Experience of a Lifetime

Blogging While Driving Across Uganda

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

Not too worry, I’m not actually driving, but we are being driven from Soroti to Busia this afternoon. To say it’s a bumpy ride would be a gross understatement. Or, as our traveling companions from Uganda point out, you know it’s a bad road when you spend more time driving on the shoulder than on the pavement.

Sponsor and child

David gives Brenda a photo from the beginning of her sponsorship.

This is Day 3 of the Experience of a Lifetime trip with David Levis, who is visiting five sponsored children across this great nation, alive with warm and welcoming people. This morning, we also managed to squeeze in a visit with a sixth child when we stopped in Amuda to see Brenda, who is sponsored by David’s sister-in-law and family.

Our next stop was ChildFund’s Akani project, where David’s sponsored child, Margaret, attends school.

The community federation and students teased David a bit by challenging him to pick out Margaret from a classroom full of identically dressed girls. After a few hints (you’re warm, you’re cold) as David moved around the crowded classroom, he spotted the child that he and his wife, Stacie, have been sponsoring since 2003.

girl and sponsor

Margaret and David share a hug.

Now 14, Margaret joined her classmates in two beautiful songs to welcome David to her community. “I am so happy, I am bursting,” Margaret said, as she described the day. Her entire family turned out for the occasion – eight brothers and sisters, mom and dad, grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousins.

Community member wave flag

Margaret's aunts and grandmother welcome David with a traditional greeting.

“Meeting Margaret is something we’ve dreamed about for a long time,” David said. “She is very special to Stacie and me. One of the reasons we chose to sponsor Margaret is because her short name is Margie, the same as Stacie’s late grandmother. We began sponsoring Margaret in her honor.” Inspired by the emotion of meeting Margaret, David pulled out his cell phone and dialed home. Although it was 2 a.m. California time, Stacie was thrilled to be briefly included in the conversation with Margaret.

family photo

David meets the family!

Meeting Margaret’s entire extended family, plus some neighbors and friends, was an unexpected treat, David said. “It’s so wonderful to see such a strong family working together to make their lives better, and it’s gratifying to actually see the difference that sponsoring a child and sending a cow has made in the day-to-day life of this family. I am humbled.”

So, on to Busia! On Thursday, we visit Buyengo Primary School followed by some quality time with a young man named Dixon. Along the way, we’ll be crossing the headwaters of the Nile River.

Learn more about ChildFund’s work in Uganda and sponsoring a child.

Greetings from Uganda

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

We awakened to a lovely, tropical day here in Kampala, Uganda, after arriving late last night following 30-plus hours of traveling.

David Levis, Experience of a Lifetime Winner

David Levis, the Experience of a Lifetime winner, started out in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday, and I began the journey from Richmond, Va. We met for the first time in Amsterdam, but after months of emailing and chatting by phone, it was like connecting with an old friend. David marveled at seeing three sunrises and two sunsets in a 31-hour period. I marveled that I was still awake!

We wanted to share with you what’s on tap for our week in Uganda. Today, we’ll be visiting the ChildFund Uganda office and meeting with National Director Simba Machingaidze and Sponsorship and Communications Manager Josephine Bazira-Muhereza. They’ll be briefing us on ChildFund’s work and the projects we’ll be visiting this week. We’re looking forward to having Josephine travel with us this week.

Tuesday, we’ll set out on a four-hour drive to Lango, Tela and Lira, essentially heading north. We’ll stop to visit two of David’s sponsored children, Robinah and Sarah. It’s going to be so amazing to see the children’s reactions when they get to meet David.

After overnighting in Lira, we’ll travel to Akani on Wednesday to visit Margaret and tour her community. We’re also hoping for a quick visit to Amunda, where David’s sister-in-law’s family sponsor a child, Brenda.  We’ll end the day in Busia.

Wednesday morning,  our first stop is the Buyengo Primary School. David’s middle school class in Sacramento has been corresponding with the seventh graders at Buyengo. Then, it’s on to Jinga for visit with 9-year-old Dixon. We’re so looking forward to seeing Dixon, who’s been ill recently, so we want to check on him.

We’ll arrive back in Kampala Thursday night and catch a bit of rest that evening. On our final day, Friday, we’ll travel outside the city a short distance to meet Shafik, age 6, and his family.

It’s going to be a whirlwind week. We’re psyched and we’ll keep you posted as we go along. Thanks for following the Experience of a Lifetime!

Winner of Facebook Promotion to Visit Uganda

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

The chance to travel across the world to meet a sponsored child doesn’t happen all that often for ChildFund supporters. Most faithfully write letters and exchange photos with children and their families for years, but few have the chance to meet face to face.

David Levis of Citrus Heights, Calif., now has that opportunity.

photo of David and Stacie Levis

David and Stacie Levis

David is the grand prize winner of the Experience of a Lifetime promotion, that ran on ChildFund’s Facebook site this summer. He and his wife, Stacie, sponsor 13 children in ChildFund programs. Five of the children live in Uganda, which is where David, a California school teacher, plans to travel.

“ChildFund has become part of our family, even to the extent that our three young children have become involved in writing letters and saving change to go toward buying cows for some of our families,” David says. “This has changed their perspectives on the world.”

David’s trip with ChildFund to Uganda will take place next April over spring break. And it’s an experience he looks forward to bringing home to his family and students. “Seeing the five children we sponsor in Uganda will help me better understand the complexities faced by their families,” he says. “I plan to share this firsthand information to help teach my students about the importance of global citizenship, and how they too can look for ways to help people around the world.”

Five Finalists Compete for Chance to Visit Sponsored Child

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

It’s now up to you to decide who will travel off the beaten path to meet their sponsored child and tour a ChildFund program in Africa, Asia or the Americas.

Image of Facebook Experience of a LifetimeToday, phase two of ChildFund’s Experience of a Lifetime promotion gets under way on Facebook. Five finalists — randomly selected from the group of qualified entrants who collected at least 10 friend nominations during phase one — are vying for the chance to realize their dream of visiting their sponsored child.

The finalist who receives the most votes by July 31, 2011, 11:59 p.m., ET, will be named the winner, pending a final background check per ChildFund’s child-protection policy.

You may vote one time per day by visiting our Facebook app.

But, first, take a moment to read their wonderful stories (appearing in alphabetical order).

Photo of Janet BrownJanet Brown, Monrovia, Md.
Sponsored child: Jose, Mexico
Jose has been my sponsored child for many years, and as he’s grown, has become more and more like a second son to me — and I have become his “Madrina” (Spanish for godmother).

Jose tells me everything going on in his life including “little things” you would share with your mom or a beloved aunt, including when he didn’t get such a good grade in school!

I’m so proud of Jose and I also have deep respect for his mother who, in spite of so many obstacles, has done a fine job raising such a wonderful young man who dreams of working with computers some day.

I have been fighting ovarian cancer for over four years and Jose has been so concerned for me, expresses so much love. I want to go down to Mexico to hug him, to tell him personally how so very proud I am of him. And I know he would want to do the same for his Madrina.

Photo of Matt FoleyMatt Foley, Merrimac, Mass.
Sponsored child: Adalberto, Mexico
Over the past year, my son Connor and I have supported a 13-year-old Mexican child named Adalberto through ChildFund. Connor, also 13, and I occasionally exchange letters and photos with Adalberto.

It has been a great learning experience for both of us. Connor would like to meet Adalberto; therefore, I want to win this promotion so Connor and I can meet Adalberto and his family.

Seeing underprivileged youth thrive is so rewarding! I see this firsthand, both as a ChildFund sponsor and foster parent. Please vote for Connor and me!

Photo of Cheryl Honey and grandson ChaseCheryl Honey, Branson West, Mo.
Sponsored child: Lam, Vietnam
When my grandson, Chase, was 6, I explained to him that children in some parts of the world didn’t have all of their needs fulfilled. We went online and Chase picked out a little boy that we could sponsor through ChildFund. He chose Lam from Vietnam because Lam was cute and looked sad.

Chase and Lam are both the only child in their families and decided to call each other “brother.” Lam sends us pictures he draws (He is an exceptional artist!) and his parents write to us often telling us how Lam yearns to meet his “brother” and that if Chase could come visit he would take him horseback riding.

Chase and I write and send pictures to Lam and his family often and feel like they are family we have never gotten to meet. It is amazing how we have grown to love a family through letters. We aren’t a wealthy family and truly felt the chance of meeting Lam and his family was nothing more than a dream. Now, it seems, there is a possibility that our dream can become a reality, but only with your vote. Thank you, Cheryl.

P.S. I want to see how Lam lives, play with him and have fun, and tell each other about our lives. I want to be able to come home and tell people here about Lam so they will also sponsor a child. Please help us. Thanks, Chase.

photo of David LevisDavid Levis, Citrus Heights, Calif.
Sponsored children: Shafik, Sarah, Dixon, Margaret, Robinah, Uganda
Before I begin, I believe that all of the finalists are deserving of this opportunity. Allow me to tell you about myself and also what I plan to do if chosen. I am a father and a teacher; I have been married for 13 years. I have three wonderful children, seven, four and two. I teach at a low-income school in Sacramento, Calif. We have been with ChildFund for about 12 years and sponsor 13 children.

Our love for ChildFund began with a young boy in Guatemala named Deny, after seeing a commercial about ChildFund. Then we began looking into sponsoring other children by browsing ChildFund’s website. What we found was child after child in terrible need of OUR help. Our ChildFund family grew from one to two, then five, then nine, then thirteen. We only wish we could support more.

ChildFund has become part of our family, even to the extent that our children have become involved in writing letters and saving change to go toward buying cows for some of our families. This has changed their perspectives on the world.

As a teacher, my hope is to do the same with my students. Seeing the five children we sponsor in Uganda would help me better understand the complexities faced by their families. I would use this firsthand information to help teach my students about the importance of global citizenship, and how they too can look for ways to help people around the world. Thank you for this amazing opportunity!

photo of Clarissa MaxwellClarissa Maxwell, Alexandria, Va.
Sponsored child: Alpha, Republic of Guinea
Everyone dreams of winning. Who doesn’t want to? For me, this promotion is about more than just winning, it is about seeing my sponsored child in person in the Republic of Guinea — shaking hands with him, giving him a hug and seeing him smile from ear to ear, handing him some gifts that are coming all the way from the USA.

I look forward to reading books, singing songs, sharing conversation and laughter. I can see him as being very shy, yet deep inside, he is eager and happy. I want to see him change even in a very small way. I want to meet his family and learn their culture and see how they live, to better understand them.

I also have a personal charity project that aims to better the lives of the children in a small island in the Philippines by distributing slippers, educational and personal items.

Being underprivileged is no joke at all. I experienced it myself; that is why I understand their needs. Inspired by the different books I’ve read, I have the desire to share what I have with children in need. I believe that winning is happiness. This is an experience of a lifetime.

Visit ChildFund’s Experience of a Lifetime page on Facebook to cast your vote.

We’re Giving One Facebook Fan the Experience of a Lifetime

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

We love sharing children’s photos, videos and stories on ChildFund’s social media sites, but we know there’s nothing like seeing the real thing.

Current sponsors and study tour participants who visit ChildFund projects around the globe return home with an expanded understanding of how poverty affects children and how one person truly can make a positive impact in a child’s life.

Inspired by their travels, they tell friends and colleagues about the experience and the work ChildFund is doing. And that helps bring new sponsors for children who are waiting.

Facebook image photoThat’s why we’re excited to launch a special promotion that begins on ChildFund’s Facebook site today and runs through June 30. One lucky winner will travel off the beaten path to see our programs in action. The four-day escorted tour will provide a firsthand view of how ChildFund is helping children around the world.

Wouldn’t you like to be the fan who wins the “Experience of a Lifetime” — a visit to see your sponsored child? Or, if you win and are not a sponsor, you’ll have a chance to tour a ChildFund program in the Americas, Africa or Asia.

Entry is easy: “Like” ChildFund on Facebook and complete a simple entry pass. You’ll also need 10 friends to “like” ChildFund on Facebook and support your quest by nominating you to win. Once you get the support of 10 friends, you’re officially entered. Every friend in addition to your first 10 earns you another entry in our random drawing. So the more friends you sign up, the greater your chances to make the finals! (Must be 18 and a U.S. resident of the lower 48 states to enter.)

You have until June 30 to complete your entry. Five finalists will be randomly selected. Each finalist will then prepare a short statement as to why he or she should win the trip.  We’ll then post those statements on Facebook, and one winner will be decided by popular vote.

Be sure to visit ChildFund’s Facebook page to enter the promotion. You could win the Experience of a Lifetime and make a difference in a child’s life!

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