By Virginia Sowers, Community Manager
When Alison Weatherman met her future husband in North Carolina a decade ago, she had no way of discerning at that moment just how far Alieu had come in life.
“I was a nurse, and he came to my job as a nursing assistant, and I was smitten with him,” she recalls. They married the next year.
During their courtship, Alison learned that Alieu was a former sponsored child from The Gambia. “He was sponsored at age 7 by a wonderful woman named Pat from California,” she says. Alieu’s father had died young, leaving his widow and children with little means of survival. Pat’s sponsorship of Alieu for the next 11 years kept him on track. “Her support and encouragement led him to stay in school,” Alison says.
In fact, Alieu earned a scholarship and graduated from The Gambia College, and he began to think about traveling to the United States to further his education. Over time Alieu found a rewarding career in health care, and he and Alison became the happy parents of two daughters.
The couple also were determined to give back to their community, and became volunteers at the food bank and other local causes. Seven years ago Alison decided it was time to expand their giving internationally. “I told Alieu that in honor of his birthday, I was going to sponsor a boy also named Alieu in The Gambia,” she says.
Alieu, who preferred not to be interviewed, was thrilled to reconnect with his home country in a meaningful way, Alison says. “We’ve now visited little Alieu with one of our daughters and my parents. It’s a pretty incredible experience. We have so much more [in the U.S.] than they do. Some Gambian families only have $250 in income a year.”
“Our daughter understands just how different our lives are. When we went to visit, she took a stack of books as a donation to the school library. It was a great experience for her to be able to do that.”
And, back in the U.S., Alieu has also reconnected with his former sponsor. “He remembered she had a business, and we found her on the Internet. Alieu has been to California to visit Pat, and she’s been to visit us in North Carolina,” Alison says. “Alieu and Pat have also traveled to The Gambia together to see just how from he has come.”
For Alieu, the journey has sometimes been long, but the circle remains unbroken.
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