Child Sponsorship

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 5: What it means to really grow your family

I saw her as soon as I walked into the room. Her bright yellow name tag held her name, but I didn’t need to read it to know it was her. I knew that shy smile from the picture I was given when I first chose to sponsor Maria.

We made eye contact. She blushed and smiled a wry smile, one corner of her mouth turned up. Just like I do. The half-smirk. I laughed. Did she know? Did she know that it was me?

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 5: Social justice exhaustion

The following is one piece of a blog written last night, on day 5 of the Bolivia bloggers trip in Cochabamba.

Can I be honest? I think many of us who are engaged in the blogging world (Christian or otherwise) are suffering from a disease.

Not a disease like HIV or diabetes.

Maybe it’s not even a disease. Maybe it’s a disorder or a mental or emotional illness. Perhaps it’s some sort of spiritual discrepancy. Or maybe it’s something like boredom. We’re overstimulated perhaps. Whatever category it should be listed under, a whole bunch of us are suffering from something called social justice exhaustion.

Other people refer to it as poverty overload.

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 4: Six months ago she couldn’t have done this

I want to introduce you to Lizeth. She latched onto my Flip camera at the Special Needs Center where she is a student.

[caption id="attachment_7055" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The confetti in my hair is a blessing from the mothers of the Special Needs Center. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision"][/caption]

Lizeth is just like my kids — figured out the camera’s buttons in about half a second. For the next half hour, she ran around recording everyone she could find, her bubbly laugh echoing around the center.

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 3: Trickle-Up Economics...

The terrain of Cochabamba, Bolivia is both breathtakingly beautiful and violently rugged. In the shadow of its snow-covered mountains are hundreds of arid rocky hills, where horses and cows perch as skillfully as mountain goats upon the steep slopes where people too make their homes. The high altitude (over 12,000 feet in some places!) leaves even the most skilled climbers breathless.

It takes most children over an hour to walk the winding gravel roads to school. Women who want or need to deliver their babies in a hospital typically face a three mile walk…while in labor…to the nearest health facility. The average income is just $450 a year.

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 3: Meeting sponsored children + vlog

Ever wondered whether or not the child in the photo you received in your sponsorship welcome packet is really a real child? No need to be curious anymore, we've got proof!

Yesterday was one of the sweetest days I've ever experienced. Our first day in a World Vision area development program (ADP), we knew we would be exposed to so much of the work World Vision is doing there. And at the top of that list? Meeting sponsored children.

More posts from Elizabeth, Matthew, Deb, Nish, and I on "meeting our sponsored children" soon... And don't miss our vlog from Erika and Andrea at the bottom of this post!

[caption id="attachment_6948" align="aligncenter" width="375" caption="Elizabeth Esther meets her sponsored child Jhoel for the first time. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision""]Day 3: meeting sponsored children | World Vision Blog[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6949" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Elizabeth with her sponsored children Jhoel and Adalid. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision""]Day 3 | Bolivia Bloggers[/caption]

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 2: The dread and joy of leaving & arriving.

The following was blogged last night in La Paz, Bolivia by Bolivia blogger Nish Weiseth at The Outdoor Wife and Deeper Story.

Erik had the car running outside in the garage. It was early. 4:00am-kinda-early.

My bags were loaded in the trunk of the hatchback and I quietly slipped back inside the house and made my way to Rowan’s door.

I put my ear against the cold painted wood and listened – I could hear him breathing heavily in his sleep on the other side. I turned the knob slowly and walked in, the hallway light just barely warming the room.

Standing next to the crib, I saw his back rise and fall with each deep breath he took.

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 2: I'll fly away

We’re just a few minutes away from boarding our plane to Bolivia. I’ve taken my high-altitude medication and am feeling slightly jittery. I also have to pee like every 15 minutes–which should be fun on the plane, yes?

The funny thing about traveling is that, well, unexpected things happen. My carry-on was too full and I had to re-shuffle my suitcases at the last minute while standing next to the ticketing counter (oh, my poor little tidy Clothing Bundles!!).

[Bolivia bloggers] Day 1: 3 airports down, 2 to go...

My morning started at 3:50 am, that's the time my first alarm went off. Three alarms later, I rushed to get up, panicking, thinking I was already late for my first flight. I quickly showered, finished throwing in last minute items into the suitcase, grabbed a bottle of water, then I was out the door.

By 6:30 am, I was through the long, dreaded security line, took my trek to the gate, and boarded my first of two flights for the day -- this one at Sea-Tac airport, the next in about four more hours at Dallas Fort Worth international airport.

Dallas welcomed me with 92 degree heat. I was certainly not in Seattle anymore. And Miami must have known I was coming, too, because it's still 90 degrees outside here, even at 7:45 in the evening. Now I'm just waiting for Ms. Elizabeth Esther and Ms. Nish Weiseth to arrive in the next hour or two. We lucky west coasters are staying the night here before everyone else arrives in the morning.

The next 9 days... headed to Bolivia

I'll soon be en route to Bolivia -- along with a few of my favorite colleagues and seven new friends -- so keeping multiple copies of my travel itinerary is absolutely necessary. I figure that this will help ensure that nobody accidentally boards the wrong plane(s).

Of course, that's the least of anyone's worries at this point. I need to finish packing. (Elizabeth Esther and Nish Weiseth beat me with the packing competition days ago.) And for many of my teammates, leaving home and their children is something really worth fearing. To hopefully lighten the anxiety a bit, I'm posting a bird's-eye view of our itinerary and agenda while we're in Bolivia.

Ask a humanitarian... Tough questions answered!

At the end of last week, Rachel Held Evans, one of the fabulous bloggers headed with us to Bolivia, asked her readers what tough questions they had about child sponsorship, humanitarian work, and World Vision. I dug for answers to the questions they asked with the help of colleagues across our organization.

Perhaps you or others you know have wondered what the answers are to these questions. And if you have any other questions for us, just ask!

Writing next time from Bolivia,

Carla


Here's a couple of my fave questions on Rachel's blog... (The follow is an excerpt from Rachel Held Evans' interview "Ask a humanitarian... (Carla responds)")

Question from Elizabeth: How does child sponsorship help the community at large and not just the individual children? Do the sponsored children end up using their education to just leave their poor communities behind? I have always worried about this.

World Vision’s work is always in the context of families and communities because children thrive when their families and communities are healthy. Our interventions depend on what the community needs.   Children who have access to good nutrition, clean water, basic healthcare, and educational opportunities are better prepared to build a future for themselves and their families and communities.

5 days out: Background on Bolivia

Less than one week to go before our team of 11 is in Bolivia, we're printing our travel itineraries and making dinner and to-do lists to leave at home while we're gone.

In a team phone call last week, I shared a trip brief (thanks to the assistance of many of my esteemed colleagues) with our team that provides cultural and political context to the areas we'll be visiting, photo and video guidelines, and key contact information. The portion below -- with facts and info about World Vision's work in Bolivia -- we're sharing with you as extended team members joining us (via our blogs and Twitter) in Bolivia, July 30-August 7. More to come later this week...

BOLIVIA, officially the Plurinational State of Bolivia

  • Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon BOLIVAR, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and countercoups
  • Nicknamed “El Corazón de Sudamérica” (The Heart of South America) because of its location in the middle of the continent
  • Bolivia shares control of Lago Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake (elevation 3,805 m [almost 12,500 ft.), with Peru
  • There are three official languages spoken in Bolivia (lucky we'll have a translator with us): Spanish- 60.7%, Quechua- 21.2%, Aymara- 14.6%
  • We'll be celebrating the Bolivian independence day while we're there on August 6 (1825; from Spain) in the capital city of La Paz
  • Currency is called Bolivianos
  • (Source: World Factbook)

Top 5 FAQs about child sponsorship

If you've ever called or emailed World Vision with a question about your sponsored child, your online account, the mail we just sent you, what jobs and volunteer opportunities are available, or how World Vision is responding to the latest natural disaster you saw on the news, you've talked to us. We're the team of donor contact representatives who answer your calls and respond to your emails.

And its each one of those calls and emails that connects us with you and has showed us just how much you support World Vision and how much you love your sponsored child. Its an honor for us to be able to help make your sponsorship experience a rewarding one. In an effort to provide you with the best information about child sponsorship, here are the top five most frequently asked questions to the donor contact services team, and their answers.

1. Can I write to my sponsored child, and what am I able to share with him/her?

Yes, please write to your sponsored children. The children love learning about their sponsors, so a few details you can share include:

Always enough love for one more

This note was simply too sweet not to share.

A little background: I first started talking to Debbie on our Facebook page, where she leaves us daily comments of encouragement. On Facebook, we've shared in Debbie's passion and deep love for all seven of her sponsored children. When she receives a letter from one of her "littles" from Thailand, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Brazil, Zambia, or Mexico, it makes our day, too. So when she heard about our bloggers trip to Bolivia, you can guess what she did next...


BOLIVIA BLOGGERS: Exploring sponsorship

You've probably read stories -- on this blog or elsewhere -- of how extreme poverty can create a vicious cycle of hardship and despair for families and communities. And maybe you've even heard of how World Vision child sponsorship helps break that cycle -- by providing essentials that empower families, like nutritious food, clean water, healthcare, education, training, and more.

But where does sponsorship become more than just a simple explanation? Here at World Vision, we're constantly asking ourselves: How do we make sponsorship a personal experience, where poverty and its remedies are embodied in the stories of real people and real places? And how can we connect our supporters with that?

Prayers for Japan from around the world

Three months ago on Saturday, a deadly earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan killed more than 14,700 people, leaving the country's northeastern coastline devastated. Our colleagues in Japan have spent the weeks and months following the disaster organizing and implementing a full response plan, supported by the World Vision global partnership.

As part of an international initiative to encourage quake survivors and those involved in relief efforts, children around the world who are supported by World Vision sponsors in Japan send their love and prayers. Children and sponsors in Japan's tsunami zone have since received drawings, cards, and origami art messages from sponsored children in El Salvador, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mongolia, Kenya, China, and Ethiopia.

This post is a collection of those messages, gathered with the help of World Vision field communicators in each of the above countries.

To our colleagues and those affected by the disaster in Japan -- we continue to pray that God's comfort and provision would be with those who need it most, and that survivors will continue to heal physically and emotionally as they rebuild from the rubble.

[caption id="attachment_5517" align="aligncenter" width="470" caption="Drawings and messages of hope from Kenya.  ©2011 World Vision"][/caption]

A radio star's humble beginnings

Editor's note: You may remember reading about Lloyd Phiri, former sponsored child, in the summer 2011 issue of World Vision Magazine. Because June marks the anniversary of the official patenting of the radio back in 1896, we're again featuring this story of a sponsored-child-turned-radio-announcer.

Turn on the radio in the city of Blantyre -- the major commercial center of the southern African country of Malawi -- and you may hear the melodious voice of Lloyd Phiri reading the news.

Lloyd is the announcer and controller of news and current affairs for MIJ Radio. MIJ (Malawi Institute of Journalism) Radio is a non-governmental station that hones the skills of the country’s best up-and-coming journalists. Lloyd joined MIJ Radio after serving as head of news and current affairs at Capital FM -- one of Malawi’s top music stations.

6 reasons to tune into Comrades

Fifty-six viciously long miles of uphill and downhill, racing a 12-hour ticking clock that could result in either one of the most rewarding or disappointing experiences of your life. Complete the track in time and cross the finish line -- but one second too late, and your name won’t even be recorded.

That’s the challenge seven Team World Vision runners are up against this weekend at the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. After running the race last year, we’re returning to take up the ultimate cause once again -- 56 miles for 56 sponsored children; one sponsored child for every mile of the race.

That may be the only reason we need to be at Comrades this year. But here’s six more reasons for you to tune into this weekend’s race:

It’s the world's largest and oldest ultramarathon. The race is approximately 90 kilometers (56 miles) between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg (that is pronounced Peter-merits-berg) in South Africa. About 18,000 people are registered from all over the world.

To see who will cross the finish line. Comrades is a race against time -- with a 12-hour cut-off time for completion. About 80 percent of the race-finishers will cross the line in the final hour of the race. Last year, all 18 Team World Vision runners finished before the cut-off. We are hoping for 100 percent to race the clock again this year.

A gazillion steps away

Editor's note: The following is a guest post written by World Vision mommy blogger Alise Wright.

Though my children are getting old for picture books, I can still talk them into snuggling with me on the couch every now and again to read with me. And if I’m really lucky, the kids will ask me to read them a bedtime story. When I got African Heartbeat from World Vision by Barb Christing, I made sure that I gathered up the kids and sat down for a read.

African Heartbeat is a beautiful story about young Katie in America and little Neema in Africa. Katie has a desire to go to Africa to meet her sponsored sister, Neema, and she knows that even though their worlds are “a gazillion steps away,” the world gets smaller as her heart grows larger. Through sponsorship, Katie finds her heart growing larger each day.

I love that African Heartbeat doesn’t shy away from difficult topics like AIDS and the reality of extreme poverty. It’s easy to assume that children are unable to process issues of this magnitude, but Christing’s story makes them accessible even to young children.

[caption id="attachment_4685" align="alignright" width="240" caption=""African Heartbeat" By Barb Christing. ©2011 World Vision"][/caption]

This story shows a wonderful progression in the life of both the sponsoring family and the sponsored child. The reader, no matter how young or old, is able to see how sponsorship allows Neema to have a better life through education, training, and friendship.

The final pages in the book give some additional information to parents so that they are able to expand on the sponsorship story. It includes a map showing the location of Malawi in Africa, where Neema lives, a translation of the various Swahili names in the book, and some items to look for in the pictures, highlighting the differences in the community before and after sponsorship.

Sponsorship 101 -- from a child sponsor

World Vision’s child sponsorship program has been part of my life for nearly two decades. My dad started working at World Vision when I was 9 years old. I’ve worked here for nearly five years now, and my husband and I sponsor three children of our own.

We love getting letters, drawings, photos, and progress reports from the children in our global family. And we love sending them cards, pictures, small packages, and the occasional extra gift.

But even as a staff person and a longtime child sponsor, I’ve still asked myself: What does sponsorship actually do? How does it actually work?

In putting this blog post together, I’ve learned that, in a nutshell, sponsorship connects you with a child in need and empowers the child’s community to become healthy, safe, and self-reliant, breaking the cycle of poverty.

It’s not a handout. It’s more like a hand up. By helping to provide access to life essentials, we, as sponsors, don’t just “give away” our money and cross our fingers. We actually help World Vision in giving the entire community of our sponsored child a “boost” up and out of poverty.

In order for children to experience life in all its fullness, they must have reliable access to all of the essentials for life: clean water, a secure source of food, healthcare, education, etc. That’s why World Vision takes an integrated approach to helping our sponsored children’s communities become whole, because each piece of this puzzle intertwines with the others.

[caption id="attachment_4665" align="alignright" width="162" caption="In Senegal, a World Vision water pump in Mballo's village gives her community clean water. ©2010 David duChemin/World Vision"][/caption]

Clean water: This is often where our work starts. Simply providing access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene can cut a community’s child death rate by more than half.

Food security: We help farming families learn better crop cultivation and food storage techniques, provide essentials like seeds and tools, and distribute food aid to help make sure that children get the nutrition they need.

Health care: We help to make basic health care accessible by stocking health clinic shelves with medicine, training parents and health workers to treat illness, and coordinating HIV-prevention education and care for those affected by HIV and AIDS.

What I love about my mom

I always wanted to be just like my mom. When I was a little girl, I used to write her letters, telling her of the admiration I had for her beauty and grace, and that she would be my best friend forever.

Just a few months ago, my mom reminded me of those letters. She told me just how much she adored those scribbled, misspelled notes from the 5- and 6-year-old me. Her favorite was one that I had so appropriately titled on the outside of the envelope, “What I love about my mom,” proceeding on the inside to name 20 of the things I loved most about her.

Even as an adult, that list continues to grow. I add to it daily things like her unconditional support and her wise advice for making marriage last. She truly is the mother who has taught me how to love and how to grow in myself, and is still my best friend.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom -- and happy Mother's Day to every mom like you who cares for her children, strives to give them what’s best, and loves them unconditionally.


Here are few more “What I love about my mom” thoughts from a sponsored children in Armenia and the World Vision Facebook family.

[caption id="attachment_4620" align="alignright" width="198" caption="Sponsored child Sahak. ©2011 Armenuhi Sahakyan/World Vision"][/caption]

My mother

By: Sahak, sponsored child in Armenia

Mother so much tender
Kind and sincere
Forgiving and helpful
Courteous and dear

Mother, my darling
I love and adore you
Dearest to my heart
Let you be always so bright.

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