Kelly Pyke leads a Sisters program that sponsors Ugandan children. photo provided
Kelly Pyke leads a Sisters program that sponsors Ugandan children. photo provided

Tucked into a little office on the outskirts of Sisters are big connections to a rural mountain village in Uganda. The Hope Africa Child Development Program is staffed by an army of one, Kelly Pyke, who, along with the sponsors she gathers, has empowered an entire village and its hundreds of children.

Pyke is the director of Hope Africa Child Development Program. The program helps Sisters families financially sponsor a child (or children) in Uganda.

"When a child and his/her family (if any) is informed there is a sponsor for them they celebrate and they dance," Pyke said. "For them it's a rescue of sorts. It's their chance at making it out of the poverty that is their existence."

Pyke says that "Compulsory education is not the deal in Uganda. Survival is their reality and their reality is very harsh. The sad part of their culture is their childhoods have been confiscated. AIDS has taken so many adults and orphaned the children. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has stolen over 40,000 children, forced them to kill, and made them the 'Invisible Children.'"

Inspired by the sponsors that contact her office, Pyke is emotionally moved by their deep commitment to their sponsor children.

"Our community is full of caring people," she said.

Driven by her love for these impoverished children and surprised by the joy of the sponsors themselves, Pyke stitches together the connections between this mountain town and the one in Uganda.

Sponsorship takes many forms. One family sponsors 14 children while another sponsored child may have several people that cooperate in their sponsorship. The biggest load is carried by individuals and families that sponsor one child at a time.

Tom and Barb Harris started sponsoring Abel Chebet in 2004.

"The joy and gratefulness in Abel's letters are overwhelming to us," they agreed. "For his birthday we sent him a little bit extra, he bought a blanket and some rice. We are very humbled by his appreciation and that he and his family prays for us."

"I meet so many people who desire to help and end up surprised by the blessing they get in return," says Pyke. "Like the sponsor parents whose (American) children have become pen pals with the sponsored child and end up with a world view that has exploded with curiosity and wonder over kids in another part of the world who ask in their letters, 'what crops did you plant this year?'"

Teresa Mahnken and her husband Barry sponsor Sharon Chemutai.

"Once you become involved, it's about the relationship," Mahnken said. "And we've received from this so much more than we've given; beyond measure more. When a child living in a small African village, in a home with a dirt floor, tells you they are praying for you every day, it's very humbling. You cannot help but be affected by that. It's a daily reminder of what's really important.

"It becomes even more personal because of the amazing job that Kelly Pyke does as director of this program. Her enthusiasm and commitment is contagious, and that she hand-delivers correspondence to me at work makes me feel the village is right here."

Hope Africa truly manages the program with great heart and little overhead. The office space, electric, and printing needs are all compliments of Sisters Community Church. The only administrative fees are Pyke's salary and the salary of her staff in Kapchorwa, Uganda: a school headmaster, school teachers, three social workers, a financial officer, and the lunch ladies. Each is paid a fair wage for the area.

"Our sponsors want to do it through an organization that has a more intimate and personal connection with the local community and the children than Compassion or World Vision, for example," stated Pyke. "Compassion International has a multi-story building in Colorado Springs to support that serves the millions of children their sponsors give to. With Hope Africa the whole program is simply more intimate."

Hope is what the program is all about. The hope of education that leads to a good job, the hope of health that includes food and medical attention, and the hope of faith that fills a soul that has been without hope.

Pyke will be in front of Sisters Coffee Company during Quilt Show with pictures and profiles of 50 new children waiting to be sponsored. Pyke will be joined by Janet Storton, quilter extraordinaire and founder of Sisters of the Heart.

The fee is $35 per month. Contact Kelly Pyke at Hope Africa Child Sponsorship Program at sponsor@outwardprojects.com, 541-549-1201 ext 208.