Sponsoring a child and keeping in touch with them is a real joy. But until recently, sending letters or emails, changing giving records, and tracking project updates meant visiting several parts of our web site, calling us, or sifting through World Vision mailings.
Heather Althoff's family sponsors a Ugandan boy named Sam. Below, Heather shares her story of meeting Sam and his family. Wondering how sponsoring a child can bless your life and perspective just as profoundly as it does the life of the child you help? Here's a story for you.
Members of Carter's Chord, a World Vision Artist Associate, recently traveled to the Dominican Republic to record the music video "Love a Little Bigger," shown above, and to meet their sponsored child, Franyely, who shares a tiny space on a rooftop with her father and brother. The three musicians got a firsthand look at the challenges faced by the family -- and how World Vision's presence in their community has created a reason for hope.
Do you give money to beggars? I can think of plenty of reasons why such giving is not a good idea. Then, I’ll see some destitute woman shivering in the cold, and I’ll feel compelled to press a few dollars in her hand.
Back from her recent trip to Romania to cover the brutal cold and snow that buried much of Eastern Europe, leaving many families struggling to survive, World Vision's Laura Reinhardt shares a story of how World Vision sponsorship in a small community is helping to break the cycle of poverty and social stigma.
This past August, I had the honor, for the first time, of visiting World Vision's field programs in Guatemala. This Latin American country is a gorgeous place -- a lush, beautiful landscape, and equally beautiful people.
In stark contrast to such beauty, however, is the presence of poverty across much of the country. Malnutrition is a major problem here -- 45 percent of Guatemala's population is stunted. Particularly in rural areas, families struggle with limited access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.
But poverty does not define the people of Guatemala. Nor, as I discovered, does it undermine their ability to find joy and hope. And World Vision is working to help families and communities overcome it -- for good.
Children, children, children. Everything we do at World Vision is for children. But when I visited a sponsorship area in northeast India earlier this month, program staff first wanted to show me the work they were doing with parents. They believed the most effective way to make a difference in the lives of children was to care about the whole family, improve parents’ livelihoods, and involve the entire community in long-term problem-solving.
As a parent myself, this made complete sense. My life centers around my kids. Make my earning more secure, and I’m better able to care for my family. Improve community structure, and everyone benefits. So I was first shown fish ponds and weaving groups, rubber trees, and orange groves. Making life better for children is our top priority at World Vision. Often that means focusing on the parents, too.
World Vision photographer Abby Stalsbroten traveled last week to Swaziland with a group of pastors from Austin, Texas, to look at the impact of sponsorship on children in rural communities. The country has a 24-percent HIV infection rate, but World Vision is working to feed and care for thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children across the country. Here are some of Abby's favorite pictures from the past week in the field.
Some of my new year resolutions are personal -- like finishing grad school and running another half marathon. But my resolution to keep sponsoring children through the organization I love gives me an outward focus.
[caption id="attachment_11493" align="alignright" width="158" caption="My first photo of Doctor when I became his sponsor in 2004."][/caption]
Nearly eight years ago, before I started working here, I sponsored a child through World Vision. It didn't matter whether the child was a boy or a girl, or from any particular country. I just wanted to help a child who needed a sponsor.
I'm often seeking beautiful stories of child sponsorship, because I know so many exist out there. When I find one, I eagerly await the author's permission to republish their words on our blog so it can be shared with so many more. Brynn's post -- which came highly recommended from a World Vision sponsor, who I'm blessed to call a friend -- eloquently captures the beauty of child sponsorship and why it's really a gift to every person it touches. Merry Christmas! —Lindsey Talerico-Hedren, managing editor, World Vision Blog
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This is my most favorite gift that we are giving this year.
Even more than the tablets we are giving the kids, but that might just be because I'm frustrated with trying to set them up and figure out why they won't connect to our wifi. Seriously, Apple has spoiled me because all of their stuff just works and works easily, but with a 10- and 12-year-old, there was no way that we were going to buy them iPads because they are 10 and 12, which means their gifts have to be indestructible or at least not cause their father to cry if they break them.
...And on that point, can I just say I miss the days when you got the kids presents that you spent four hours putting together instead of electronic gifts that require massive hours and Google to set up?
In September, World Vision introduced our first-ever travel sweepstakes: Supporters who found new sponsors for five or more children in a month's time were eligible to win a trip to Peru to witness the impact of child sponsorship firsthand. Just over a month has passed since the sweepstakes closed, and we are ready to officially announce our two winners!
Congratulations Sarah Baerg of Trabuco Canyon, California, and Terry Adams of Venice, Florida! We're very excited to have Sarah and Terry travel with us to visit sponsorship communities of Huanta and Forjadores del Futuro (Huamanga) in Peru, where they’ll meet sponsored children and their families and local World Vision staff members.
We're also blessed that so many more children have been sponsored because of the encouragement of current sponsors and the generosity of new ones. We thank each person who helped to make this possible -- whether you were a sponsor entering to win, or a new sponsor to a child in need.
Photography is an art.
Photography is a skill.
Photography is a form of communication.
A single picture can tell a story that crosses cultural and linguistic boundaries. It can evoke emotion or engagement (think National Geographic, Afghan refugee), freeze a moment in history (think WWII), or even start a revolution (think Arab Spring).
I confess that, until recently, the first thing that came to my mind when someone mentioned child sponsorship was Sally Struthers kneeling next to an emaciated African child, mascara running down her face, telling the TV that “if you can just save one life, won’t it be worth it?”
As passionate as I was about social justice and alleviating poverty, child sponsorship struck me as an old-fashioned model for giving, in which a few select children essentially walked through a breadline to receive meals, school supplies, and medical attention from faraway white “saviors” whose first-world guilt was eased by letters ensuring that their contributions made a difference. I worried that child sponsorship created dependency and that families were forced to attend church in order to receive assistance for their little ones. While I could certainly see the value in saving “just one life,” I longed to invest in efforts devoted to solving the underlying problems that perpetuate poverty in certain communities, rather than simply easing the effects of that poverty among a few.
These concerns didn’t stop me from sponsoring children (especially after visiting India a few years ago), but they kept me from advocating on behalf of the sponsorship model. I think that a lot of Christians in my generation are wary of the suggestion that our responsibility to the world is limited to caring for “just one child.” We long for justice to roll down like streams of living water, not for charity to drip out like a leaky faucet.
About six months ago, as my team was putting together the autumn 2011 issue of World Vision Magazine, I asked our social media team if we could pose a question to World Vision Facebook fans -- and potentially use the responses in the magazine.
At that stage, we had an article from Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., about how World Vision’s faith plays a role in every community where we work. I think it’s a great article that shows the big picture of how our faith motivates our staff around the world.
But something was missing. Of course, it is important to see how faith motivates World Vision staff, but I also wanted to show that faith motivates many of you, our supporters.
So we posed the question to our fans on Facebook: How do you pray for your sponsored child?
From now through September 30, you can enter for a chance to win a trip to Peru with World Vision to see our work firsthand. It's as simple as finding new sponsors for just five children.
But we know very well that asking friends, family, or colleagues to sponsor a child isn't easy. In fact, it can be difficult -- even intimidating. That's why we asked Elizabeth Esther, World Vision Bolivia blogger, for her tips as an experienced writer and child sponsorship advocate. Our Facebook fans had lots of tips to offer, too.
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When I first started asking my readers to sponsor a child, I was apprehensive. I wasn't sure how people would respond.
“Sponsorship takes love. Passion. Dedication. And partnership. By working together, we -- World Vision, our sponsors, and the families we serve -- can build healthy, self-reliant communities where children grow and thrive. Our child sponsors are an integral part of this partnership, and we’re so excited to share our work with them firsthand.”
—Lana Reda, vice president of sponsorship & donor management
You know how we're always talking about sponsorship? And how it truly does help change a community from the inside out and the bottom up? And how we're always showing you photos and telling you stories of how sponsorship is changing lives? Those stories are about the thousands of beautiful children your support is helping each and every day, from countries and places around the world you may never have a chance to visit.
Or will you?
I saw this tweet from Rachel Held Evans yesterday morning: “Been back from Bolivia for a week now, and I'm just now unpacking. Anyone else out there an unpacker-slacker?" I'm the worst kind of unpacker... I let the task of unpacking intimidate me in a really silly way.
I also think there's something sort of nostalgic about an unpacked suitcase -- it brings back memories of where you've just returned from. In this case, it brings back bittersweet memories of the seven days I spent in Bolivia with some of the most insightful and endearing people I'll ever know -- Elizabeth, Andrea, Joy, Nish, Matthew, Carla, Rachel, Amy, Michael, Jana and Deb -- and all of the moments we experienced together. Moments that have changed our hearts forever.
Now, each time I look at the photos, read the blog posts, or trip over my unpacked suitcase in the morning, every moment and every child’s face floods back into my memory and fills my heart with more love and joy than I sometimes know how to process. Those are the moments I never, ever want to forget.
Home for one week and still unpacking our bags, these are our unforgettable moments from our time in Bolivia. We hope pieces of our experiences bless you as they've blessed us.
Elizabeth Esther, ElizabethEsther.com
Meeting the special needs kids in Colomi ADP touched my heart in such a deep way. The parents’ unflagging dedication in spite of insurmountable odds truly inspired me to be a better parent myself. It was amazing to see the value World Vision places on each individual child—especially those with special needs. It was a great honor to join this trip. Thank you, World Vision.
Andrea Rodriguez, trip host, communications officer at the World Vision Bolivia National Office
The moment Arturo, a child at the Colomi special needs center, got his hearing device, his eyes became like the Sora Sora lake with the sunset – bright and beautiful – a moment I’ll never forget.
I did 26 hours of travel on two hours of sleep. I don’t recommend this. My body and mind feel sundered–torn apart. This afternoon I started shaking. I’m so tired–physically, emotionally, mentally–that my body started freaking out on me without sending a warning note first. And Mariela’s face haunts my emotions:
[caption id="attachment_7329" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Mariela poured confetti on my head--the traditional Bolivian form of blessing and rejoicing"][/caption]
I met Mariela at the special-needs center in Colomi. Her uncle, in the words of Mariela’s mother, “es muy malo.” Very bad–meaning, his special needs are severe, overwhelming for a family already entrenched in deep poverty. Mariela wouldn’t let go of me. She held my hand, asked me to draw pictures for her, kissed my cheek repeatedly. Mariela has no father. Her mother is a single parent, recently returned from Argentina where she tried to find work. Mariela was too skinny for her age. But she knew how to love. She caressed my hand and stared into my eyes.