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One Experience of a Lifetime: Coming Up!

Guest post by David Levis, ChildFund Sponsor

In 2011, David Levis was the grand prize winner of ChildFund’s Facebook promotion, the Experience of a Lifetime – a trip to visit his sponsored child. David chose to travel to Uganda, where he and his wife, Stacie, sponsor several children. A public school teacher from Citrus Heights, Calif., David opted to take the trip during spring break 2012. We’ll be following his travels next week as he visits five sponsored children and ChildFund programs.

Soccer balls and pumps, check. Baby dolls, Hot Wheels cars and Frisbees, check. Pencils and solar lights, check—the list goes on. This is a very different kind of packing list. My wife prepared me a few months ago, when she turned to me and said, “You only need one pair of pants and a shirt, right? She laughed and I laughed, and then she said, “No, really.”

Stacie and David Levis

We have been looking forward to this time since winning the “Experience of a Lifetime” last August. After months of preparation, both physically and mentally, the day of departure is almost here!

Over the last few weeks, so many things have come together. We have packed and repacked everything multiple times, and in multiple ways, trying to get as many small gifts for the children to fit in my luggage as possible without exceeding the 50-pound limit per bag.

toys for children

It's all going to fit!

As of tonight, we have to repack it all over again. A stuffed animal, medications and odds and ends from our latest Kmart trip has put us back at square one. Stacie is once again attempting to weed out my clothing!

In addition to meeting the children that we are blessed to sponsor, I will also be visiting a local school that ChildFund supports. Using Google Docs, my students and I have been making connections with the teachers and students in grade 7 of Buyengo School in Busia, exchanging questions and group photos. I look forward to visiting the school and meeting the students and teachers.

Meanwhile, I finished off all of my vaccinations, and started my malaria-prevention medication. I’ve packed multiple mosquito repellants, and a travel guide to Uganda so that I can brush up on the culture and the landscape. Using the itinerary that ChildFund has provided, I’ve also been using Google Earth to map out our trip. It’s going to be an amazing experience.

I’ve also had incredible support from my family and friends, who are all preparing to follow our trip through social media, blogs and Skype. Our family has been featured in the local newspaper, and even our children have been involved in preparing gifts for the families we will meet.

As I leave California this weekend, I will not be traveling alone. I take my family, friends and fellow ChildFund sponsors with me in thought and in spirit. It is my hope that I will be able to share this experience in its entirety with everyone I can when I return.

I invite you to follow along as I travel across the world for a true “Experience of a Lifetime!”

Thanks for Traveling Around the World With ChildFund

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

Facebook promotion bannerOur February Facebook promotion has concluded with seven winners, drawn randomly from the group of entrants who correctly identified all seven countries in our photo album.

Congratulations to ChildFund Facebook fans:

  • Jorge Bosch, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • Nittha Chutipongpisit, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Alina Grishina, Brooklyn, N.Y., USA
  • Anne Haylock, Harvey, WA, Australia
  • Selena Kessler, Springwater, N.Y., USA
  • Phuong Hoang Pham, Portage, Mich., USA
  • Jill Punches, Portland, Ore., USA

In honor of the seven winners, we’ve sent an educational gift (a school uniform and/or school supplies) to a child in each of the seven countries featured in the photo album.

You’ll find photos of the children on ChildFund’s Facebook page. Their stories are touching.

Anmol, which in Hindi means precious, is enrolled in St. Anthony’s Orphanage Project in New Delhi, India. She received a school supply kit.

Brenda attends a child-friendly school in the remote and rural Honduran community of Sabana Ronda. Her grade point average last year was 94 percent. She received a new uniform and shoes along with some school supplies, notebooks and materials for arts and crafts.

Keli, who participates in ChildFund’s U.S. programs in Oklahoma, received much-needed school supplies and arts and crafts items.

Thilan, enrolled in Lanka Taiwan Children’s Program in Sri Lanka, was the recipient of a new school uniform.

Elise, whose family was forced to flee armed conflict and relocate to Ziguinchor, Senegal, now has educational supplies her parents couldn’t afford.

Irene, who participates in Kenya’s Kerwa Child and Family program, loves her new school uniform. She attends in PCEA Ruthigiti Academy.

Jenipher, whose parents are subsistence farmers in Zambia, has never owned proper school shoes or a uniform until now. She comes from a family of four children, and the family was overjoyed to receive the gift for Jenipher.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Facebook promotion and for telling others about ChildFund’s work with children in 31 countries.

Around the World with ChildFund: Your Turn on Facebook

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

With the conclusion of our Around the Globe with ChildFund blog tour in January, we’re sure you now know (if you didn’t already) that ChildFund works in 31 countries helping children and their communities.

Facebook graphicBut can you identify those countries in photos? Today we’re launching a fun promotion on Facebook to put your knowledge of ChildFund program countries to the test.

Visit ChildFund’s Facebook page, view the photo album and test your geographic knowledge. We’ll send school uniforms or school supplies in honor of seven fans who enter the promotion by Feb. 29 and get the most answers right.

To qualify:

  1. “Like” ChildFund on Facebook (must be 13 years of age or older).
  2.  Click “Start Here” to access the special promotion. (ChildFund’s Around the World application will ask to access your basic information – this is the default permission that all apps on Facebook require. No personal information will be shared.)
  3. Next, flip through the seven photos in the album and fill in your answers. (We’ve given some good clues!)
  4. If you get stuck, share the photo to your Facebook wall and ask your friends for help!
  5. Complete your entry by providing name, city/state and email address so that we can communicate with the winners, who will be chosen by random drawing from among the pool of qualified entries and announced in early March.

Thanks for your time to enter and also to share this promotion across Facebook so that more people become aware of the plight of children who lack educational opportunities.

Remember: Enter by Feb. 29 and have fun traveling around the world with ChildFund.

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.

ChildFund’s Experience of a Lifetime

If you are writing or blogging about ChildFund’s  Facebook promotion, the Experience of a Lifetime, thanks for your assistance in helping spread the word about this amazing trip opportunity.

One lucky winner will get to visit his or her sponsored child. Or, if the winner is not a child sponsor, he or she will take a four-day escorted tour of a ChildFund project in Asia, Africa or the Americas. You’ll find additional details in an earlier blog post. The promotion runs through June 30.

We’ve also created a few images from the promotion that work well as blog badges. Please feel free to download these images and use in your blog posts when writing about the Experience of Lifetime promotion. And we have a picbadge available to add to your Facebook  profile.

Thanks for your support!

blog badge image

Blog badge image 2

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!

The Timing of a Hero

by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas

Perhaps like many of you reading this, I check my Facebook page – often. In fact, it’s a core part of my morning routine.

Last Thursday morning, I read the ChildFund post about a resource center opening in Mississippi. I smiled at the good timing since I happened to be heading to Mississippi that very day.

When I arrived, Elaine, our Mississippi area manager, shared some startling statistics about poverty – and, more specifically, the way that institutional systems of oppression in the U.S. and Mississippi have reinforced poverty conditions within the African American community. In the communities where ChildFund works, African Americans disproportionately experience poverty, unemployment/under-employment, incarceration, teen/unwed pregnancy and school suspension/expulsion.

Related to these statistics, we learned what children in our programs personally report feeling, the risks they identified in their lives and the positive resources they seek out in their families, peer groups, schools and communities.

We went on a brief tour of program areas recently affected by Mississippi River flooding, passed dilapidated closed-out storefronts and eventually pulled up in front of a small brick building that was clearly a bank turned library turned community resource center. Yes – the same resource center I had just read about on Facebook that morning. Happy dance.

We met Jasmine, Toneca and Mr. Jamison. We heard firsthand how the resource center came to be — how it truly was an initiative dreamed up, advocated for and enjoyed by the youth themselves. We asked the young ladies who took the lead on this project what differences they were seeing in the community as a result of the resource center. How did other children see and treat them now that that they had made a difference? I was eager to hear why they volunteer at the center and what future goals they have. What else did they need in their communities?

Mississippi youthIt was a delightful and eye-opening chat. Someone in our group happened to have an Internet-enabled phone, so we showed the girls the ChildFund article about them on Facebook. They giggled with pride seeing their names, faces and story.

Then one moment caught our collective breath. After recapping the history of all that happened with the center and how her life has changed as a result, we asked now 15- year-old Toneca how all of this attention makes her feel. She looked down somewhat sheepishly and paused to reflect on the question. Her eyes rose, she looked the person in the eye and emphatically responded, “Like a hero.”

We sat silently for a second then erupted into applause. She was beaming.

Often life is about subtle timing. I just happened to meet these young ladies in the Mississippi resource center after I had just read about it online. But more important, ChildFund was at work in the community right when a youth leader – a youth hero – was emerging. Perfect timing.

Thank You Child Sponsors for Saying ‘Yes’

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

For 100 days, starting in mid-October and concluding Jan. 21, thousands of you said “yes” to child sponsorship.

To get the word out, ChildFund’s integrated campaign encompassed television advertising, website updates, e-mail and social media, including a three-phase Facebook promotion.

At the end of the campaign, 5,987 more children were sponsored, and for that we are grateful. Several ChildFund employees also answered the call.

Although we didn’t hit our goal of 100 new sponsors each day of the campaign, your support enabled us to save the lives of more children who currently lack proper nutrition, clean water and a chance for education.

The campaign also served to increase awareness of ChildFund and its mission. During the 100 days, ChildFund’s Facebook site attracted more than 2,500 new fans. Hundreds of you participated in our Facebook mini-sweepstakes, posting your sponsored children’s photos, pinpointing your sponsored children’s locations on a world map and sharing funny or poignant quotes from children’s letters. We learned some remarkable things about you, our sponsors, and the children you support.

As each Facebook event concluded, we chose a random winner from among the participants. Congratulations to Vada Cleeter of Indiana, who sponsors nine children; Paul Porter of South Dakota, who sponsors a child from Indonesia; and Falguni Pandya from California, who sponsors one in Sierra Leone. Cleeter won a stash of ChildFund gear, while Porter and Pandya won $100 in educational items to be delivered to the field in their honor.

To a child living in poverty, sponsorship makes a world of difference. It’s not too late to say “yes.”

Cleeter won a stash of ChildFund gear, while Porter and Pandya won $100 in educational items to be delivered to the field in their honor.

Want to Build Some Fun in Afghanistan?

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

Children are running out of safe places to play in Afghanistan, and we’re asking ChildFund’s Facebook fans to take action.

This week we’ve launched a Facebook-exclusive Fund a Project to build a new playground in a rural Afghanistan village.

Imagine the smiles on the children’s faces when a barren field becomes a fun gathering place, complete with a slide, swing, see-saw and jungle gym. The new community playground will serve approximately 400 children from 150 families.

Whether Facebook fans have $10, $20 or $100 to contribute to the $3,571 project goal, these individual gifts become part of a unified effort to make a tangible difference in the lives of children whose lives have been upended by war.

Given the great conversations about child sponsorship happening on ChildFund’s Facebook wall every day, we’re excited to offer you an opportunity to engage more fully in ChildFund’s work globally.

In addition to the Afghanistan project, our new Facebook welcome page provides fans with an overview of the organization through FAQs and the ChildFund blog, and it opens the door to our YouTube channel and Twitter community.

Won’t you join us on Facebook and help build some fun?

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