Featured Person: Julia A. of Toronto, Canada
Greetings from Toronto, Canada! My name is Julia and I’d like to share my story about the sponsorship experience. I’ve always had a soft spot for the most vulnerable and defenseless residents of the global village: abandoned/homeless animals and kids in poverty. While I’m lucky to live in a country that for most part takes animal welfare very seriously, at times it’s all too easy to feel insulated from the rest of the troubled world and to forget that there are so many children that are deprived of their childhood and innocence by war, hunger, poverty, hopelessness. Becoming a sponsor through Children International is my way of giving a bit of hope and a chance for a better future to those kids and their families.
Aura’s House came up in multiple discussions on the LiftOne community website, a great example that while you can’t help everyone – you CAN help someone.
I sponsor eight children in total from CI, all ranging in age from 5 to 8 years old: Lourdes and Brenda – sisters from rural Guatemala; Elizabeth and Arianna – sisters from Guayaquil, Ecuador; Nayhaly from Quito, Ecuador; Jeinny Nicolle from Honduras; Eber Danilo from Guatemala; and Jonathan from Quito Ecuador. Every one of them is unique; however, one common trait they share is how much they need these sponsorships. For some it’s a matter of survival, for some – a chance at a better future. This is a story of my sponsorship experience and the impact that a sponsorship can have.
It’s Friday afternoon, sometime in late November of 2009, and I’m being interviewed by two quirky head-hunters in a cozy coffee-shop. As they apparently pride themselves on achieving a 100% retention rate for their hires, I face a multitude of questions from work habits to whether or not I am an early riser. One question makes me pause “So… what would give you a sense of contentment and fulfillment in your life? On a personal level?”. I rack my brain for an interview-appropriate answer, but eventually give up and say what feels like an honest answer, even to me: “I want someone to say that I made a positive change in their life”. Fast forward six months – I see a CI commercial during a workout and something clicks. I check out the website, compare it to other charities that I came across, and finally decide that if I were to sponsor – it’d be from CI.
Sure enough, little Lourdes from rural Guatemala caught my eye with her half-smile and an almost defiant stance – I clicked “sponsor me” and from that point there was no turning back. At the time of sponsorship her family of 5 (parents and 3 kids) were living on $89 USD per month (that’s $0.60 a person a day!) – I am happy to report that since I’ve started sponsoring her, the family income has almost doubled to $164 a month. As I also ended up sponsoring Lourdes’ younger sister Brenda, it motivated their mother to continue improving their daily lives, so she started baking bread and selling it to her neighbours. The positive change that they have experienced with both the sponsorship and the success of the bread baking venture gave this family confidence in the future – they now dream of expanding their operation to producing and selling iced drinks – proof that sponsorship improves not only lives of individual children but those of their families.
A couple of weeks after I started sponsoring Lourdes I saw another girl on the website – again, I was drawn by the almost serene, reflective expression in her photo (and the low income for a family of 4). Elizabeth from Ecuador. Elizabeth shares the same birthday as one of my best friends from elementary school – a girl that overcame many obstacles, despite being raised in poverty by a single mother. I sponsored Elizabeth as a way of acknowledging that determination combined with education will lead to a better future. Elizabeth’s family is one of the poorest ones that I have in my ‘portfolio’ (monthly income of $170/month), so I emailed CI asking to add Elizabeth’s younger sister Arianna to my account a couple of months after I started sponsoring Elizabeth. Both girls share the love of Mathematics and Art, and love to study. Elizabeth has just written her first letter – proudly stating that she has passed the school year.
Jeinny Nicolle’s picture kept showing up on the website day after day, week after week – it was especially hard to see this as her family of 5 (parents and 3 children) live in one of the poorest countries in Central America on $120 a month. Just to give you some perspective – school enrolment/supply fees for one unsponsored child can amount to $200 – that’s far more what most families actually earn in a month. I sponsored Jeinny hoping that my sponsorship would be enough to keep her in school, however, on the most recent updates I’ve noticed that she was no longer in school. After requesting a follow up from CI I found out that Jeinny was enrolled in Grade 1 for a little while – and was pulled out, as her family simply can’t afford the enrolment fees. What is it like, to go to school for the first time, sit in a classroom full of kids, make new friends, dream, laugh, hope – only to be told some weeks later “You aren’t going back – we can’t afford this”? What is it like to see the neighbourhood kids go to school wearing uniforms and carrying backpacks, knowing that they are learning, drawing, reading, playing together? What is it like to see the same kids come back after school, excitedly discussing an activity or laughing over something funny that happened in school? What is it like to witness this every day and at such a young age realise that you cannot be part of it? We may take primary education for granted, without pausing to consider that primary school is not only about providing an education – it’s about providing a peer network, developing social skills, learning abilities and so much more. A child that is excluded from these benefits is going to fare so much worse in life than his or her peers. Jeinny Nicolle is not going to be one of the kids watching from the sidelines, as others develop into successful, confident adults – with the help of CI and some selfless, generous Lifters enough was raised to enrol Jeinny in time for the new school year (February of 2011).
Being a sponsor continues to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Apart from putting a few things into perspective for me (i.e. a new pair of office shoes costs as much as the Eber Danilos’ family monthly income, and instead of budgeting for a new leather coat I can save for an Income Generating Project for Lourdes and her family), it is incredibly gratifying to know that what I do – truly matters.