A Hope and a Hallelujah

By Robyn Wilson, Child Champion, U.S.A.   |  Photos by @daveygravey

Growing up in an impoverished community in India, Sandeep witnessed kids die from hunger, illness, and abuse. As a child, he was powerless to help. But today, he spends his life fighting for those kids — just like someone fought for him.

“You live in poverty. You’ll never amount to anything. Get out of here.”

Those were the words that Sandeep heard from a security guard every time he got caught climbing a mango tree, trying to peek into the school he desperately wanted to attend.

But that security guard couldn’t have been more wrong.

Because God had a brilliant plan for Sandeep that would bring hope to him and eventually to thousands of children around the world.

Yet during that season, Sandeep, who was 6 at the time, couldn’t see past the poverty that surrounded him.


Fighting to Survive

One of Sandeep’s childhood homes in Calcutta.

Growing up in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata), India, Sandeep recalls telling his mom he was going “shopping” for breakfast each morning.

“I never went to Target, Walmart, or fancy malls,” he says. “For me, shopping was in the city dump, every single day. Without fail.”

Some days, the dump would be crowded, and other kids would fight with him and take away any scraps he found. But once in a while, when he arrived early enough, he would be overjoyed to discover a bowl of rice or piece of bread that he could take home to share with his parents.

On the Outside Looking In

On his way home, Sandeep loved to stop somewhere special to him — the school with the mango tree.

“I would climb the tree and watch the kids entering, thinking how life must be beautiful inside,” he says. “The school was a three-story building with blue windows, and all the kids would be giggling and smiling. They were so happy. I would think, ‘I wish I could get inside this school!’ But I couldn’t.”

As Sandeep sat in the tree, he tried to catch a glimpse of what was taking place inside the school.

“I saw kids opening their tiffin (lunch) boxes,” says Sandeep. “They were so excited to break bread and take bites. During that moment, I would hope that one day, my mom would have the opportunity to cook a warm meal for me.”

But his daydreams were always interrupted.

“Each time, the security guard would call me down from the tree and tell me, ‘You are poor and you smell. Why are you here? Look how dirty you are. You were born in poverty. And you will die in poverty.’ He would verbally and physically abuse me. And I would just cry.”

When Sandeep was a young boy, he often went to a nearby school to watch students and hoped that he could be a student someday, too.

Desperate Times

Sandeep would rush home, searching for comfort from his mom. Although she would cry with him, she would tell him that the security guard was right.

“I wish my mom said something different — that things would change,” says Sandeep. “But she didn’t. We were living in desperate times. Poverty does that to you. You stop believing. You stop hoping. And you start accepting the lies that you will die in poverty.”

That year, Sandeep’s dad also lost his job at a local shop. Both of his parents searched for new jobs but couldn’t find stable positions. Career options were limited; his mom never had the opportunity to attend school, and his dad was forced to drop out of school after fourth grade to support his parents. But even when they found odd jobs, they didn’t earn enough to make ends meet.

The market near Sandeep’s childhood home.

Eventually, the family fell behind on rent and were kicked out of their shack. Even though it was constructed of poles, cardboard, and newspaper, and lacked electricity and running water — it was still home.

“At that point, we had nothing,” says Sandeep.

Living on the street, Sandeep’s eyes were opened to new depths of poverty that shocked and frightened him.

“I saw little kids on the street begging,” he says. “They were dying because they didn’t have clean water, food, or medical assistance. Some were dying because they had [preventable diseases like] chickenpox or cholera.”

Sandeep also learned that kids living in poverty are often vulnerable to horrific abuse.

“I couldn’t stand what was going on. It was very hard to see that as a kid. But that’s the reality of poverty.

“It broke my heart — I felt helpless. And I thought, ‘I may be the next child to die.’ Because there was nothing I could hold on to.”

Raising a Hope and a Hallelujah

But one day, when Sandeep was ready to give up all hope, a social worker from a different child sponsorship organization operating in the country at the time saw him on the street and offered him bread. He also told him that Jesus loves him.

“I didn’t know who Jesus was at that point — to be honest, all I cared about was the bread,” says Sandeep. “I took that bread, shoved it in my mouth, and asked for more. Then, after my second helping, I asked, ‘Are you Jesus?’”

The social worker explained that he wasn’t Jesus, but that Sandeep was welcome to come learn about Him. “So that’s when I encountered Jesus for the first time on the streets of Calcutta,” says Sandeep.

But when Sandeep went to that organization’s center, he couldn’t understand why people were asking how they could help him. It even felt strange that they wanted to know his name.

“I’d never heard these things before!” Sandeep says. “All I had ever heard was, ‘You are dirty. You cannot make it. You’re born in poverty. And you will die in poverty.

“To have a place where you are known by your name, you are known by a person that sees you, and genuinely loves you, it is huge, and it is big!”

Sandeep was also enrolled in that organization’s sponsorship program, which provided life-changing care.

“I got shelter, food, health care, and clean water,” he says. “I even got a new pair of shoes and a school uniform. And they made it possible for me to finally attend school. I felt hope for the first time.

“But out of everything I received, the most important thing that changed my life was learning about Jesus,” says Sandeep.

“I always say that when the social worker found me on the streets of Calcutta, he raised a hope and a hallelujah in me!”

The Power of Sponsorship

After nine months of being registered in the sponsorship program, Sandeep was finally chosen by a sponsor who lived in Lexington, Kentucky.

Sandeep meets with a teacher and the principal from his old school.

“I still remember when my Child Champion came to my parents and I and said, ‘There is somebody who has taken your profile and wants to sponsor you! We just started crying because, wow, we’d been waiting so long and never thought it would happen. My family and I realized that God is good, and He is our provider.”

Sandeep still remembers how excited he was to receive his first letter. “It was unreal,” he says. “My sponsor wrote, ‘We are thousands and thousands of miles apart, but it seems like you are my neighbor and I love you.’”

Those words made Sandeep feel special and helped him believe that a better future was possible.

“It meant so much to have somebody on the other side of the planet write and tell me that I am valued and loved,” he says. “Because I wasn’t getting that on the street. My sponsor also told me that I could do anything through Christ because all strength comes from Him. And I said, ‘Amen to that!’”

Sandeep will always be thankful for his sponsor, who never stopped believing in him, praying for him, or encouraging him.

“I love the relationship of one-to-one child sponsorship and letter writing,” he says. “It’s a pure relationship because it’s based on a sponsor’s unconditional love. And I know personally that sponsoring a child makes a huge difference in somebody’s life.”


You can give a child in India hope — just like Sandeep’s sponsor gave him hope. Find a boy or girl who needs you today!


All Things Are Possible With God

Sponsorship not only helps a child in need — it also impacts the whole family. When Sandeep’s social worker and sponsor realized that his parents were struggling to find work, they helped them set up a small business selling potatoes.

As Sandeep helped his dad sell potatoes, he quickly realized that he loved bringing joy to people.

“I would draw smiley faces on the potatoes and say, ‘This is a happy potato! Please take it.’ If they wouldn’t take it, I would turn it into a sad face and say, ‘Look, now it’s unhappy!’ They would smile and agree to buy it. People would tell me I should sell potatoes for the rest of my life because I was good at it!”

But even at a young age, Sandeep started feeling like God was calling him to do something different for His kingdom.

“Since I was poor, I didn’t have many options,” says Sandeep. “But my sponsor kept reminding me that all things are possible with God.”

Sandeep and a young boy hold up a “smiley potato,” just like he used to make when he was a kid.

The Freedom to Dream

As Sandeep continued flourishing in God’s love and receiving encouragement from his sponsor, he discovered the freedom to dream.

“When you’re in abject poverty, you’re not allowed to dream,” he explains. “You have no hope. But sponsorship changed all that.”

“The biggest tool to fight poverty is not clothes, it’s not clean water, it’s not food. The biggest weapon to fight against poverty is hope. When you have hope, you can finally dream!”

“And slowly, I started having confidence in myself and believing that a better future was possible — and that God had a plan for my life.”

Rooted in Hope

Sandeep in his old neighborhood.

Throughout his childhood, Sandeep continued to work hard and excel in school. When he completed 10th grade, advocates at his sponsorship center told him they would help him attend any school in the area.

“Guess which school I chose to attend?” asks Sandeep with a smile. “I went back to the same school where I used to climb the mango tree.”

But this time, he was no longer on the outside looking in.

“I used to dream about how beautiful life must be inside those walls,” says Sandeep. “I got kicked out and never thought I would be able to attend. But there I was, 10 years later, walking into that school!”

The mango tree that he used to climb to catch glimpses of life inside the school no longer represented defeat. In Sandeep’s eyes, it was now rooted in hope.

“I still remember that day,” he says. “I went down on my knees and told the Lord, ‘Thank you for giving me this opportunity and answering my prayers!’”

Delay Is Not Denial

In that moment, God also taught Sandeep a lesson that he will never forget.

“My heavenly Father was telling me, ‘Son, do you realize My delay is not denial?’” recalls Sandeep. “I strongly believe that God’s delay does not mean denial. Because He loves me so much that He would never ever deny me.”

During Sandeep’s life, he has been forced to wait for many dreams to come true. But throughout it all, God has been faithful.

A Plan and Purpose

After graduating from high school, Sandeep’s sponsor gave him another life-changing opportunity — the chance to attend university.

Sandeep hoped to get a marketing and hospitality degree, but people told him that he would fail because his English wasn’t strong enough.

“People will tell you that you’re not qualified because of your circumstances,” says Sandeep. “But I believe God doesn’t always call the qualified. He qualifies us!”

“Today, I have a degree in hospitality and marketing,” he says, “and not because of my strength, but God’s strength. God has poured into me because He has a plan and a purpose for me.”

After graduating from college, Sandeep secured a job at the Grand Oberoi Hotel in Kolkata. Then in 2014, God gave him the opportunity to come to the United States and share his story on behalf of children in poverty.

“I love to use my degree to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,” Sandeep says. “That was a life-changing experience for me because I believe in the cause so much. Traveling …  talking about child sponsorship, was fantastic. I spoke about what God had done in my life.”

One evening, when he was speaking at an event in Oklahoma, he met the love of his life, Christina. “God orchestrated all the details and brought us together!” says Sandeep.

Christina and Sandeep got married in 2015 and now share two beautiful daughters — a 2-year-old and 4-year-old.

“I love being their dad,” he says.

A Dream Fulfilled

God also made one of Sandeep’s lifelong dreams become a reality in 2020. He had the opportunity to travel back to India and surprise his mom and dad with a home of their very own.

Sandeep with his parents and the keys to a home he bought them.


“As a child, when I was on the street, my mom and dad believed we could not make it,” says Sandeep. “They said, ‘You will be stuck here, and you need to accept that.’ My mom dreamed about having her own house one day, but she never believed it would happen.”

“But with God, delay is not denial,” he says. “Because He gave me the resources to give the keys to my mom and dad. The minute that I started working, I started saving for that house. And I told my parents, ‘You now have the house that you’ve been dreaming of for 30 years. Not because of what somebody has done, but because of what God can do.”

“I have fulfilled the dreams that I had,” says Sandeep. “And not only my dreams — my parents’ dreams are coming true through me. Because years ago, somebody in Kentucky was obedient to God and decided to sponsor me. That’s why I am alive today and why I was able to end generational poverty for my family.”

A Divine Appointment

And now, Sandeep is changing his sponsored child’s life — just like his life was changed. Recently, he even got to meet his sponsored child, an Indian boy named Aryan.

Sandeep with his sponsored boy, Aryan.

“It was a life-changing experience — a divine appointment,” says Sandeep. “Because I was a sponsored child, and now I get to sponsor a child! And I believe his life is getting impacted the same way. It’s like a full story coming together.”

“I got to encourage Aryan and his parents, pray with them, and tell them they can make it,” he says. “I even got to play cricket with Aryan. We had a blast. He also showed me his artwork. I saw his big smile and how happy he was. My heart was so full.

“God knows exactly what this child will do when he grows up,” says Sandeep. “I am blessed that God is using me to come alongside Aryan and help him dream. I cannot wait to see what God will do through him in the future.”

Speaking Up for Those Who Can’t Speak for Themselves

Today, Sandeep is passionate about working for OneChild because he knows personally what a difference sponsorship makes. He joined the organization in 2021 as the National Director of Development.

“God is using me to advocate for kids,” says Sandeep. “I love what OneChild is doing, how they bring hope to children in poverty. It’s incredible because these kids get their physical, educational, and spiritual needs met.

“Growing up, I thought, ‘Why can’t anyone speak up for me?’ But when I was sponsored, a passion grew in me. I knew I wanted to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Because I have seen my life changed, and I know other kids’ lives can be changed too.”

“When I was a kid, I thought I’d never become a dad because our lives were so tough. Now I have two beautiful daughters. I love to provide for them. I love the smiles on their faces.

“But what breaks my heart? Knowing there’s a mom on the other side of the planet, holding her son or daughter, telling them — just like my mom told me — ‘You cannot make it.’ Those kids are just like my kids, and they deserve a better future.

“I love my job because I get to tell kids in hard places that if my life can change, their life can change too. And we can do this together. I tell them, ‘Believe in yourself! Poverty tells you that you can’t make it. But if you have hope, you can make it!”

“And that’s why today, every single day is a fight for me,” says Sandeep.

“I get up in the morning because I want to speak up for kids. I remember those kids on the street being hungry and sick, and I couldn’t do anything. So today, I stand up for children in poverty and say, ‘Somebody cared enough to speak up for me, and now I am speaking up for you!”