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Q&A with sponsor Carla Sykora

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Q: Why did you become a sponsor?

A: It was because Tsehai came to our church back in 2005 and told her story. It is really that simple. Also, our church was doing a Momentum for Mission drive to do a capital campaign to raise money for missions. The team was trying to decide where to do outreach focused on Ethiopia.

Q: Tell us about your experience as a sponsor of REAL girls.

A: First, I have to thank Tsehai and Ann for matching us up with Maheder. What a joy to write letters back and forth and be addressed as "My Dearest Family"! I didn't know anything about her background and what trying circumstances that she had overcome. The friendship with Maheder continued over the years as we continued writing and learning about her family. REAL was good at giving notice when letters needed to be written and giving us updates on how she was doing in school. She was amazed at pictures I sent with MN winters and she always asked questions of us about life, weather and our family.

Q: What have you learned?

A: We have learned over the years that these students are bright, compassionate, grateful, hardworking, and caring (for their sponsors and each other). My eyes were opened to know their hardships but yet no complaining. Our family has appreciated the hard work of REAL.

Q: How has being a sponsor changed or affected your view of Ethiopia? Of Africa? Of the importance of education for girls?

A: Back in 2007, our church did its 2nd mission trip to Ethiopia. I was on that trip and we visited three different REAL sites and some on the trip got to meet their student. I was one of the lucky ones to meet Maheder!!!! I can safely say that it was love at first site! We hugged and stuck together the entire time we were there. The girls at the sites were so beautiful, inside and out! Families were so generous to us with serving us a meal. The girls work hard at school and at home. Ethiopia is so beautiful! The food is wonderful and the people were so welcoming to us. When it was time to say goodbye, it was one of the hardest things that I had to do on that trip. I started crying and Maheder wiped the tears from my eyes.

As for the education for girls — what can I say, Maheder went on the University and got an mechanical engineering degree!!!!! As she wrote, "I would like to express my heartfelt and sincere gratitude for your priceless guidance and support and in the future I will follow your steps like Ms. Elfinsh say 'the one helped by others knows the meaning of help'. I love all REAL members and REAL girls." What more can you say about educating girls?

Q: What do you know now that you didn't know before?

A: I know that my sponsorship goes to the girls! I know that REAL works so hard to continue this program and this program works. I appreciate the mentors, the in-country coordinator, the committees, the REAL Board and Tsehai. She had a vision and the amount of young women that have benefitted from her work is amazing. But these students have worked so hard and I'm amazed and what they have accomplished.

Q: Have you had communication with your REAL girl?

A: I think the letter writing is huge. Each of our students are so unique and you cannot compare them as we don't compare our daughters. Besides getting the letters we have received such pretty cards and artwork! I think it is great to be able to write and see the progress they make in their English and writing skills.

Q: Is there anything a potential sponsor should know?

A: I think each sponsor has a different experience with their students. All I know is that one girl at a time, getting an education, has been life changing for me and our family. The dedication, hard work, the good grades from these students is great. But when you add their background, their hardships they have overcome to get an education, it is phenomenal! Sponsors have such an important role to cheer them on, congratulate them on their achievements and their grades! These students need to know they are family to us and that they are loved.

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