sponsorship

A Sponsor’s Friendship Makes the Difference

75th ChildFund logoIngrid Janeth became a sponsored child when she was 7, and today, as an adult, she works with children in her Guatemala community. In today’s guest post, she shares the impact that her sponsor had on her life.

Ingrid

Ingrid Janeth was a sponsored child in Guatemala, and now she works with ChildFund.

About 22 years ago, a magic story started. I say “magic” because I never thought that a person would change my life! My story took place in a rural, poor, indigenous community in Guatemala; I was 7 when my life started changing. My name is Ingrid Janeth, and now I am 29.

When I turned 7, my mom told me that I had a new friend who lived so far away from my home; she lived in Pennsylvania. I remember the first letter I received. It had some stickers on it and a photo from my sponsor and her two children. She wrote to me about the United States, the American culture, their most traditional foods, places they visit for vacations, how they celebrate Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. That was all new to me, and I learned a lot from her.

My sponsor was always really sweet; she taught me how important it was to share with my family, how important it was for me to study and to have a career. She also supported me economically when I was studying and I couldn’t buy my uniforms, shoes or books.

It was a really good experience, two families knowing each other, even though my sponsor´s family was in another country. But the communication was always constant. The best thing I got from my sponsor is her friendship, and I keep all her letters and photos in a special place.

If I had my sponsor in front of me, I would like to say, “Thank you so much for sharing your time; thank you for all your support; thank you for your letters and pictures. Thank you, because now I am different, and I have a bright future.”

Ingrid with Guatemalan children

Ingrid and some of the children she works with at ChildFund’s local partner organization.

Now I am a teacher, and I have a special commitment to work for my community, especially with girls and youths. I am a technician in the ChildFund Guatemala project “I Love Myself, I Take Care of Myself” and work with the Association Renacimiento, ChildFund’s local partner organization in Guatemala. This project specifically works to help youth improve their self-esteem, build healthy relationships with their families, peers and communities and provide guidance on health.

My intention, now that I am working with children, is to teach them how to change their lives and how to have a better life and future. From my own experience, I have confidence in the great potential of the youth in my communities.

My plans are to continue working with children; also, I want to finish my studies in college to become an environmental engineer and find a place where I can both work with children and contribute to creating a better planet.

A Sponsor and Alumni Reconnect Unexpectedly

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Social media can be a mixed blessing. It’s easier to stay in touch with friends and relatives today, but status posts, tweets and pictures also can add distraction to our lives. The other day, though, we experienced a pure blessing on ChildFund’s Facebook page.

75th ChildFund logoA few weeks ago, Nicole Duciaume, regional sponsorship manager for the Americas, visited some of ChildFund Mexico’s programs. She met Guadalupe (whose nickname is Lupita), who works with one of our local partner organizations, often helping children write letters to their sponsors. Lupita was a sponsored child herself in Oaxaca, and she spoke fondly about her sponsor family from Oklahoma, the Talberts. More than 20 years after their sponsorship began, Lupita has kept the letters and photos from the family. (Click here to see a video of Lupita telling her story.)

As we do with many stories on the blog, we promoted it on Facebook. Usually we get a few dozen likes, a comment or two and perhaps a question about how to sponsor. The day that Lupita’s blog post went up, though, we received an unexpected message in the comments from Janice Talbert, who spotted the photo of her former sponsored child!

“This is so AMAZING,” Janice wrote. “I am so THRILLED to see LUPITA…she was OUR sponsored child. Of course, I had no doubt she would give back to her community. She wrote lovely letters to us for many years and then when we met her, she was warm, vivacious, bubbly and enthusiastic.”

Mexico visit

The Talbert family visits Lupita’s family (Lupita’s in the green-striped shirt) in Oaxaca in 2005. Photos courtesy of Janice Talbert.

Both Janice and Lupita still remember favorite letters they exchanged. Lupita’s was a letter she received on her 15th birthday, a cultural milestone for Mexican girls called the Quinceañera, marking the girl’s entrance into womanhood. Her family didn’t have money for a fancy dress or a big party, but the Talberts wrote that in their eyes she was still important.

Janice recalls the concerned letters that Lupita and another Mexican child they sponsored, Juan, wrote after Sept. 11, 2001, asking if her family was safe after the terrorists’ attacks. Janice says that her family, too, has kept every letter and drawing that Lupita and Juan made for them.

I had a chance to talk to Janice about her family’s 2005 trip to Oaxaca, when she visited Lupita and Juan.

Tonala Canyon

The families hike Tonala Canyon near Lupita’s village.

At that point, Lupita was in high school, and the Talberts had sponsored her since she was 4 years old. They had been hoping to make the trip to see her and Juan for quite a while, and the timing worked out well. ChildFund Mexico’s national office helped arrange the visit, and Janice recalls riding in a white van for hours. Lupita’s town was quite a ways from Oaxaca’s capital, but the landscape was beautiful.

Near Lupita’s home was a canyon circled by jacaranda trees that were blooming during their visit. Lupita’s family warmly welcomed the Talberts, and they had a great visit to Lupita’s school, church and neighborhood. “It was amazing to meet her,” Janice recalls. “We’d get a picture once a year, and she was always serious in the pictures, but she smiled a lot in person.”

Lupita remembers the visit fondly: “My family and I were very excited about the visit, and we planned the food that we were going to bring them. When the date of the visit arrived, I made a sign. Then we showed them the local partner’s facilities and some activities we have there. What is most important is that I had the joy of meeting them.”

 

zocalo

The Talberts spend time with Juan and his sisters at the zocalo, or center square, of his village.

The Talberts also formed a close bond with Juan’s family. Janice recalls the tough conditions in which his family lived – a home with a dirt floor, and a single source of electricity coming through a long, orange extension cord. Janice and her family took Juan to see the nearby Mayan ruins; he had never had the chance to visit this historical site.

The families were generous hosts and very proud of their heritage. “At that point, my Spanish was really bad,” Janice says with a laugh. “The people from Mexico are so warm and helpful. When you butcher their language, they still compliment you.”

Today, since Lupita and Juan have completed ChildFund’s programs, Janice’s family sponsors two younger children from Oaxaca. She hopes that one day she’ll hear from Juan as well, whom we learned is still living in Mexico and working at an optician’s office. He still plays soccer in his spare time, a love that has carried on from childhood.

For Janice, the excitement of learning that both of her formerly sponsored children are doing well and leading happy lives has been an unexpected blessing.

How Many Children?

By Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Staff Writer

In its 75 years, how many children has ChildFund helped?

We don’t know.

75th ChildFund logoWe don’t know because of Joel John Roberts, a formerly sponsored child from Korea, who grew up to found a charity that fights homelessness in southern California. We don’t know how many children he has helped.

We don’t know because of Barako, a formerly sponsored child from Kenya, now a police officer in his community. We don’t know how many children he has helped.

We don’t know because of Monica, once a sponsored child in Ecuador, who earned a degree in finance and now manages her community’s credit union. We don’t know how many families she has helped.

The Chans and the Millses

Dr. Chun-Wai Chan (standing, right) with his family and former ChildFund executive director Verent Mills and his wife, Alma.

We don’t know because of Dr. Chun-Wai Chan, long ago a sponsored child in a Hong Kong orphanage, who grew up to become a cardiac surgeon, served eight years on ChildFund’s board and cre­ated a foundation to support orphans like himself. How many? We don’t know how many children he has helped.

We don’t know because of Tariku, a formerly sponsored child in Ethiopia, who completed a degree in psychology and is completing his master’s while working as a ChildFund sponsorship relations manager in Addis Ababa. We don’t know how many children he has helped.

We don’t know because of Maribel and Mae and Grace, formerly sponsored children in the Philippines, who now help run a com­munity organization through which Child­Fund has served thousands of children near where they grew up.

Joseph Brings Plenty

Joseph Brings Plenty

We don’t know because of Chief Joseph Brings Plenty, once sponsored in the United States, who grew up to become the chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and who now teaches Lakota culture in a school on the reservation. We don’t know how many children he has helped.

Thanks to our wonderful supporters, these sponsored children grew up to change more children’s lives. We at ChildFund are privileged to be part of this change. After 75 years, we are so grateful.

Read more of our 75-post blog series in celebration of ChildFund’s 75th anniversary.

Become a ChildFund Humanitarian and Help Connect New Sponsors

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

As we look forward to the next 75 years of assisting children who live in extreme poverty, we’re pleased to announce a new way for you to increase your involvement with ChildFund: through a nationwide volunteer network.

The ChildFund Action Network (CAN) offers an exciting opportunity to be part of a group of sponsors and supporters (Child­Fund Humani­tarians) who are passionate about help­ing children. Friends telling friends is one of the best ways to give voice to the ChildFund mission of helping children break free from the generational cycle of poverty and lead healthy, productive lives.

ChildFund reaches 17.8 million people in 30 countries, yet there are thousands of children enrolled in our programs who are awaiting sponsors — those special people who write and send love across the miles.

Our ChildFund Humanitarians will reach out to their network of friends, family and co-workers to help find new sponsors for children who are waiting for someone to say, “Yes!”

ChildFund Action Network

Volunteers Mark and Kerri Crampton work at a 2013 Thompson Square concert in Mountain View, Calif.

You’ll be able to personally share what it means to be a sponsor. When prospective sponsors see pictures and letters from your sponsored child or hear the reasons you support ChildFund, they’ll be reassured by this firsthand evidence of the change that sponsorship makes in children’s lives.

As a member of the network, you’ll seek out opportunities to share ChildFund’s mis­sion in your community at local concerts, fairs, club meet­ings, events at your house of worship, conferences and more. When you join the ChildFund Action Network, you’ll receive a tool kit with additional back­ground on ChildFund and tips on how to be an effective ChildFund representative. We’ll support you every step of the way, provid­ing child packets that will allow the people you interact with to immediately sign up as sponsors.

To learn more about the ChildFund Action Network, contact our Sponsor Care center at 1-800-776-6767, or by email.

We look forward to working with you to grow our national ChildFund Action Network. We CAN do it!

A ChildFund Alumnus in Brazil Expresses Thanks

Translated by Maria Fernanda Peixoto, ChildFund Brasil

Josengleyson “Gleyson” de Lima Maciel, 23, a former sponsored child from Brazil, wrote this testimony in gratitude to his sponsor and the local partner organization that helped him become an educated and successful adult.

75th ChildFund logoI was born and raised in a community called Lagamar, located in the Aerolândia neighborhood in Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil. It is a suburb of the capital known for its violence and drug use (as well as other situations involving conflicts between organized groups), which oppressed all the residents, who were in the most part deprived of sanitation and other essentials. It was very hard for me and my neighbors, colleagues and friends to deal with this reality. Even with the family support that many of us had, I recall our prospects being minimal and restricted.

The ChildFund Brasil-affiliated project Frente Beneficente para Crianças (Front Charity for Children) rescued me. I cannot imagine how my life would be now without having enjoyed the project’s benefits during my childhood and adolescence, always counting on the support of all of the instructors, teachers and others who do this essential work.

Gleyson of Brazil

Gleyson, now a successful young man in Brazil.

The project brings many opportunities to the children and teenagers who are enrolled. Among them are tutoring, school supplies, snacks, professional training, dance and art classes, lectures and workshops that promote education. Those programs made me see life differently and led me to compete in the labor market in a satisfactory way, making it possible for me to achieve a career in administration. It is relevant to note that this project produces professionals with good conduct, ethics and, the most important in my opinion, character.

I feel extremely accomplished for being part of a contrary statistic. By my efforts and through the project’s support, I can honor my parents and all my family. For me, these are my greatest riches.

I graduated with a degree in business administration, and I am a professional, registered with the Regional and Federal Brazilian Administration Councils and specializing in financial management and controllership. Also, I’m certified by IFCE-CEFET in intermediate English. I recently purchased a car, and I’m currently employed in a company in charge of the administrative management of condos.

I believe life is a perpetual learning process, and, since I was young, I have yearned for continuous learning. Despite my difficult and turbulent start, everything changed with the indispensable support of the Frente Beneficente para Crianças project and ChildFund Brasil.

Gleyson on graduation day

Graduation day!

I take this opportunity to thank all the people who did — and still do — this excellent work, my family for being my base and especially two people who never stopped believing in me and my potential: my sponsor, Dorothy, to whom I will be grateful for the rest of my life and whom I love, even without ever having any contact in person. I hope she receives this message. I also owe part of my education, efforts and faith to my professor, Silvia Simões. In the name of all of her students, I thank her for her patience, competence, strictness and care.

Finally, I take this moment to say that this chain of goodness cannot stop. Human beings have the possibility to be much better, even with little gestures. With this mindset, I have great interest in being able to sponsor a child and contribute, even with little, to the evolution and development of that child. My reality today is different because I was encouraged by sponsorship.

A Friendship Spanning Decades and Oceans

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Laurie Tragen-Boykoff’s first glimpse of Nicky stuck in her memory: “He had the look of an old soul in his eyes.”

75th ChildFund logoHe was 7 years old, and Laurie and her husband had decided to sponsor him through ChildFund (then known as Christian Children’s Fund). It was nearly 25 years ago, and they were a young married couple living near Los Angeles. Nicky lived in Kafue, Zambia.

“We weren’t upper-class by any means,” Laurie recalls, but “the program pulled at my heart.” One thing she decided: She would write to her sponsored child. It was important.

At first, Nicky couldn’t write to her in English, so they corresponded through interpreters. Still, his personality shone through, Laurie says. “He was an unusually expressive child, filled with joy and appreciation.” She learned details about his everyday life, and she kept everything he sent in a manila envelope in her nightstand’s drawer.

Nicky

Nicky Mutoka

The letters continued for eight years, as Nicky grew up and eventually was able to write to Laurie in English. During that time, she became a licensed social worker and had a son and a daughter. ChildFund later contacted Laurie to let her know that Nicky’s village was healthy and self-sustaining and that the organization would be leaving to work in a village with greater need.

Because ChildFund protects children and sponsors by monitoring all correspondence and not allowing the exchange of personal addresses, Laurie and Nicky had to say goodbye to each other, but they didn’t stop thinking about each other

As a teenager, Nicky even went to the U.S. Embassy in Zambia to see if he could contact Laurie and her family. Unfortunately, the embassy’s employees said it was too difficult to find them without more information.

Laurie, meanwhile, held on to the manila folder and thought about Nicky from time to time but never imagined she would hear from him again.

One day in 2011, though, when Laurie was making a stop at Starbucks, her daughter Megan called. She said she had received an unusual message on Facebook from a Zambian man named Nicky Mutoka.

“It was all I could do to not scream,” Laurie recalls. She gave her daughter very specific instructions about what to tell Nicky, because as a self-described technophobe, Laurie wasn’t on Facebook.

Soon enough, Laurie reconnected with Nicky through email, phone calls and even on Facebook. Nicky still lived in Zambia and had progressed a long way from childhood. He was the only one of six siblings to attend college, and he had married a woman named Ketty.

Nicky and sponsors

Nicky and his wife, Ketty, meet his sponsors for the first time in Los Angeles.

“The sponsorship, for me, meant a lot,” recalls Nicky, who is now 32. “I felt so special among my siblings because I had all my school needs taken care of. I still remember my parents never bought me a uniform, a pair of shoes or books during my primary and junior secondary school. I can’t forget about this, and my memories are still fresh even if it’s over a decade now.”

When the sponsorship ended, Nicky says he was fairly discouraged and unsure if he would complete school, but he says that his faith in God gave him courage to continue. Today, after earning a degree in business administration, he is a sales adviser for a bank.

After several months of contact, the two families took a big step; Nicky and Ketty came to California for a visit in 2012.

“California, and particularly Los Angeles, is a great and beautiful place,” Nicky says. “There is so much to learn there. I enjoyed myself, had so much fun with my lost friends and family.”

grocery store

An American grocery store was a particularly interesting stop for Nicky and Ketty.

“We just seemed to get each other,” Laurie says, and friends from her synagogue and neighborhood were drawn to Nicky like a magnet. “People were absolutely blown away [by the story].” Laurie and Nicky’s friendship also served to show that sponsorship helps real people, she adds. “People were so reassured to hear that the money went where it was supposed to go.”

Today, Ketty and Nicky have a baby son whom they named for Laurie’s husband Terry, and Laurie visited them in Zambia this past spring. Both families are so happy to be reunited.

“As a young boy,” Nicky says, “I always knew these were very good people and felt strongly attached to this family.”

Lupita: Paying the Same Kindness Forward

By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Manager, ChildFund Americas

Nicole recently visited our Mexico office, where she met with children in ChildFund programs. This week, she is sharing highlights from her visit. See parts one and two.

Lupita's photo album

Lupita, now 26, cherishes her childhood correspondence with her sponsors.

When Guadalupe, better known as Lupita, was about 4 years old, a woman from Oklahoma sponsored her. But they had a communication problem because Lupita’s mother was illiterate. So, the 4-year-old dictated her messages to a volunteer in her Mexican community. But Lupita wanted to write to her sponsor herself, so she would trace and copy the letters one by one to form words that became sentences that eventually created a letter to her sponsor.

This was a couple of decades ago, and Lupita eventually was able to write for herself as her relationship continued with her ChildFund sponsor until she was 22. Over the years, she wrote about her community (including festivals, holidays and culture) and herself (school progress, family and friends).

Her sponsor also sent Lupita US$1 for Christmas, Easter, her birthday and the day of her saint. Lupita became known as the Dollar Girl in her community, and that dollar was worth so much to her. It was enough to buy a piece of chocolate and also to boost her self-esteem year after year. Lupita, who is now 26, is proud that when she graduated from ChildFund, her sponsor agreed to support another child in her community.

Today, Lupita works as the sponsorship coordinator for one of ChildFund Mexico’s local partner organizations a few hours away from where she grew up. The children she now assists remind her of herself a couple of decades ago. Lupita manages a cadre of eight volunteers who work with 660 children.

sponsorship

Today, Lupita works for a local partner of ChildFund Mexico as a sponsorship coordinator.

“Now, I help children who have difficulty writing to their sponsors,” she says. “I have to have a lot of patience to help as much as possible, just like I learned with the support of my sponsors.” Lupita hopes all of the children in the community will be sponsored one day so they can feel what she felt: the love, the encouragement and the support of a faraway friend.

Communication between sponsors and sponsored children is very important, Lupita says, because you get to know people from other places that you never even imagined existed, with whom you can share traditions, customs, your way of life and how you are developing. Often, that person becomes a part of your bigger family.

She says that her sponsors “always cared about what was happening in my life and always encouraged me to grow personally and academically. They always inspired my confidence and encouraged me to tell them my problems and said that they were there to morally support me.”

Lupita's letters

She has kept letters and photos from her sponsors.

In addition to the emotional support she received through sponsorship, there was a definite developmental value to her experience as well. Through the various writing exercises and reading letters from her sponsors, Lupita improved her literacy skills and learned to write and express herself clearly.

“It was important because it taught me to write and to learn something new every day that I didn’t already know, and then I wanted to learn as quickly as possible so I could write to my sponsors myself,” she says.

To this day, Lupita still has all of the letters, postcards and photos her sponsor sent her.

A Letter From Mexico

By Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Manager, ChildFund Americas

Nicole recently visited our Mexico office, where she met with children in ChildFund programs. This week, she will be sharing highlights from her visit.

Gisela, 13, is the youngest of three siblings. Her parents sew soccer balls by hand for a living, a common profession in this rural community high in the hills of the state of Oaxaca.

It takes about 10 hours to sew one ball, which will bring 11 pesos (just a little less than US$1). With each parent making one ball per day, Gisela’s family of five must survive on less than $2 a day. Her parents’ hands are badly worn and blistered from pushing needles through the thick leather.

Though she already knows how to sew balls too, Gisela has other dreams for her future. When asked what she hopes to do one day, she replies with a coy smile that she would like to be a kindergarten teacher, not a ball maker. “I want to teach [children] to paint and about using vowels and how to write their names,” she adds.

Gisela writing

Gisela, 13, writes to her sponsor family. She often corresponds with their teenage daughter.

Gisela is shy, but she describes herself as “friendly, respectful, intelligent, honest and affectionate,” noting that “these qualities are important for any human being and that, above all, we should treat others well.” She sees these qualities in her U.S. sponsors.

Often, Gisela receives letters from the teenage daughter of her sponsor family. Gisela has all of the family’s letters and photos safely tucked away in an envelope that she made just for this purpose. The envelope is labeled “Beautiful Details.” She has folded and refolded each letter so many times that the paper has worn thin around the crease marks. The photos are a little dog-eared at the corners, and you can see fingerprints all over the matte finish. These are Gisela’s treasures, and she keeps them well-guarded.

When Gisela’s U.S. friend was taking high school Spanish classes, she sometimes wrote in Spanish, which made Gisela smile because then she could read the letters without the usual translation from ChildFund Mexico’s national office. But since Gisela is learning some English in school, she also likes to try to read the letters in English to help her practice. Now, she can pick out words in the letters like “mother,” “father” and “blue.”

Gisela

Gisela has learned some words in English through her correspondence.

Her sponsor family wrote to Gisela about holidays in the United States like Thanksgiving, Halloween and Independence Day, as well as their daily lives: school, sports, dancing, pets and weather changes. These are all topics Gisela wrote back about as well, but sharing the traditions around Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) instead of Halloween and Mexican Independence Day in September instead of the Fourth of July. In her community, there is a rainy season and a dry season, as well as basketball, volleyball and dancing at festivals. Gisela even has her own animals to look after: chickens, pigs and two dogs.

Through ongoing communication with her sponsor family, Gisela has gained happiness, confidence and a new understanding of a different world of possibilities. For much of the time we spent together, she was reserved and quiet, but when she spoke about her sponsor family, she was all smiles.

A Childhood Improved Through Sponsorship

By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer

Annet Amiret, 21, was sponsored through ChildFund while growing up in Uganda, a politically unstable country at the time. Today, she is studying to become a nurse. In this Q&A, Annet reflects on the value of having a sponsor.

mother and daughter

Annet with her mother. Photo by Boas Opedun.

Where did you grow up, and what was it like?

I grew up in a lot of different places. My family had to move from our village when I was 8 years old. I stayed behind to live with a neighbor because my parents wanted me to remain in the ChildFund program. Eventually I had to leave when I was 12 because war broke out. I went to live in Soroti town [in eastern Uganda] with various family members.   

How many siblings do you have, and who raised you?

I had six siblings, but one of my older sisters passed several years ago. I’m the youngest of all my brothers and sisters. Because of the instability in Uganda, I was raised by various people, including my grandmother, auntie, older brother and neighbor.

75th ChildFund logoHow did your family make their living?

My father is a farmer. He grows peanuts and maize. My mother sells fish in the market.   

How old were you when you received a sponsor?

I was 6.

Do you recall particular ChildFund programs that helped you as a child?

I remember my sponsor sent money for a uniform and books. I had no money for it, so it helped then. When I was 9, I received a cow and a few goats, which later helped me with secondary school. It helped me pay for tuition fees, books and after-school tutoring.   Unfortunately the goats were stolen from our family during the war, but to this day we still have the offspring from that cow. We still get milk and breed the cows to sell. 

My mum also used to attend meetings and training sessions. Some of it was to do with agriculture and farming practices.

I was 8 or 9 when ChildFund built new classrooms at our school and provided desks. I remember before we used to sit on the floor or study under the trees. When it rained, there were no classes. 

What changes did you experience after being sponsored?

Sponsorship made life easier because I could remain in school. There were several children that I knew that weren’t sponsored who couldn’t always go. Things were difficult for them. 

Do you have any fond memories of a letter or a gift from your sponsor? How did this person make your life different?

My sponsor never wrote a letter, but they did send money for school uniforms and books. 

How long did you attend school, and what do you do now?

I’m studying to become a nurse now in Kampala [Uganda’s capital]. I do a combination of attending lectures and working on the wards.  

nursing school

In Kampala, Annet attends nursing school. Photo by Boas Opedun.

What is your career goal?

I want to work in health care, because if you have your health, you can do anything. People here lack basic information about prevention of diseases, and I want to be part of the group that helps educate people.  

Do you have a message for people who are considering sponsoring a child?

I would tell them to go ahead and sponsor. There are very many people with potential that need help to realize their goals. ChildFund gave me a strong foundation and helped prepare me for who I am today. 

An Eye-Opening Visit to Honduras

By Shawn Pennington, Vice-President of Artist Management at BBR Management

Shawn is a child sponsor and the manager of the chart-topping country duo Thompson Square, who partner with ChildFund’s LIVE! program.

75th ChildFund logoI’m embarrassed to admit that my whole adult life I’ve always been “that guy” who would say things like, “Why do we send so much aid overseas? Why do all these celebrities spend so much of their time trying to help those in other countries when we have so much wrong in our own country?” For me, that all changed earlier this year when Thompson Square and I traveled to Lepaterique, Honduras, with ChildFund to visit the children whom we sponsor.

Honduras family

Shawn Pennington, Thompson Square’s manager, visits with a family in Honduras.

As many know, over the last couple of years, Keifer and Shawna Thompson of Thompson Square have proudly used their celebrity voice in all forms of media, and at every show they help bring awareness and attention to ChildFund International’s efforts to help children all over the world. In 2012, we made great strides in getting more children sponsored, but at the end of the year, as we began preparing for the current tour, we really felt that we needed to take the message up a notch. The only way to do that was to go into the field ourselves and see with our own eyes what these children are dealing with.  

Due to an always insane travel schedule that Thompson Square keeps, it can be really hard to find a free week to fly around the world and back, so we chose to sponsor children in Lepaterique, which is only a two-and–a-half-hour flight from Atlanta.

What would come in the next few days would be life-changing. Cliché-sounding, I know, but it’s true. It’s one of those things that you can never really describe to someone and expect them to fully “get it” without experiencing it.

As we traveled from the city of Tegucigalpa towards Lepaterique, it became quickly apparent that we were about to see poverty that many people believe only exists in movies.

Imagine what it would be like to live in a one-room “house” with a family of five and one bed among them. The only way to bathe is a dip in a lake or a stream, the same water in which you wash your clothes, and the same water that is so polluted that you wouldn’t dare try and drink it.

Imagine being pregnant and having to spend four hours or more walking one way to get to the nearest doctor, just to wait in line and maybe not get to see the doctor (because there aren’t nearly enough of them), and thus have to turn around and walk back home. The government provides vaccinations for children but doesn’t have sufficient doctors to administer the shots.

Shawn and Danni

Shawn meets 4-year-old Danni for the first time.

My family signed up to sponsor a 4-year-old boy named Danni. Prior to the trip, I went shopping to buy Danni a few gifts. You cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it is to decide what to buy. There are so many factors that come into play. Some things seem so simple and easy to “fix” to those of us who are much more fortunate. But that is where ChildFund comes into play. They have programs in place to gradually improve the quality of life for these children and their families with a balanced approach.

The interesting thing about the people of Lepaterique is that they appear to be some of the happiest people I’ve ever met.  Even in the shadow of everything that challenges them in their daily lives, only two things matter to them – God and family. Visiting them was quite a lesson in life for all of us on the trip.  We should be ashamed of ourselves for complaining about anything!

Thompson Square in Honduras

Keifer and Shawna with children in a new computer lab in Lepaterique.

While we were there in January, an outgoing little boy at the school we visited slipped a note to Shawna that said (in Spanish) “Please help us get computers for our school so that we can learn better.” Through some great efforts from our team, we were able to work with an office supply company to get computers donated, and in July we traveled to Lepaterique once again to personally deliver them! Words cannot express the depth of gratitude that they showed us, or the feeling of knowing that our team made a dent, if only a small dent, in improving the quality of life for these children.

Keifer and Shawna were able to visit their sponsored child Emerson again while we were there, and I got to see Danni and meet his entire family! We were all sad to leave. We can honestly say that we have friends there now that look forward to seeing us as much as we do them. I hope that we will return again soon.

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