Inside Viva: I was once a child at risk

Rebekah K, former Communications Assistant:

You might not know it to look at me, but I was once considered to be a child at risk.

It’s a time I do not remember well. I do not remember waking up, sleepy-eyed, in the Center for Abandoned Children in Vietnam, suffering from third-degree malnutrition. I have no memory of my mother’s face and do not know if I even laid eyes on my father. I can’t recall the kind young woman on staff at the Center whispering lullabies into my ear to stop my crying. Everything I know of my early years I learned from my parents – my adoptive parents that is – and it seems like a dream in my comfortable reality.

Yet there has always been the thought of ‘what if?’ What if I wasn’t placed in a rehabilitation center for my illness, or watched over by attentive caregivers, or adopted into a loving family? Would I have remained an orphan my entire life?

Pondering these possibilities only highlights the immensely blessed life I have. For it was at a crucial moment in my childhood that I crossed paths with people who changed the course of my life forever. Caring adults who saw the danger of my situation and intervened, enabling me to thrive and become the person I am today.

Rebekah, age four, in her back garden in Seattle

That’s why I am so drawn to what Viva does: they provide a powerful presence during the most formative years of children’s lives. At a time when fear and anxiety are present every day and huge questions about what will happen in their futures are looming over them, Viva is there, pulling together all kinds of caring, knowledgeable people to answer those questions and provide a safe and caring community for these children. So I decided that I wanted to pack my bags and head off for a closer look at what they were doing, hopefully helping out at the same time.

As an International Development student I’m always being encouraged to go and ‘see the world’ and get real-life experiences to measure against the academic theories we are learning in the classroom. So it was great to be in the Viva office and not only see first-hand how programs are developed and rolled out, but also see the fruit of that work – hearing stories of children rescued from forced labor, saved from gang violence on the streets or empowered to speak with government officials about their rights.

It’s also been brilliant to see how Viva is prioritizing working with churches. In my studies one of the things I’ve researched is how the work of faith-based organizations compares with that of secular charities with similar goals, and my time at Viva has shown me what a powerful vehicle the Church can be. Local churches have a legitimacy in their communities that an outside organization may never achieve and the motivation and ability within congregations to support and care for struggling children is just enormous.

At the end of the day, though, I’ve loved my time at Viva – not for the interesting programs, the chance to write, the learning, or the fun people I’ve worked with (although those things have been great!) – because I’ve had the opportunity to help make sure that children, not so different from me, are given the same chance in life that I was once given.


Rebekah is currently an undergraduate student studying International Development at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA. She has recently returned home after a five-month internship at Viva’s UK office.

This article is first appeared in vivanews issue 13. Read the original article here.

Inside Viva is a blog series that shares the stories of Viva staff members and their views on different topics. The opinions expressed in these articles are the authors’ own.

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