Nicholas and Nikolaus

World Vision writer Kari Costanza contrasts the life of her son, Nicholas, with the life of a young man she met in Tanzania, named Nikolaus. Both college-aged, her son Nicholas is in college pursuing his dreams; Nikolaus and his family are struggling to have hope for the future.

Find out how World Vision's programs will soon offer Nikolaus that hope.

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We’ve been saving for our son Nicholas’s college education since he was 3. That’s when Washington state introduced the Guaranteed Education Program, or GET. We could sock away a few hundred dollars a month and by the time Nick was ready to go to college, it would all be paid for. Now, Nick is at Western Washington University; and every quarter, I simply transfer money from the GET program to Western. It is easy and painless.

We got to see Nick this past Saturday at parents’ weekend in Bellingham. Nick got to see his sister and his grandmother, too. We were all very excited to celebrate the opportunity he has to learn and prepare for his future. That future is wide open.

Nicholas at parents' weekend in Bellingham. (Photo: Kari Costanza)


Nicholas’s life is a far cry from a Nikolaus I met two Thursdays ago in Tanzania. Like my Nicholas, this Nikolaus is college-age. Unlike my Nick, there seems to be no future in sight for this young man who shares his name -- Greek for "victory."

Nikolaus lives with his mother and seven siblings in a dry, barren area of Tanzania. Because there has been no rain, farming has been terrible. We talked with one farmer in the area who was only able to grow six bags of maize last year on 200 acres of land.

Nikolaus’ mother, Donatilla, has it hard. The family lives in a cow-dung hut with walls you can see through. The dung has fallen off and they don't have the means to replace it. They battle malaria. When we spoke with Donatilla, she thought she might be getting malaria once again. She was tired and achy. Her children get malaria five times a year. When they are stricken, they miss school. When they miss school, they lose ground. When they lose ground, they give up.

Nikolaus seems to have given up. When I asked him about his life, he hung his head in shame. Because his father left the family, he is now head of the household -- at 22. He farms what little he can and lives with his mother, brothers, and sisters in a house they share with 30 goats. The goats bleat, poop, and smell. It is no way to live.

Years ago, Nikolaus had to drop out of school. He had no GET program to save him. Poverty closed the book on his chance for education.

I asked Donatilla about her dreams for her son’s future. She paused for a long time -- shaking her head for a good 20 seconds before she replied, her eyes brimming with tears. “Any job,” she said. "Any job."

I too want my son to have a job. But not just any job. A job that serves people. Like my job. I want my son Nicholas to find a job with the same rich blessings. I want him to do something that makes a difference in the world. And I want his job to be his joy. I want him to wake up to find every morning brimming with possibilities.

Two young men named Nicholas. Two very different lives. But both of these young men have hope.

We’ve been planning for our son’s future since before he was born, beginning by painting his nursery yellow and blue with cows jumping over the moon. We made sure he had a nutritious diet, good friends, and excellent teachers.

And Nickolaus in Tanzania? He doesn’t know it now, but World Vision has big plans for his area -- plans to bring him hope and a future.

World Vision is launching a program called Securing Africa's Future in all 62 programs in Tanzania. The program combines smart, innovative agricultural techniques with even smarter economics. People farm in groups and use their new-found know-how and their collective muscle to overcome greedy traders who once took advantage of them as individuals.

Now they hold the cards.

One farmer in Eastern Tanzania made $15,000 in onions last year. That was my first salary in television news. It is a lot of money. Not only can that onion farmer send his children to school, but to college. They will be Tanzania's next leaders.

Securing Africa's Future will soon be rolled out to Nikolaus' community. My hope is that his family will benefit from the program. They need income from good crops. They need a new house. They need hope.

Simply put, Nikolaus in Tanzania deserves everything that Nicholas Costanza enjoys. There’s only one difference between these two wonderful young men -- the place they were born, or as Bono puts it, "an accident of latitude." I believe an innovative program like Securing Africa's Future can overcome that accident of latitude and give Nikolaus a fighting chance at a future.

It’s a chance Nikolaus deserves.

His name, after all, means victory. Just like my son's.

Sponsoring a child like Nikolaus helps provide him or her with life-saving basics like clean water, nutritious food, healthcare, education, and more. Consider sponsoring a child in Tanzania today!


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