By Jacqueline Villeneuve
The holiday season is a time to celebrate with friends and loved ones. We rejoice in the time spent together as a family, celebrating the year that just passed, and looking forward to the future.
This year, we have a special reason to smile. It does not come in the form of a physical present.
Our sweet Faith, who we rescued in November 2015, will finally be receiving open heart surgery in December! One year later, after months and months of hard work, we are able to provide Faith, a beautiful four-year-old girl who suffers from Tetrology of Fallot, with the open heart surgery she needs to survive.
Faith’s journey has been a long one. But it has been a journey supported by the community of Sudbury since the beginning.
When we met Faith, she was abused and broken. When she first joined our family, she spent five days in the hospital. Following her first overnight stay, she spent time in the hospital each month with cardiologists and nutritionists.
One year later and Faith is now happy, rehabilitated and completely in love with her new family. Most important of all – Faith is heading to Israel to receive open heart surgery today, Dec. 6, 2016, with Save A Child’s Heart.
When we received the news in November, it became so clear to us how much our community in Sudbury made Faith’s surgery possible.
From receiving the information about Save A Child’s Heart from Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre and his wife, Dr. Lyne Giroux, back in May, to reaching out to the organization and waiting for their decision if Faith was accepted for surgery, it has been a long road.
Through the donations, prayers, and positive thoughts sent in from the Sudbury community, we raised more than $12,000 for Faith’s medical needs, and finally, for the first time in her life, this little girl will no longer have trouble breathing. She will no longer suffer in pain.
Finally, she will have the opportunity to make plans for the future and dream big! The only gift we wanted all year.
When your child is ill, your whole family suffers. This year was a tough one for us at Zawadi. I felt myself truly understanding the struggles every parent with a sick child faces.
Your other children don’t understand the expenses that come with having a sick child. They still want to have the same things they have received year after year. It was hard explaining to our kids we wouldn’t be able to do one “exploration trip” this year because we barely had enough food to keep our house running, school fees paid, and our support team compensated for their hard work.
When we spoke of Christmas, we wondered how we could even make a dinner for the kids on Christmas Day possible. Seeing our community come together this year for NEO Kids Foundation brought me so much joy, and understanding of the need for the fundraising efforts of thousands of people across our great city, because I saw the impact medical care has on the life of a child, and I saw how much it means to families in need as well.
Everything came into perspective for us this year.
With Faith’s expenses still quite high when she returns, and our children beginning a brand new school year in January, we began a campaign in October that is now in full swing.
Christmas for Kenya aims to obtain both family and corporate pledges to give the gift of hope to the Zawadi la Tumaini family this Christmas and into the new year.
Our goal overall is to raise the funds to pay for two terms of education, support for our children from December to February, and a lovely Christmas meal for the kids.
Our children, through their trauma before joining our family, have learned the true meaning of Christmas. Family, education and support for each other is what matters most in our home. Not gifts. Not the glitz and glam of Christmas, but the simple joys found in being together and having the foundations to continue leading a healthy and happy life into the new year.
To help the Christmas for Kenya campaign, you can visit ZLTHope.org/donate and sign up with your family today! To further support Christmas for Kenya, you can also purchase our “One Dream Can Change the World” t-shirts that provide a $10 donation to Zawadi la Tumaini with each purchase.
It takes a village to raise a child and the Sudbury community has joined together to raise the children of Zawadi la Tumaini. This year, our entire family got the gift we have been waiting for all year. The gift of knowing our little Faith would finally be healed. We hope you join us in continuing our communities support for Zawadi la Tumaini over the holiday season.
From our family in Kenya to yours here in Northern Ontario, happy holidays.
Hanmer native Jacqueline Villeneuve chronicles her efforts at Zawadi la Tumaini Children's Home, a refuge for HIV/AIDS orphans she founded in Kenya. Zawadi la Tumaini translates in English to "gift of hope." Visit the home’s website at zawadilatumaini.com.