Singer, songwriter, and World Vision Artist Jennifer Shaw writes about her recent trip to the Dominican Republic and the life-changing experience of meeting her sponsored child, Melandia.
The World Vision Artist Program is celebrating a great milestone: 1 million children sponsored over the past 25 years! We've asked a few of our artists to reflect on what it has meant to partner with World Vision in helping children have hope for the future.
Today, World Vision Artist speaker, author, Bible teacher, and singer Sheila Walsh writes about a recent trip to Ethiopia where she met one of her sponsored children and saw the bigger picture of what child sponsorship is all about.
Andrea Zahler wound her way along a narrow pathway in a small farming village near Sitapur, India, past oxen laying in the sun and mud-walled homes where chai is brewed atop small, open wood-fired stoves.
Andrea was a World Vision Child Ambassador in the truest sense that day. She was going to meet a sponsored child named Laxmi Ramhit, a 12-year-old Indian girl with a shy smile and deep doe eyes.
As Laxmi’s home came into view, Andrea saw a large group of women and children sitting on the floor, waiting patiently in a small courtyard outside the home. They pulled out a patio chair for her, the oldest girl brought her chai, and other children touched her feet as a sign of respect and welcome.
“I was very nervous about visiting [Laxmi] because I knew that it wasn’t just me, but I was representing an entire neighborhood of people,” Andrea says.
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.
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.
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.
Today has been like a beath of fresh air, and not just because the weather has been ideal. We spent the day with the people of Viloma.
This ADP has been operating for thirteen years. The Colomi ADP that I spoke of each of the last two days only began a year and a half ago. The programs that can change the lives of every member in a community in only thirteen years are inspirational.
Here are the top ten things I've learned this week about the ways child sponsorship benefits a whole community:
I saw her as soon as I walked into the room. Her bright yellow name tag held her name, but I didn’t need to read it to know it was her. I knew that shy smile from the picture I was given when I first chose to sponsor Maria.
We made eye contact. She blushed and smiled a wry smile, one corner of her mouth turned up. Just like I do. The half-smirk. I laughed. Did she know? Did she know that it was me?
Ever wondered whether or not the child in the photo you received in your sponsorship welcome packet is really a real child? No need to be curious anymore, we've got proof!
Yesterday was one of the sweetest days I've ever experienced. Our first day in a World Vision area development program (ADP), we knew we would be exposed to so much of the work World Vision is doing there. And at the top of that list? Meeting sponsored children.
More posts from Elizabeth, Matthew, Deb, Nish, and I on "meeting our sponsored children" soon... And don't miss our vlog from Erika and Andrea at the bottom of this post!
[caption id="attachment_6948" align="aligncenter" width="375" caption="Elizabeth Esther meets her sponsored child Jhoel for the first time. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision""][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_6949" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Elizabeth with her sponsored children Jhoel and Adalid. ©2011 Amy Conner for World Vision""][/caption]