"Who’s that girl?" I wondered while watching Carter’s Chord, a sister band who recently traveled to the Dominican Republic to create a video of their song, "Love a Little Bigger."
I love the song and its message: how blessed we are and how a luxury, like drinking a $4 cup of coffee, can make us feel guilty, especially when we are confronted by pictures of the poor.
Being from Seattle, the coffee center of the universe, I can relate.
The video is beautiful. The Carter’s Chord sisters are lovely. Their voices are wonderful. The Dominican Republic is an astonishing country, dripping with tropical delight.
But the prettiest thing in the video is its little star -- a girl whose life they captured from her early-morning routine, waking up and rubbing the sleep from her eyes, through the moment where she seemed to take flight -- dancing with the Carter’s Chord sisters as they sang.
* * *
I had to find out: Who’s that girl? We drove to the northern section of Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic, to meet Carolay.
At 13, Carolay is tiny. The biggest thing about her is her smile -- two perfect rows of brilliant white teeth. When we arrived, Carolay bounded out of the small house where she lives, giving the World Vision staff a giant-sized hug.
We sat in Carolay’s living room, me on an upholstered chair whose fabric was long gone -- more evidence of the need in this part of the country’s capital, a place of high unemployment and high crime. Even with the benefits of sponsorship, families like Carolay’s face challenges.
Thievery and violence are rampant. Knives settle issues, rather than reason. Housing is poor. We saw and smelled raw sewage in front yards. In this hurricane-prone land, World Vision has helped with housing and built bathrooms here for people who had none.
Carolay’s father can’t keep a job. Jose is a construction worker, and like so many in the United States, he can’t find work.
His only daughter adores him. “My dad is very important to me,” she told me. “He’s a hard worker. The money he gets is through his work and effort. It’s not like other men who are criminals. My dad is the best. I have something that many people don’t have. I have a dad. I have a father.”
World Vision staff nursed Carolay’s mother, Agripina, through tuberculosis. “They are like my family,” Agripina told me.
A sponsorship volunteer, Agripina delivers letters and small gifts to the sponsored children. If a sponsor has a question, she makes sure it is answered immediately.
Carolay has never received a letter from her sponsor, and it’s something she deeply desires. I ask her the recipe for a good sponsor. She lists four ingredients:
- They must be loving.
- They must be friendly.
- They can be a man or a woman.
And, she adds:
- Please write when you can.
I am aware once again of the importance of relationship in sponsorship. World Vision can help transform a community -- but to the children we serve, the sponsor is the cornerstone. The letters they send let the children know they are loved.
World Vision has spearheaded foundational change in this neighborhood. At its vocational school, teens learn trades that will take them far. World Vision works with FIME, a program that provides small loans, training, and mentoring for small business owners.
In Carolay’s sometimes rain-soaked community, World Vision has created an umbrella of care. Staff know the children by name. Here, as in so many communities where World Vision works around the world, staff become family.
Carolay loved starring in the Carter’s Chord video. When she finished shooting that day, her friends all said, “Wow, Carolay!” She felt joyful.
The music runs through her head every night, sometimes making it difficult to sleep. Her deepest desire is to be a singer and to own a guitar.
I came away from my experience with Carolay determined to do more of what Carter’s Chord asked me to do in their song -- to sing a little louder, run a little faster, and to pray a little harder.
For girls like Carolay -- who, from so little, can become so much.
And as for that $4 cup of coffee I sometimes buy, I think it may be time to sponsor a fourth child through World Vision. This one will be a girl in the Dominican Republic -- someone who will help me love a little bigger.
I’ll tell her all about Carolay, in my first letter of many.
For children like Carolay, sponsorship is about receiving greater access to life-giving basics like nutritious food, clean water, medical care, and spiritual nurture. But it's much more than that. It's also about knowing that they're loved and valued by a dedicated sponsor.
Consider sponsoring a boy or girl in the Dominican Republic or another country of your choice today. When you do, you'll develop a special relationship that can have just as profound an impact on you as it does on the child who knows your name and feels your prayers.
Already a sponsor? Send a letter to your sponsored child today! It's a great way to stay in touch -- and he or she will love hearing from you!