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.
I’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.
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.
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!
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.
By Patricia Toquica, Americas Region Communications Manager
Country music duo Thompson Square visited Honduras last week to meet Emerson, a 4-year-old boy they recently sponsored through ChildFund International. Keifer and Shawna Thompson, who also are husband and wife, say that they are “totally changed” by the visit, which allowed them to see how children and their families survive on few resources and yet have much love and joy to give.
The pair, who promote ChildFund’s child development work through ChildFund’s LIVE! artist program, traveled to Honduras to meet Emerson and his family and also took the opportunity to shoot a video for their recent hit single, “Glass.”
After almost two hours of bumpy back-road travel through the beautiful green mountains, Keifer and Shawna reached Emerson’s house near the town of Lepaterique in the central Honduran province of Francisco Morazán.
Shawna and Keifer, joined by a film crew and ChildFund staff members, received a warm greeting from Emerson’s family. Soon, they were playing soccer with Emerson and his brother, Christian; learning how to make corn tortillas with the mother, Ana; and singing songs for the family. The children proudly showed their visitors a little playhouse they had built in their backyard with sticks and stones.
“You honor us with your visit to our humble home,” said the great-grandfather of the family, 93-year-old Maximino. “We are poor, and your coming here means a lot to us. May God bless you in your way.”
“There’s no feeling in the world like this,” Shawna said after meeting Emerson and his family. The experience, she added, “definitely makes you realize what is important in life, and it’s pretty obvious that it’s family.”
“This has been one of the most amazing days we have ever had,” Keifer added.
In addition to visiting Emerson, Keifer and Shawna had the opportunity to see ChildFund programs in action while visiting the local school. There they observed children, ages 8 to 10, tutoring their peers and sharing stories and drawings. The duo’s acoustic performance of “Glass” delighted the students.
After visiting other families in the community and handing out toys and candy to children along the way, Shawna and Keifer received a Honduran farewell on the edge of a beautiful lake. Following a meal of traditional food, it was the couple’s turn to be entertained with music and dance performed by children and youth participating in ChildFund programs that focus on strengthening self-esteem, leadership skills and cultural identity.
The reigning CMA Vocal Duo of the Year is now back on tour, with a schedule that includes concerts in more than 100 U.S. cities. They will continue sharing with their fans the life-changing experience of sponsoring a child through ChildFund, inviting them to say “yes” to a child like Emerson.
by Kate Nare, ChildFund Marketing Specialist
This week is National Volunteer Week, so we’re taking a moment to send a big THANK YOU to all of our volunteers at ChildFund’s LIVE! concert series.
Since February, ChildFund has been on a whirlwind, nationwide tour with Thompson Square. During each concert, the husband and wife duo of Keifer and Shawna Thompson, who sponsor a young girl from Indonesia, take a moment to describe the difference each fan can make in a child’s life through child sponsorship.
ChildFund relies on the help of current sponsors to volunteer at the events and share their experiences of sponsoring a child with concert-goers. Volunteers are stationed at the ChildFund booth, ready to have conversations with fans about how sponsorship can change the life of a child. The table is lined with packets of children ready to be sponsored that evening.
One of our recent outstanding volunteers is Alan Mireles (second from right), who volunteered at a Thompson Square concert in San Diego March 24. Talking with concert-goers before the show and during intermission, Alan shared photos and letters from his sponsored child, Carla Beatriz, a little girl from Brazil whom he has sponsored since 2009.
“My experience at the concert was amazing,” Alan says. “It was very self-rewarding to volunteer for such a great cause. With meeting new people, listening to great music – and let’s not forget saving lives as well — it was an overall awesome experience that I was proud to be a part of!”
Thank you, Alan, and all of our stellar concert volunteers. You’re helping ChildFund spread the word about how sponsorship changes the life of a child living in poverty.
If you would like to volunteer with ChildFund, visit our website to review volunteer guidelines and a list of upcoming concerts in your area, or simply call 800-458-0555 for more information and to sign up.
by Virginia Sowers, Community Manager
ChildFund’s Live! concert series picks up in March with Thompson Square, the husband-and-wife duo of Shawna and Keifer Thompson.
Working with various performing artists, our LIVE! concert series seeks to introduce new audiences to ChildFund’s work in 31 countries and the life-changing impact of child sponsorship.
Soon after their 2010 signing with Stoney Creek Records, Thompson Square, also known as T2, released their self-titled debut album, which included the platinum-selling, Billboard number 1 country single “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not,” a triple winner at the 2011 American Country Awards.
With two GRAMMY nominations and a growing fan base, Thompson Square is fast on the rise. Throughout the coming months, Thompson Square will perform nationwide, including many appearances with Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker on Lady A’s “Own the Night” tour.
With their wide appeal, T2 is sure to reach diverse audiences, presenting a great opportunity to share the message and experience of sponsoring a child.
At each concert, Thompson Square will be telling fans about ChildFund’s mission. ChildFund is also seeking current ChildFund sponsors to volunteer at the concert venues. See the tour schedule for a concert near you. Volunteers will be asked to share their own experiences of sponsoring a child and assist with signing up new sponsors at the events.
Volunteers are needed over the next several months. Learn more by downloading the LIVE! Volunteer FAQs. To volunteer, call 800-458-0555 or send email to Questions@ChildFund.org.