixteen year old Louise holds the maze from the field

Before the pandemic struck, Patience had joined a savings group that the sponsorship programme helped the community establish. Patience had been working hard and saving towards a new house. The tragedies that 2020 brought her family pushed her house plans aside, but she was able to use the money she’d saved to help her daughter through pregnancy and delivery instead—and that was a huge relief.

“COVID-19 did not spare anyone,” she says, “but my savings could solve a lot of problems during that period." 

At the start of 2021, Patience’s family also received maize seed and farming tools as part of World Vision’s COVID-19 response in the DRC. Now, as 2021 draws to a close, Patience is celebrating an incredible harvest, which she is selling to generate income.

Louise, 16, Bienvenue 12, Alice, 8, and her mother Patience are pulping the cassava leaves

“We kept part of the harvest to prepare for Christmas too,” Louise adds excitedly. “I’m so happy because this year’s celebrations are already looking so good with all the supplies we have.”

For the first time in a long time, Patience is not lying awake at night worrying about her daughters—they are back in school and supported by sponsors. Instead she is dreaming up a Christmas feast for her family, including her newest grandchild, a healthy baby boy. 

Millions of children in the DRC do not have sponsors to help face the storms of crisis. Now, an impending global famine is pushing too many children to the brink of survival. This Christmas, you can provide life-saving food and so much more… healthcare, education and the tools to break free from poverty, for good. It’s time to change the course of the crisis. 

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