Child Sponsorship

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.

----

Painting with words

As you may have noticed in March's Refrigerator galleries paintings post, sponsored children are quite the talented artists. Since April is National Poetry Month, I wanted to share other beautiful "paintings" with you, this time in the words of sponsored children from communities in Romania, the Philippines and Colombia. Special thanks to our field communicators who have shared and translated the following poems for us.

The return of spring

By: Andreea, Romania

[caption id="attachment_4070" align="alignright" width="212" caption="Andreea, 13-years-old."][/caption]

Beloved spring
You hardly came into the country.
But with your loving voice,
Everybody you have awakened.

As you come year after year,
You chase away the winter under a wave
Of warmth and colour
Every day is a holiday.

The winter you push away
You never look back.
We would ask you not to leave
No way, never, no where
However we know that for us
You would never hide no more.

Life

By: Shaira, the Philippines

[caption id="attachment_4054" align="alignright" width="212" caption="Shaira, 14-years-old."][/caption]

Life is beauty, admire it
Life is bliss, embrace it
Life is a dream, grasp it

Life is duty, complete it
Life is a gift, win it
Life is a promise, fulfill it

Life is a song, sing it
Life is a sorrow, overcome it
Life is a struggle, fight it
Life is a tragedy, confront it

Life is an adventure, explore it
Life is a gift, be thankful for it
Life is so precious, value it

Life is life, live it to the fullest

The child poet of nueva esperanza

Editor's note: Luis is known as the poet of his village in Colombia.

I am pleased to introduce myself. I am called, “gordito,” or the little fat boy. When people listen to me telling verses, they call me “the poet” of my small village.

My story: a hope-filled Sunday

Editor’s note: The following post was written by Jay Strum, World Vision sponsor and Hope Sunday host (pictured above with his wife).

“What if they reject me?” Swallowing my fear and pride, I stood up and began to speak. I quietly prayed to myself for God to allow the words to flow out. Then as I spoke from my heart, I knew exactly what to say.

I had a few reservations when I learned that I could share about World Vision’s child sponsorship program at my church by hosting a Hope Sunday. And at times I felt like the Lord’s reluctant servant. But I knew that I was being called to share my story.

After overcoming my initial discomfort, I was able to respond to the Lord’s gentle nudge, understanding that God's vision is greater vision than my own.

I began planning for my Hope Sunday and, in the process, discovered that there were other families who sponsored kids through World Vision in my church. I thought that combining our stories would be powerful for the church to hear, so I asked them to share about their own sponsorship experiences. I was grateful when six people said they would be happy to speak.

[caption id="attachment_3728" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Other sponsors at Jay's chuch share their sponsorship experience on his Hope Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Jay Strum)"][/caption]

On the day of my Hope Sunday I was planning on talking about the many ways in which sponsorship benefits and transforms the life of a child. But as I spoke to the congregation I found myself, instead, sharing about how my own life has been transformed by sponsorship.

"My second family" - encouragement for a rainy day

I always find the springtime one of the hardest times of the year to get through, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Christmas break is now a distant memory, winter still drags on, and the rain keeps coming down. Sometimes, we all need a little encouragement to get through the rainy days.

My much-needed encouragement came from an unexpected place.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of reading a beautiful goodbye letter from Viviana, a former World Vision sponsored child from Colombia. She wrote to her sponsors as her sponsorship ended and she finished high school:

Dear Mike, Jennifer, and all of the members of my second family,

I want to tell you that you have been with me since I can remember, and I keep you in my heart. Thank you for all the help that you gave me.

I always dreamt of meeting you, giving you a really big hug, and thanking you for everything. I want you to know that I love you dearly.

Your letters made me really happy, and every time I got one I tried to translate them so that I could know for sure what you were saying. It made me really happy when I could finally see you in pictures. I still keep them, and the letters, too… Thank you for always being with me and for all your support.

I finished school and now I am studying accounting. I want to study business administration, and I work really hard to be able to achieve my dreams. I know that the memories that I have of such a beautiful family that sponsored me for so long will give me enough strength to keep on going with my studies and to be able to get ahead in life and be a great human being.

A winning essay

Traveling to the Dominican Republic is quite a big deal for someone who's never been out of the country. At least that's what April Wright told us when we informed her that her essay won her a trip to the DR to witness World Vision's work first hand.....

A very veggie love

I knew right away that I would host at least one Very Veggie Party.

My son has watched VeggieTales since I can remember. Even at age 5, he is just as excited about watching the shows as ever. I know it has helped shape him into the generous, loving boy he has become...

Refrigerator galleries

Everyone likes art on their refrigerator. While I don’t have children of my own, I proudly display some of my nephews’ work whenever I receive it. Of course, I don’t display it because the technical qualities rival the Mona Lisa, but because I value the artist. Well, we value our sponsored children, and in honor of Youth Art Month...

Chile: Always in mi corazon (my heart)

At 30,000 feet in the air, my plane goes through a stretch of moderate turbulence. It's the closest resemblance to an actual earthquake that I have found. The shaking, rocking, and sometimes sudden movements transport me back to Chile, and the days, weeks, and months of aftershocks that followed...

The best Valentine's Day card

Finding the perfect Valentine's Day card for the one you love can be something of a challenge. As a publishing professional, I'm more than a bit choosy about the design, graphics, and message. I'm always looking for a card that contains just the right words and design that convey something heartfelt in a special way. I love the idea of touching my husband's heart with...

My liver's new home

Editor's note: I have the privilege of communicating with World Vision supporters every day, and I am constantly amazed and humbled by their larger-than-life hearts, generosity, and desire to truly make a difference in our world. Many of them are parents, athletes, or students — donors and beneficiaries of charitable work in this country and others. About a year ago, I stumbled upon a blog post from Amanda, a World Vision sponsor, Caregiver Kit assembler, and living organ donor to her stepson. She has rewritten her post here. As her story has encouraged and reminded me of the power of great faith, I hope it does the same for you.

I am a wife, stepmom, second-grade teacher, and woman of faith. On April 26, 2010, I was blessed to be a living donor for my 17-year-old stepson’s liver transplant.