Monday, May 4, 2015

Spotlight Children of the Week, 5/4/2015

As previously mentioned, I have determined that I will not add any new sponsorships nor take any "replacement" sponsorships until I am down to just five girls. Somehow, though, I still find myself browsing through the list of waiting children. These are the two I currently wish I could take.

Nine-year-old Roshella lives in the Philippines with her parents and two siblings in a concrete and plywood house. She sleeps on that hard, concrete floor with only a mat for cushioning. The family must haul their water from a community pump, and they have tapped their electricity illegally.

How could I *not* want to sponsor two-year-old Brianna?! That's my younger sister's name! Brianna lives with her parents and four siblings in the Philippines in a concrete house with a corrugated metal roof. They are fortunate to have running water in their home, but though electricity is available in their community, they do not have access in their house.

((Blogger's photo tool isn't cooperating at ALL at the moment ... I'll add photos to this post when I can!))

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Passion Returns

I have to admit, my passion for Sponsorship had waned quite a bit over the past year. I don't know why. I still thought about my girls every day, and I knew I *should* be writing to them and connecting with other Sponsors on MSC ... but I didn't. I regret that time that I've lost, and I am SO relieved to feel the passion returning, hovering just beneath my breastbone.

A lot has happened since last I wrote.

Jessica from Ecuador moved, and left the program. I did not take a replacement child for her.

Anna Marie graduated from the CI program. She is still attending college, which is funded until 2017. It's nice to take a break from the constant fundraisers for her! I'll probably start up again next year to fund her senior year of college. Although she has graduated, I am still able to support her through CI because her younger sister is sponsored. Thank goodness! I was not keen on the idea of dealing directly with her college, and I did not want to sponsor her younger brother.

Joyce has finished her first year of college. She is attending a private college in another city. With Anna Marie's schooling funded, I have been able to turn my own resources to supporting Joyce. I've also inquired about sponsoring her younger sister Jocelyn, who I know from one of Joyce's past letters isn't sponsored.

Yojana will graduate from the CI program in a couple of months. I had originally intended to sponsor her youngest sister in her place, but now I don't think I'm going to. Yojana is working in the city to help support her family, and she writes that she likes her coworkers.

I still have my twins Cindy and Sandy in Guatemala, but I'm finding more and more that my heart for sponsorship is in the Philippines.The twins still do not write their own letters, even though they are now nine years old. I hope, once they begin to write on their own, that I will be able to feel more of a connection with them. I do not write to them nearly as often as I should, for which I feel terrible.

I'm waiting for an updated Family Report from Jie to see if she is still in school or not. I think she was just old enough (like Joyce) to graduate high school under the old system at 16, but I don't know if she's gone on to college. I would be surprised if she has--her family is desperately poor and has recently expressed struggles with even feeding themselves.

Piyu's most recent letter speaks of her upcoming exams, for which she is studying hard and expects to do well. I need to find some way to support her if she scores high enough to continue her education--I'm so frustrated by my lack of finances! That pay cut I took when I stepped down from being a supervisor *really* hurt my ability to provide for my girls.

There's not much to report with my young teens and youngest girls--probably because my focus has all been on the struggle of keeping the older girls in school. For this reason, I am *very* glad that the new educational system is in place in the Philippines and all the rest of my girls will be in high school until they are eighteen.

With the exception of taking Jocelyn when Yojana graduates, I have made the decision to not take any "replacement children" when any of mine graduate or leave the program for any other reason ... not until I get down to five sponsorships. As much as I love having so many, I feel like I am doing them a disservice by stretching my resources too thin. So eventually, if they do not leave the program beforehand, I will be down to Ruth, Danise, Anikka, Jasmin, Cindy and Sandy. The twins will graduate at the same time, of course, and at that time I will *finally* take a new child. That'll be ten years from now. That's mind-boggling.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


I had this idea as soon as I heard about Children International's #PovertyChallenge, and though I think the official challenge has ended, I wanted to go ahead and post anyway.

Many impoverished‬ families around the world take to dumps and landfills, seeking scraps of metal and plastic that they might sell for a bit of money. So for my poverty‬ challenge, I decided to see what it was like to feed myself with only the money I gleaned from digging through bags of trash for returnable cans.

It's gross‬. That was my first thought as I tore into that very first trash bag. It's wet and slimy, and it smells awful. I don't know *what* I'm putting my hands into. Moreover, it's dangerous: I encountered broken glass and bees as I dug through bag after bag. The labor isn't very rewarding--a few cans at a time add up slowly. I actually got used to the ‪smell‬ and the wetness after a while--it's only bothersome if something spills all over my clothes or shoes. I stopped caring about the people who ‪stare‬ at me elbow-deep in ‪trash‬, too. Well ... sorta. It bothers me less, anyway.

Most days, I only get half a bag of cans; I consider a single, full bag to be a great day. I become ridiculously excited when I discover new places to glean cans. There is competition for this limited commodity, after all, and certain areas are even "claimed turf" (today, the "senior canners" are not here; I had access to their sources in addition to my own!). So I get disproportionately excited; each can is only worth five cents, but I got to them *first*! I found these five in the trash cans in my break room. It made me think to check the trash cans in each jet bridge, where I found about a dozen more.

After two weeks of can hunting, it seems to have seeped into my subconscious, and I find myself peeking into every receptacle I pass. I have to remind myself not to dig through the trash in the airport terminal ... at least, not while it's full of passengers. The not digging is a special kind of agony, though. How many cans are in there, being wasted?! That could be tomorrow's lunch!

A full trash bag of cans is worth about eight dollars. Today was an exceptionally good day, due to the absence of the aforementioned "senior canners," and I came away with two and a half bags. With luck, the contents of these bags will yield $20. I can have sandwiches and salads for a week on this taking--I can even buy milk and eggs!

Before I can redeem them, I have to rinse them and attempt to un-crush any that were mangled--an endeavor that leads to sore and sometimes sliced fingers. Then I show up at the grocery store with my bag of cans. The machine only takes some of the brands; the rest must be hand-counted. The man at the counter is none too friendly. Even though I rinsed them, he still grumbles about the smell of my cans. People stare as I bring forth the quantity I've gleaned. "She must be homeless," they are thinking, "or a drug addict." They say nothing, but their thoughts are pained on their faces.

After the cans are counted, the man hands me a small slip of paper with the total. "Don't lose it!" I tell myself fiercely as I tuck it safely into a pocket. It's the only proof I have, the only fruit to show for my labor. I can now shop in the grocery store, paying for my carefully-chosen items with this small slip of paper. I may even be lucky enough to get a few cents back in change.

I cannot imagine trying to live every day like this...especially knowing that most days I'd only get three or four dollars. Sure, I could eat on that. But rent? Medical care? Shoes and clothes? And I'm just one person. How can you hope to support a family doing this?

Because I do not actually live in poverty, I am able to wait until I have a substantial collection of cans before I redeem them. This is about two weeks' worth (including tonight's exceptionally good yield). I'll get about $60 for them, I think. That's a lot, sure--it's great, in fact!--but I'm not actually trying to survive on that money. An income of $120 a month ... that's what some of my children's families earn. In some of their cases, it's more. Much, much more.

I would like to acknowledge my fiance Luke, who has been right there with me, elbow-deep in the trash bags, for this endeavor ... and who will be right there with me as I face the grumpy man at the counter with my truckload of cans tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Spotlight Child of the Week, 5/28/2014

How could I not feature Princess Shannen?! I would sponsor her myself in a heartbeat, but I absolutely cannot take on any new children at this time. This four-year-old cutie pie lives in the Philippines with her parents and one sibling. The family of four struggles to survive on a monthly income of only $90. Their home is constructed of concrete and corrugated metal. Princess Shannen is already attending school! She enjoys playing outdoors and dancing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Idealized Poverty

Picture this: toiling parents, working diligently and under-compensated for their hard labor, struggling to put food on the table for their children. The family never indulges in wasteful things like television or soda and potato chips. Our children go to school, do chores, play in the streets, and at all times are mindful of their situation and brimming with gratitude for their sponsors. This makes them work twice as hard as their classmates, so they can one day rise above poverty! Siblings and cousins and grandparents all sacrifice even their meager means to help support this one miracle child, with the hope that the whole family will benefit. Sound familiar?

I think we as Sponsors sometimes have a particular view of what our children and their families are like. However, after years of sponsorship and some Facebook stalking of former sponsored children, I'm pretty sure that the reality is far from that idealized idea. I'm sure there are parents who eat first and feed their kids whatever is leftover. Siblings smoke cigarettes. There are nights our children don't want to complete their homework. They take selfies in bathroom mirrors and listen to music their parents wouldn't approve of. They consider themselves "emo" or "punk" or "prep" and have a clique of friends they pal around with. They kiss boys and, sometimes, things go too far. They are subject to peer pressure, and they aren't infallible. They are real people, and subject to the downfalls of being human just like we are.

Does this mean sponsorship is a waste of time? Of course not! Being human doesn't mean they're unworthy of support and the hope of a better life, and being impoverished doesn't mean they aren't allowed to enjoy frivolous things sometimes. We are sometimes prone to feeling that they should be doing this or that, that they should be grateful to a fault, that they should never waste a crumb or a second that could be spent toiling to improve their situation. But that's not life--that wouldn't be living.

Our children and their families are not robots.

Spotlight Child of the Week, 5/20/2014

Six-year-old Insha lives in India with her parents. They live in a concrete and brick house with illegally-tapped electricity and no running water. The family struggles to survive on an income of only $56 per month. Insha is enrolled in school. She enjoys playing with toys and dolls, and counts drawing among her talents. Insha speaks Urdu.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

New Photo of Nay-Nay

Nay-Nay's new annual photo appeared in my account today. It's the first one in which she's worn her hair down. It's gotten so long! She looks so different, and she's really starting to grow up fast. She's thirteen years old now, and beginning eighth grade next month.