Guest Post by Pete Olson
Pete Olson is an American Formula car racer in the Asia Formula Renault Series. Olson’s Race for Children campaign is to raise awareness around the issue of child poverty while encouraging fans to become child sponsors. Olson shares his recent trip to meet sponsored child Trang.
After a decade of sponsoring various children through ChildFund, I finally made the decision to meet my sponsored child, Trang, and it was so worth it. Beyond the pictures and the letters from half a world away, my trip to Vietnam made my sponsorship experience that much more tangible. For the first time, I saw, in person, what my sponsorship had done for the little girl I’ve been communicating with over these past years.
To put it simply, meeting Trang is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done.
My visit made me realize, more than ever, just how privileged I’ve been in my life. I have been very lucky to have so many opportunities, many of which I’ve taken for granted. The benefits my sponsorship are helping provide to Trang are things I’ve always been accustomed to having.
For instance, I saw how ChildFund has helped build a medical center in the village to provide basic health care; they’ve built a fresh water system so the community doesn’t have to walk to a stream to collect drinking and cooking water; and they’ve installed toilet facilities in the village to provide access to basic sanitation. It was eye-opening to realize these standard amenities were previously nonexistent in this community. But I was more shocked to learn from a ChildFund representative that some children have to walk over the surrounding hills to get to and from school each day. That’s probably an hour hike over – and we complain about the Stairmaster!
We gripe so much about trivial things when so many of our basic needs are met. We only have to do a little comparison with those who lack those conveniences to realize how thankful we should all be for what we have and often take for granted.
It is a shame that there are so many inequalities in the world, but I know that I can do my part, no matter how small, to help children like Trang to improve their lives. I sincerely hope that through the Racing for Children program and my own personal efforts, we can find many more sponsors for children like Trang. If more people were moved in the way that I was last month in Vietnam, I have no doubt they would contribute.
I’m already looking forward to going back to visit Trang and her community. I am so glad I made the effort. To think that I have been able to help so much with what we Americans think of as so little – it is really something.
Formula One World Champion race driver, Aytron Senna said it best, “Wealthy men can’t live in an island that is encircled by poverty. We all breathe the same air. We must give a chance to everyone, at least a basic chance.”
Indeed it is our duty, and yet our privilege – we should all do our part. Help a child in need by becoming a sponsor through ChildFund International.
By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist
In our age of email, blogs, instant messaging, Facebook and Twitter, letter writing is mostly a lost art. Yet for generations, people have corresponded with each other. Scholars now study the many letters written by ordinary people to formulate their social and cultural histories.
When did you last take up pen and paper to write a letter? Remember how you paused a moment to hold your loved one in your heart before your words took shape on paper? Letters are gifts. And that’s the point of National Letter Writing Day, celebrated each Dec. 7.
For the children we sponsor, letters are an extra-special gift. They’re tangible symbols of our care and concern, so treasured that, if you visit a sponsored child’s home, you’re likely to find it displayed. You might see the wall of a mud hut completely covered with a sponsor’s cards and letters, or discover years of correspondence bound up in precious silk or leather for safekeeping. Often our words transform these children’s worlds, filling young hearts with hopes and dreams. Their lives will never be the same.
Whether this is your first or 50th time corresponding with your sponsored child, consider sending a letter or postcard today. Overseas postage is $1.05, for either a postcard or a standard-sized envelope of 1 ounce or less. You can order your stamps online in blocks of four, 10 or 20.
What to write? If you’re getting ready for Christmas, describe your own traditions. In most cultures, holidays are primarily about time spent with family and friends. So if your child happens to be Christian, ask about their own celebration. (In Belarus and Ethiopia, where Christians follow the Orthodox calendar, the date for Christmas is Jan. 7.)
For Muslim children, Muhammad’s birthday — called Maouloud or Milad an’Nabi — is celebrated on Jan. 24. In many countries where ChildFund serves, this is a public holiday.
Children in Vietnam, Timor-Leste and Indonesia celebrate the Lunar New Year on Feb. 9 or 10 this coming year; 2013 is the Year of the Snake. Vietnamese call the New Year Tet; to Indonesians, it’s Imlek.
Sri Lankans celebrate harvest thanksgiving day, Tamil Thai Pongal, on Jan. 14. Thai is the name of the first month in their lunar calendar, and Pongal is a special rice pudding they eat on that day. Holi, India’s harvest festival, arrives March 27.
What can you enclose with your letter? Keep “flat and light” in mind. For younger children, stickers, origami paper or balloons are fine gifts. Older ones might enjoy a short poem or story about your culture or holiday traditions. This gives them an opportunity to respond in kind. You may find some stories in common. The B’rer Rabbit tales, for example, are based on West African folklore about a trickster hare called Leuk – Leuk, le lièvre, in French.
Anything that encourages your child’s creativity or critical thinking is a perfect complement to your letter. Send crossword puzzles in their native language, Word Search games, Sudoku charts and coloring book pages.
Most of all, have fun! Letter writing is both an art and a gift of love.