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.
My first photo of Doctor when I became his sponsor in 2004.
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.
World Vision sent me Doctor Uma, an 8-year-old Ugandan boy with the saddest look in his eyes. His photo broke my heart. Doctor and his little brother Tony were orphans, being raised by their grandfather.
Over the years, Doctor and I have exchanged many letters and photos. I watched his progression from sad little boy to confident young man.
When I learned I would be visiting World Vision water projects in Uganda as part of a work assignment in November, I was thrilled that I might get to meet Doctor, too. I brought him a small backpack of gifts that the World Vision staff could give to him if I couldn't see him in person.
But when the team arrived in Gulu, I found out that I would be able to give him my gift in person! I was so excited to finally meet the boy whose photos decorate my desk and refrigerator. I could hardly sleep the night before.
When I arrived at the World Vision office, I saw Doctor and Tony! I recognized them from their photos. Their smiles said that they recognized me, too. Doctor, who is now 15, offered a polite handshake, but I asked if I could hug him instead. He nodded, slightly embarrassed, and both he and Tony came over for a hug.
In this photo from 2006, a happier, prouder Doctor stands center. Tony is on his right, and their grandfather sits to his left.
As I expected, they were a little shy, but we were all glad to finally see each other in person after years of letter writing. Doctor opened the little backpack and smiled as he looked over each item carefully: pencil sets, a keychain, some candy, notepads, and a Seattle Mariners t-shirt. I told the boys that there should be enough candy and pencils to share with Tony. They laughed because I’ve been telling Doctor to share my gifts for years!
Amidst the joy, some sadness was present. The sponsorship coordinator said that the boys' grandfather had passed away just three weeks ago and that they were now living with an uncle in a difficult situation.
Tears welled up as I remembered their grandfather sending his greetings to me in Doctor's letters, and that he had often walked to the office looking for letters from me. Grandfather had so lovingly cared for Doctor and Tony, and the boys had depended on him so much. With the loss still fresh, the boys and I shared a few moments of quiet grief.
This news made me all the more resolved to continue sponsoring Doctor. I feel a responsibility to make sure he finishes his education so he can support himself, and maybe even a family of his own someday.
My photo from my visit with Doctor (middle) and Tony (right) in Uganda.
Doctor’s community has been severely impacted by AIDS and decades of brutal civil war. I saw the immense progress World Vision has made in his community, but there is still so much rebuilding and recovery to be done, and Doctor is in such a vulnerable situation.
Before leaving to meet up with my team, I posed for a photo with Doctor and Tony as they left for school. As we drove away, I waved across the muddy courtyard to Doctor and Tony.
This trip -- and meeting the boys I care about so much -- made me an even bigger believer in child sponsorship.
And now, my new year resolutions include being Doctor's sponsor for as long as I possibly can.
Want to make a new year resolution to help children in need in 2012? Start with one -- sponsor a child today.
Already a sponsor? Use My World Vision to find information about your sponsored child, updates from the field, videos, and photos to help connect you better with what matters to you!