Note: Phil Harrell, a longtime ChildFund donor, has been on four Study Tours to visit program areas and his sponsored children. As part of our “31 in 31” series Phil shares his experiences with us, including his latest trip to Brazil. For more information about Brazil, click here, and for more on ChildFund’s Study Tours, click here.
By Phil Harrell
ChildFund International Donor
Before I tell you about my latest Study Tour to Brasil (I am using the Brasilian spelling of Brasil), maybe I should tell you how I got started with Study Tours. I had been a sponsor for about a year or so, when I received a postcard in the mail announcing a Study Tour to Brasil. I was sitting in my chair and my dog Bondi was lying in the floor in front of me. I read the information on the card out loud and then said, “I wonder if I should go?”
I look down at Bondi, who lifted her head and winked at me. That was the exact “nod” that I needed, so I picked up the phone and called to make my reservation. This started what has begun as the greatest thing I have ever done – going on Study Tours. I have done four so far and am anxiously looking forward to doing more in the future.
I have been asked to tell you about my experiences on the Study Tours. Specifically, what it was like to meet my sponsored kids for the first time. We had exchanged letters many, many times, so I felt connected to these kids. When I saw them, Camila and Leandro, it was a feeling of similar to seeing my own kids I had not seen for quite some time. There was a feeling of instant caring and love for both of these young smiling Brazilian faces. There was a short period of awkwardness, but that soon disappeared and it became like we had known each other for such a long time. Camila and Leandro were accompanied by their moms. It was such a pleasure to meet the moms. It readily became apparent that these moms were truly grateful for the help that their kids were receiving from a ChildFund International sponsor. We all spent the day together and had such a wonderful time. It was truly remarkable and a memory that will stay with me for a lifetime.
When you go on these Study Tours, you get to see so many awesome and wonderful things, like the Taj Mahal, Victoria Falls, Christ the Emancipator and wild elephants. But, by far, the greatest thing that you get to see is the smile on the kid’s and sponsors’ faces, whether they are meeting for the first time or have met before. The smiles on all the faces add an inspiring touch to the overall greatness of the meetings. Smiles and laughter – it doesn’t ever get any better than that.
Years ago, I would never have dreamed that I would be a part of such a truly fantastic program. Becoming a sponsor has become one of the very best things that I have ever done. It is difficult to explain all the feelings that come from really deep down inside when I think about being a sponsor. These feelings became even greater when I was so blessed to meet my sponsored kids. It was then that I realized that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing – helping children by providing them with financial support that allows them to receive an education and health assistance they would not otherwise have.
On the Study Tours, travelers visit the program centers provided by ChildFund International. After visiting these centers, it becomes so obvious that the staffs at the centers and ChildFund are doing great things with the donations provided by sponsors. Each center provides educational opportunities, medical and dental care, and programs for social development. The dedication of the staffs at these facilities leaves each visitor filled with awe. The staffs do such an incredible job.
If you are thinking about becoming a sponsor, I strongly urge that you do so. I can personally attest that the small amount of the monthly sponsorship cost is doing such great things in the life of your sponsored child. I have been to the ChildFund program areas many times and have seen how the monthly sponsorship fee is used. It is truly remarkable how many great and awesome things that ChildFund is doing with the donated funds.
More on Brazil
Population: 198.7 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 285,000 children and families
Did You Know?: The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will be the first time South America hosts the event.