Spotlight on Sponsors - Kathryn Williams Renna

Kathryn Williams Renna and Greg

Kathryn Williams Renna is a writer and writing teacher living in Portland, ME. She and her husband Greg now sponsor Abitha, who is in 8th Grade. Abitha was previously sponsored by Kathryn's mother, Ellen Williams Kympton.

My parents had three children, but there were many more children in our home. There were my older sister's two friends who moved in every weekend. There was the rambunctious little boy from Haiti, in the United States for surgery, who wore a patch over his eye for the several weeks he stayed with us. There were two teenage refugees from Vietnam. Oanh stayed long enough to have her own monogrammed towel in the bathroom. She still calls my mother "Mom".

Then there were those children we welcomed in spirit, like the young Southeast Asian boy whose photo still hangs in an ornament on our Christmas tree. And like Abitha.


Abitha, a student at the Sri Ramana Maharshi Matriculation Higher Secondary School, was 6 years old when my mother first started sponsoring her through the Aruna Partnership School Sponsorship Program. Today she is twelve. For years, a photo of Abitha in her Madras and crimson school uniform graced the altar at which my mother practiced meditation: hair lovingly braided and looped into pigtails pinned with bows, bangles on her wrist, and a laughing, confident smile on her face. I could only imagine the hardships she faced in her day-to-day life.

Today, Abitha's picture sits propped on my own altar, along with her most recent letter wishing our family a happy Pongal and her "god mother," my mother, good health. "I wish [I could] hug you," the letter says above drawings and stickers of flowers and hearts. She says she is "studying well" and enjoying her school days.

Kathryn's Mother

In January of 2016, my mother passed away after seven years of living with metastatic breast cancer. As she would have wanted, my husband and I have taken over Abitha's sponsorship and are unquestioningly committed to helping Abitha finish school. We sent our first donation earlier this year. My sister and her family also sponsor a child.

I don't know much yet about Abitha's particular circumstances or aspirations, though I am eager to learn in the letters we will exchange this winter. Still, her photograph has brought great comfort in the months since my mom's passing. It reminds me of what my mother taught us: Sometimes you love people, you make them part of your family, simply because they were brought into your life - not because of who they are or what they've done or what they'll do with the help you give them. Simply because they are and they need you.

I will have to tell Abitha that her god mother has passed from this world, but I will assure her that she is "family." My mother held her, like so many other children, in her heart, and now I will hold her in mine. I want Abitha to know that continuing my mother's sponsorship brings me great joy. I might be the donor, but it is a beautiful gift I receive through the Aruna Partnership Sponsorship Program.

Picture from Abitha