What if the best New Year's resolution you can make is about someone else?
This 12-step guide from blogger Rachel Teodoro outlines monthly fun and creative ways that will help you build a deep relationship with the child you sponsor throughout the year!
There is something exciting about starting a new year. I know many of us commit to making changes in the New Year. Maybe you write a list of resolutions that promptly get broken before you even get out of January. I know I do!
What if I told you that the best New Year's resolution you can make this year isn't even about you? What if I gave you a monthly step-by-step way to dig deeper into a relationship with a vulnerable child that could be life-changing—not only for you, but for that child and their community?
Over the next 12 months, I hope you will join me in one of the most life-changing years that you’ve ever had!
January: Choose a child to sponsor
If you’re new to World Vision or just haven’t chosen a child to sponsor yet, sponsorship is one of the greatest ways to make a difference in a child's life. In fact, sponsoring a child is the most powerful way that you can fight poverty. World Vision works in nearly 100 countries using a child-focused, community-based approach. You can find a boy or a girl in need to sponsor for only $39 every month. There are thousands of children waiting for a sponsor around the globe.
When we were selecting our first sponsored child, Moses, we were drawn to his country of Uganda. I have a heart for the people of Africa and knew that I wanted to help a child in that area. Moses was born in the same year that our youngest son was born, making it easy to remember just how old he was. Not only that, it was a great way for us to make a connection for our kids to see how life is the same and how it's different for a child our son's age living on the other side of the globe. We were also drawn to Moses because he has five people in his family just like we do.
Using the World Vision "find a child" tool bar is an easy way to narrow down all of the children that are waiting for sponsorship and help you find a child that you can easily connect with. Some children even have videos! You can also find out more information about that child, like if they go to school and what their favorite subject is.
February: Register on My World Vision
Once you sign up for child sponsorship and select the child that you would like to sponsor, you will receive a packet of information in the mail. That packet of information is helpful, but there is nothing like the wealth of information that you can find when you register your account on My World Vision. You can see pictures of your sponsored child, learn about their region, country, and community and, my favorite feature, you can send an e-mail and attach a picture or two!
I must confess that I had no idea My World Vision even existed until we had sponsored a child for nearly four years! Now I use it all of the time. You can even download the World Vision Now app on your phone. It has many of the same features along with news and links to articles.
Spend some time this month learning more about your sponsored child and where they live. This information will be helpful when you start to correspond with them.
March: Write your first letter or e-mail
If you haven't written a letter or sent an e-mail through My World Vision yet, then there is no time like the present! I think that one of the best parts about child sponsorship is the ability to communicate with your sponsored child.
I had the opportunity to meet one of our sponsored children in Uganda, and seeing him in his mud hut holding onto a stack of letters that our family has written him over the years was heartwarming. This family lives in a very small space and only has room for the most basic items. To see that they had made room for the stack of letters from us made me realize how much they really cherish that communication.
I have met handfuls of sponsored children and the message is always the same: they love receiving your letters! I wrote a post to give you some helpful tips on what to write to your sponsored child. Commit to writing a letter to your sponsored child every month. It will make your day when you start receiving letters back in return.
April: Take part in an awareness activity
Since our church is partnered with World Vision, we have what we call a “famine awareness season.” Our church family has a 6k Walk for Water (the average distance that people in Africa have to walk) complete with a jerry-can filling station, and our youth group participates in the 30 Hour Famine (April 29-30). While 30 Hour Famine is a youth focused activity, many churches or groups would be happy to include you if you would like to fast right along with them. Our church hosts a break-th-fast dinner that is open to everyone with a time of reflection from the youth at the end of their weekend events.
Take some time to look around in your area for awareness activities that you can be a part of. If you can't find a local 6k walk for water to participate in, dedicate a day for your family to do their own. Are you passionate about refugees? Find a local organization and see how you can help. Spend some time at a local food bank stocking shelves or host a clothing drive. You can even organize and host a kit build.
Volunteering in your community is such a great way to open your eyes to the needs in your area and it can also bring awareness to global needs as well. If you have young children and want to see my top five reasons for volunteering as a family, you can find them here.
May: Send a package or write a birthday note
One of the greatest joys I had when I met our sponsored child was getting to draw pictures with him using new colored pencils and paper that I brought. We didn't speak the same language, but through drawing we had so very much in common.
If you would like to send a package to your sponsored child, please make sure that your items fit into a 6"x 9" envelope. You can find a list of items that are appropriate to send on the My World Vision site (and a few things to avoid), but in my experience children of all ages love receiving stickers, pencils and pencil sharpeners, drawing books, and paper. It's a luxury for many school-aged children to have their own pencil and paper!
Because World Vision often works in very remote areas, it could take several months for your letters and packages to get into the hands of your sponsored child. It's important to plan ahead for your child's birthday and make sure that you send a birthday card in the mail a few months prior to their birthday. I love that World Vision always sends me a special card to fill out (and the option to make an extra donation to host a community birthday party for my sponsored child), but I love to send my own birthday cards to our sponsored children as well.
You know my favorite cards to send? Those cards that play a birthday song and have music when you open them. I was in a village once and saw a child receive one of those cards and the laughs from all of the children, not just the birthday child, every time that card was opened up still brings a smile to my face!
June: Plan a fundraiser for your sponsored child’s community
There are so many different ways that you contribute additionally to your sponsored child and their community. Last year, I joined Team World Vision and ran a half marathon to raise money and awareness for clean water in Uganda. Maybe running isn't your thing and you would rather walk—that's totally okay, too.
Not a runner or a walker? Maybe you like to bake and want to host a bake sale, or you want to clean your closets out and have a garage sale, then donate the money from your sale to World Vision. Maybe you’re celebrating a milestone birthday or anniversary and want to encourage your guests to give to a cause. You can set up a fundraiser for just about anything and help children in need.
July: Read a book
The summer brings with it longer days and hopefully some down time to get some reading in. Consider reading a book that will help you increase your awareness of global poverty and the needs of those around us. A good place to start is by reading The Hole In Our Gospel by World Vision president Rich Stearns. This is even a great book to read and discuss as a group.
I would also recommend Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker, When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, and Where the Wind Leads by Vinh Chung (with Tim Downs). For kids, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is a great book to encourage discussion with your children.
August: Pray for your sponsored child's family
By now, you’ve probably written your sponsored child a handful of letters and I'm sure you have gotten a letter or two in return. Use the information that you have learned from the letters as a guide to pray for your sponsored child's family. Pray for their parents or grandparents that are caring for them as they do their best to provide for their child or grandchild, pray for their siblings, and pray for your sponsored child. Pray for the community that your child lives in and for the teachers and leaders in that community. I pray for our sponsored child in much the same way that I pray for my own children.
Use the information that you find on your My World Vision page to find specific ways that you can pray for your sponsored child's community. The county and project updates tab is a great place to find out how World Vision is working in your sponsored child's area and offers you a chance to celebrate with them in their successes.
September: Consider giving a special gift
I know it feels a little early to be thinking about Christmas, but our family always budgets for a special gift for our sponsored children as a Christmas gift for them and their family. I have seen first hand how special these gifts are and how they have provided meaningful and lasting impact on children when they receive them.
When you send funds for a special gift, the World Vision staff works with your sponsored child, their family and their community to find out what is most needed. I have heard that some of these special gifts go to pay school fees for a whole village. Often times they provide livestock, clothing and/or agriculture and building supplies.
We love receiving a thank you note and a picture detailing all of the items that our sponsored child and their family bought with the special gift. It's amazing how far that money goes and how much of a lasting impact that it makes, not just for our own sponsored child, but for the community that they live in.
October: Host a dinner or plan an event
If you have been following along with this plan every month, you and your family are sure to know so much more about your sponsored child and the area in which they live. You may even find that all of your new knowledge about global poverty is starting to change the way you think about your daily life and maybe those changes are starting to spur conversations with your friends and family.
Why not dedicate an evening to share what you’ve learned? It can be as simple as sharing a meal that your sponsored child would typically eat. Going to an international market and preparing a traditional dish could be a great way to do this. Having a simple meal of beans and rice could spark a great conversation with kids and adults alike. You can even take this time to share the pictures and letters from your sponsored child that you’ve received. It would also be a great time to share a video like Journey to Jamaa or find a video that fits your passion on World Vision's YouTube page.
November: Engage your church
As a family, we started sponsoring a child because our church began a partnership with World Vision after we collectively studied the book The Hole In Our Gospel. Many churches are interested in having a mission focus, but they just aren't sure where to start. World Vision has all of the resources that you need to help connect your church to God's heart for the poor.
You can find information for your church on many global issues including exploitation, economic development, and disaster response. You can inspire your congregation to take action by rallying around a great cause. You can find information for small groups, mission teams, children and youth on the World Vision church website. Planning an exciting and meaningful event that will help your church see and experience the world's problems and discover how they can be a part of the solution can make such an impact for children all over the globe.
December: Share child sponsorship
You’re a pro at being a child sponsor now! For our family, it's been one of the greatest things that we could have done. As parents, we are showing our children how very important it is to think beyond ourselves and to expand our worldview outside of the suburban bubble that we live in. After meeting Moses and seeing other children in his community, my heart knew that we needed to find another child to sponsor in the Uganda area. We selected another child to sponsor, a girl, who is my daughter's age.
Every time I go onto the World Vision website and see the faces of children who need a sponsor, my heart stirs. I've heard it said that seeing those kids is like opening up a bag of potato chips … you can't just have one! That's so very true! I know families who have a sponsored child for every member, grandparents who have sponsored children that are the same age of every grandchild that they have, single women who don't have children but consider their three sponsored children their own, and teenagers and college kids who make sacrifices with what little income they have to sponsor a child that isn't much younger than they are.
While I can't sponsor every single child, I can be a voice for them. I can share the child sponsorship link with my friends and family members, I can advocate for the needs of the children, I can volunteer at a local event and share with others how important child sponsorship is. I became a child ambassador so that I could connect people in my sphere of influence with children living in extreme poverty so that their lives could be forever changed through child sponsorship. This month, share the gift of child sponsorship with others.
I hope that this 12-month plan has been life-changing for you. I would love to hear about your experiences with child sponsorship. Have you found other ways that have helped you deepen your relationship with your sponsored child?
Choose a child to sponsor today!