6 Grandparents Who are Changing the World
Age is just a number to these incredible men and women who remind us that no matter our age or circumstances, we can all make a difference.
30 Oct, 2016
Wyn Finlayson, 93 years old
Wyn's husband supported her in making and selling jam for children living in poverty.
Wyn’s late husband used to say “talk to Wyn and in five minutes she’s talking about Compassion or jam”. Wyn disagrees. “But that’s not true, not true at all. It takes me 10 minutes!”
Both Wyn and her jams look like they belong in a classic English tea house, among scones and cream and delicate china teacups. But when she starts to talk about her ‘two boys'—the motivation for her jam making—her eyes light up with purpose and determination.
“I sell my jams for Compassion,” Wyn begins. “I have my two boys, one in Uganda and one in Bangladesh. The money I raise makes such a difference to their lives.”
Since 2009, Wyn has made delicious jams, selling them to raise money for her two sponsored child and Compassion’s Child Survival Program. Originally selling the jam to friends, family, the local church, and retirement home, Wyn’s jam sales increased so much she has had orders placed from the east coast of Australia and has been asked to make jam for several weddings to give as gifts. In 2015 alone Wyn raised more than $3000 for mums and babies living in poverty.
“My boy in Uganda, his mother used $100 I sent them as a family gift to start a business to help feed her five children. My boy in Bangladesh, the first thing his family bought with the jam money was a toilet!”
“When you think 22,000 kids die every day from preventable things, you’ve got to do something. [The money I raise from selling jam] is a little bit, isn’t it? A drop in the bucket. But like Mother Teresa said, the ocean would be that much less without that drop.”
Chuwit, in his 70s
Now in his 70s, Chuwit Wutthikarn would be forgiven for putting his feet up to watch the world go by. Instead, since retiring from his position as vice dean at a Thailand university, Chuwit has been translating the letters children write to their sponsors.
“I write every letter by hand because I think handwriting is more valuable and it creates a human touch between sponsors and children,” says Chuwit. “Translating for me is not just translations. I see myself as a matchmaker who will help sponsors and children love each other.”
The translation process can be time consuming, with each one-to- two -page letter taking at least 30 minutes to translate to English. Chuwit can spend hours searching for the right way to describe difficult words like medical definitions or phrases describing cultural traditions. He even makes phone calls to Compassion’s field specialists for advice to ensure sponsors in other countries will understand the meaning and feeling their sponsored child was communicating.
For Chuwit, translating letters is a labour of love. “The happiness I feel from translating letters, money cannot buy.”
Rex and Jessie, both 81 years old
Rex and Jessie became sponsors for the first time at age 80—proof you can make a difference at any age. The passionate green-thumbs donated money from plant sales over the years to help children living in poverty, and decided to take their commitment further this year after encouragement from their daughter Irene.
“We were a bit hesitant at first because of the long-term regular commitment, knowing our health could deteriorate and we might have to close down the [nursery] business,” says Jessie. Irene came up with the perfect suggestion: sponsoring an older teenager who was close to graduating from the Child Sponsorship Program but whose previous sponsor had needed to cancel.
That was how their relationship with 20-year-old Monique from Haiti began. As a shorthand typist, Jessie quickly (and impressively) mastered the online letter writing system and the couple began getting to know Monique.
“We can take a personal interest in her life and are grateful for the Compassion [online letter writing] system which allows us to do that.” For the couple, using their gardening for good was an easy decision.
“It is very rewarding to be involved in helping other people and as a follower of Christ He has given us the gifts and talents to be used in his service,” says Jessie.
“It gives us a great sense of satisfaction, enjoyment and above all, thankfulness to God for all his wonderful blessings to us.”
Nachi, in her 60s
“Collins is a good boy,” Nachi says. “I feel overjoyed when I see him. I have really become a mother to him,” she says, blinking away tears. “Collins is my child because I have raised him. He has no father and his mother died.”
Nachi is one of the millions of grandparents worldwide raising their grandchildren on their own. But desperate Nachi’s efforts to provide for her grandson, poverty placed her and Collins in a desperate situation.
At three in the morning, a crack shocked Nachi and Collins from their sleep at home in Kenya. The noise was so loud, so terrifying, that Nachi thought something was trying to attack them. In the pitch blackness, hearts pounding, they realised they were alone. But what they discovered was still terrifying: torrential rain had caused their house to collapse. They were homeless.
“I feel so bad that we are in different houses from day to day,” says Nachi. “If the owner tells us to go then we must go. How will Collins get an education if we are moving all the time? What kind of life is that for him?”
Nachi fasted for three days, waking at three in the morning—the time the house collapsed—to pray desperately for a new place to live. God was about to answer her prayers.
A Compassion staff member came to see Collins and Nachi, asking them to come with her. She took them to an area with lush green grass and mist rising in front of distant mountains. Around them, several labourers worked the fertile soil. Collins and Nachi had no idea what was about to happen.
“We know you don’t have your own home,” began Mary. “So Compassion is going to help you build a home on this land, a permanent house for you and Collins.”
A slow smile spreads over Collins face, and Nachi begins dancing with joy. “May God bless you!” she exclaims. “Oh, may God bless you. Today, the Lord himself has come. He has heard our prayer.”
Nachi placed her hand on her beloved boy’s shoulder. At last, she feels at peace.
“I used to think a lot about how I will take care of Collins since his mother passed away. But not anymore,” she says. “Now it’s over. I won’t be worried anymore.”
Neetlje, 104 years old
On 16 September 2016, the day after her 104th birthday, Compassion’s beautiful supporter Neeltje de Bruyn passed away. Her legacy is both inspiring and astonishing. Nellie, as she was affectionately known, personally wrote letters to each of her five sponsored children until earlier this year—at 103 years old. She stopped writing only when her eyesight began to fail.
In her two decades of Compassion sponsorship, Neeltje personally impacted the lives of 16 children living in poverty. The Queenslander was 81 years old when she sponsored her very first child. When we asked Neeltje what prompted the decision, she shrugged and smiled.
“The call of the Lord,” she said simply.
Words by Zoe Noakes with additional interviews by Choe Brereton and Elissa Webster