Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Best Christmas Gift

A few days ago, my friend Lindsay contacted me on Facebook to ask how one goes about becoming a Sponsor. I gave her a brief summary of how the process works, and then I referred her to Children International's Waiting Child Search. A few days later, she posted the most wonderful news!

I'll just let the screenshot speak for itself... =)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 12/20/2012

In celebration of the upcoming holiday, I have chosen a Christmas angel as today's Spotlight Child of the Week!

This beautiful little girl is Diana. She lives in the Dominican Republic with her mother. Together, the two of them struggle to survive on only $50 per month.They are fortunate to have running water and electricity in their home, which has a concrete floor, wood walls and a corrugated metal roof. Diana likes to play with dolls, and she shows a talent for dance. She will celebrate her third birthday on Christmas day--what better gift could she receive for her extra-special day than the promise of Sponsorship?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 12/14/12

 Meet Marilyn! She has been waiting for a sponsor for over three years!  This six-year-old cutie will celebrate her birthday in four days--the same day as my dad! She lives in the Philippines with her parents and three siblings. The whole family struggles to survive on only $75 per month. Their home is concrete and corrugated metal. They are fortunate to have running water in their home, but although they have electricity, it is unregulated access. When Marilyn isn't in school, she enjoys playing with her friends and her siblings. She counts dancing among her talents. What better birthday present could she receive than an end to her long wait for a guardian angel to give her the hope of a better tomorrow?


Unsure about Sponsorship? Take a test-ride by teaming up with an experienced Sponsor--me! I would be happy to co-Sponsor with you ... and if you decided after all that Sponsorship just isn't for you, you can rest assured in the knowledge that I will maintain the Sponsorship myself rather than let our angel fall back into the waiting pool. If, on the other hand, you decide you love Sponsoring SO much that you'd like to continue solo, I will be content to step aside and allow you to build that one-to-one relationship!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Introduction Letters

I always have a hard time writing introduction letters to my new Sponsored girls. They come out sounding a mix of stiffly formal and hyper-excited, which is a pretty awkward combination! I'm trying to write my first letter to Dianne tonight, and I've already started over three times.

Draft 1:

Dear Dianne,
  Mabuhay! How are you today? I hope that you and your family and friends are all in good health!
  My name is Shannon, and I am your new Sponsor! I am very excited to get to know you. I will start by telling you a bit about me. I live in the USA in the state of Maryland with my boyfriend Julio and my dog Ali`i. Julio and I both work for Southwest Airlines. In our free time, we like to spend time with our friends. We all gather at one of our houses to play games and eat snacks.


Draft 2:

Dear Dianne,
  Mabuhay! How are you today? I hope that you and your family and friends are all in good health. I am so excited to get to know you and I hope you are excited to get to know me too! I will start by telling you a little bit about me.


Draft 3:

Dear Dianne,
  Mabuhay! How are you today? I hope that you and your family and friends are all in good health.
  My name is Shannon, and I am your new Sponsor. I am so excited to be your Sponsor and to get to know you. Let me start by telling you a little bit about me. I live in Maryland with my boyfriend Julio and my dog Ali`i. Julio and I both work for Southwest Airlines. We supervise the gys who load and unload the luggage from the planes.
  In my free time I like to knit and crochet blankets for my family and friends. I also like to attend medieval events on the weekends. It is a lot of fun! What do you like to do in your free time?
  Some of my favorite things: the color green, the cartoon character Snoopy, and Christmas. My favorite sport is racquetball, and I also really like to swim. My favorite place is Raquette Lake--my family goes there for vacation every summer. My favorite food is fettuccini alfredo.
  I hope to receive your letter soon! I can't wait to hear about your school and family and friends, and all of your favorite things!
With big hugs,
Shannon


I'm not entirely satisfied with Draft 3, but I think I'm going to stick with it, since I don't know exactly what I would do to improve it ...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Packages Arriving

Well, I know for sure that at least one of the packages I sent to the Philippines has arrived at the agency office! Unfortunately, the reason I know this is because it was Hazel's package, and CI wanted to know what I would prefer to do with it since she has left the program--they suggested giving it to another child. I, of course, was already wondering if it could be given to Dianne. Unfortunately, Dianne is supported from a different office than Hazel was, but Debbie, one of the awesome Sponsor Services Representatives in Kansas City, has sent back a reply to them asking if they will be able to transfer it over for her! Everyone keep your fingers crossed for this small Christmas miracle for a little girl who waited a VERY long time for a Sponsor!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 12/8/12

 This nine-year-old cutie is Dianne Alexis from the Philippines. She lives with her parents and three siblings in a concrete, plywood and corrugated metal house. They are fortunate to have running water and electricity, but their electricity is unregulated use, which is risky and unreliable. Dianne has been waiting for over THREE YEARS for a Sponsor to give her hope and possibilities for the future. Would you be the person to end her long wait?







Unsure about Sponsorship? Take a test-ride by teaming up with an experienced Sponsor--me! I would be happy to co-Sponsor with you ... and if you decided after all that Sponsorship just isn't for you, you can rest assured in the knowledge that I will maintain the Sponsorship myself rather than let our angel fall back into the waiting pool. If, on the other hand, you decide you love Sponsoring SO much that you'd like to continue solo, I will be content to step aside and allow you to build that one-to-one relationship!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Letter from Jie!

On a happier note, I received a letter from Jie today! It's a CP letter, but it reads more like a CR:

Dear Sha,

Hello!!! A pleasant day to you of course your family . It's been a long time that I didn't write to you. By the way, how are you? I hope you're okay and your family. I've read your message to me, it's so nice that your all picture. By the way this time I'm so busy for the exam in studying my lesson. I always do my best to have a higher grade. At home I always scanned my notes during my free time to assure myself that never get a low grade. I passed all my subjects and projects on time.

I spend my time doing household chores like washing the clothes and cleaning the house. I never forget to take Holy Mass on Sunday. I pray to God to take good care of my family and yours too.

I want to say thank you for all the benefits and things you have shared with me. God bless you always!!!

Your Sponsored Child,
Jie Ann

It's such a warm and loving letter, but not one that replies directly to anything I've written to her (which is why I thought it was a CR at first). I love that she's given me a nickname. =) She sounds very dedicated to her studies--that's a good sign!

Hazel: Closing the Chapter

2010
I received the letter in the mail today that formally informed me of Hazel's withdrawl from the Program. The letter states:

"Unfortunately, we've just learned from our field staff in the Philippines that Hazel's family has unexpectedly moved out of our sponsorship area because a better job became available for one of her family members ... I want to assure you that although she will no longer be a part of our program, this is a very positive step for her family ... Since Hazel's family has moved out of the area, not only is it impossible to continue her sponsorship, I'm sorry to let you know that we will not be able to deliver any final letters or photos you might want to send."
2011

So, it's about what I expected--very similar to the letter I received when Joan left. I appreciate the included details that they moved so a family member could take a better job--Joan's family moved without specifying why, and the uncertainty was awful. I am sad that I cannot send a final letter ... and I wonder what will become of the DP that's somewhere en route from me to her for Christmas?

CI included information for a young lady named Jossa to take Hazel's place, but I've already told them I'm not ready to take another child at this time. For now, I will put that $25 each month aside, to help provide SNGs for my girls on their birthdays. When I feel ready to again add a tenth child, I will probably investigate taking a younger sibling of Anna Marie or Yojana.

Goodbye, my dear Hazel. May your new life bring with it all the hope and possibilities of the future and a new sense of security and comfort for you and your whole family.
Hazel, 2012
2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First Letter from Yojana

Yojana, Age 16I love finding those wonderful CI envelopes in my mailbox! Today's contained Yojana's CW letter, written in Spanish:

Estimada Ms. Dillon,

Querida madrina Ms. Dillon, espero que este muy bien de salud a lado de su familia. Le cuento que estoy my feliz a lado de toda mi familia. Estoy muy felliz por ser mi madrina y audarme. Hace unas semana que paso la feria y estubo muy divertido. Tambien estoy muy feliz porque estudio y que en algunos dias estare de vacaciones. Le cuento que el deporte que mas me gusta practicar con mis companeros es el basquetbol. Me divierto mucho practicando. Tambien ayudo a mis padres en los oficinas de mi casa. Le cuento que ya hace algunos dias que paso el 15 de septiembre y estubo muy divertido porque hacieran algunas actividades y el festival de bandas y estoy feliz porque estue tocando una pandereta. Ese dia estubo muy alegre. Me despido de usted con besos y abrazos.

Yojana Aracely

And in English (my own translation from the Spanish, not CI's):

Dear Ms. Dillon,

Dear Sponsor Ms. Dillon, I hope that you are in good health along with your family. I tell you that I am very happy along with all of my family. I am very happy that you are my Sponsor and you help me. A few weeks ago the fair happened and it was very fun. I am also very happy because I study and that in some days I will be on vacation. I tell you that the sport that I most like to practice with my friends is basketball. I have a lot of fun practicing. Also I help my parents with the chores of my house. I tell you that a few days ago happened the 15th of September and it was a lot of fun because there were some activities and the festival of bands and I am happy because I was playing a a tambourine. That day was very happy. I say goodbye to you with kisses and hugs.

Yojana Aracely

The back of the letter was a multiple-choice questionnaire to share a little about her life. She indicated:

I describe myself as: very kind, shy and serious.
My favorite sport is: basketball.
In the future, I would like: to be someone important.
The most beautiful thing in my neighborhood is: the landscape.

It's interesting that she describes herself as serious--when I was putting together her DP for Christmas, I kept thinking that she would appreciate more practical items, as she seemed like a very serious girl. Of course, I only had her photo from which to derive that conclusion, but I just had a feeling. =)

I had to do a little research about September 15th -- it was the day in 1821 when Guatemala declared independence from Spain. I'm glad she got to participate in the day's festivities--it sounds like she really had a good time playing that tambourine!

I've already written and sent my introduction letter, so I think I'll soon have a CP in my mailbox too. But of course I won't wait for that to arrive before replying to this letter! =)

Monday, November 26, 2012

NaNoWriMo

My NaNoWriMo Novel's Cover
Today, I won.  For those of you who aren't familiar with NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month), it's a personal challenge that thousands of people take on all around the world through the month of November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in thirty days. It may not sound like a lot, but it really is a labor of love. It takes time and commitment and an incredible amount of support and understanding from friends. You wind up lost in your plot. You develop a relationship with your characters. Sometimes, your novel feels like the real world, and your life feels like fiction. It's a very intense, emotional experience.

What does any of this have to do with Sponsorship, you may ask? Well, as I was driving home from my last 2012 Write-In this afternoon, I thought about the lessons I've learned over the past twenty-six days, and I realized that these insights are something my girls could benefit from. So I've decided that my December letters to each of them will be about the journey I have undergone, the perseverance it took to accomplish the goal, and how good it felt when that word count ticked above 50,000 this afternoon. I can tell them how my friend Mary coaxed me along and encouraged me, and how we celebrated together when the goal was achieved.

I took screen shots of my statistics page so I can print it and include it to show them how I worked a little bit each day towards achieving my goal. I can send them a copy of the novel's cover, too--I think it will be especially neat for Anna Marie, Joyce and Jie, who each received a pair of the best friend necklaces as part of their Christmas DPs this year.

The Chinese characters mean "friendship", "love" and "eternity"--the two main characters are based on me and my best friend, and their friendship blossoms in language school where they are both studying Chinese. Telling my girls about the plot will then also open the door for me to tell them a bit about my younger days!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 11/24/2012

Meet seven-year-old Lilian Roxana! She lives with her parents and seven siblings in Guatemala. Lilian is Mayan, and according to her profile she only speaks Cakchiquel, though I would imagine she is learning Spanish in school, which she does attend. Lilian enjoys playing soccer, as well as playing with toys and, specifically, toy cars (how cute! I loved playing with toy cars when I was young). Her home is concrete with a corrugated metal roof. The family of ten struggles to survive on only $182 per month.






Unsure about Sponsorship? Take a test-ride by teaming up with an experienced Sponsor--me! I would be happy to co-Sponsor with you ... and if you decided after all that Sponsorship just isn't for you, you can rest assured in the knowledge that I will maintain the Sponsorship myself rather than let our angel fall back into the waiting pool. If, on the other hand, you decide you love Sponsoring SO much that you'd like to continue solo, I will be content to step aside and allow you to build that one-to-one relationship!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Shopping


I had a rare day off from work today, and so I took the opportunity to finish up my shopping for my Christmas DPs for my girls (I know, I'm running late! They'll be in the mail tomorrow! lol). As I got into my truck and turned the key, the song "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid came blaring out of my speakers. It inspired me to think all the way to the store about how my Christmas and my children's Christmasses will differ, and it made me feel good inside to know that I was going to be able to help ten families have a warmer, brighter holiday.

One of the things I had to pick up were the envelopes in which I'll be mailing the DPs. As I was checking out with the envelopes and the assorted goodies I had picked up, the woman at the register commented on the number of packages I'd be mailing. "Yeah," I replied with a smile. "They're going all the way to the Philippines."

"Do you sponsor a family there?" she asked me immediately, which caught me completely off guard--usually people assume I have family there or something. So I told her all about my girls and Children International, and she asked a lot of questions about how sponsorship works. She asked for the website, and as she handed me my receipt, she said  that she's going to start off with "only" one child!

Now I'm back home, getting ready to pack up the envelopes and send them on their way ... and I'm thankful to have had such a touching, meaningful start to my holiday season.

Edited to add:

It's 4AM, and the packing is complete! Boy, I feel bad for the Post Office clerk who has to deal with me and my nine giant, stuffed envelopes this morning! =)


Before ... and After!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 11/16/2012

Woo! I'm a bit behind this week, having been out of town for training in Dallas.


This week's Spotlight Child grabbed my attention right away!

Jay-An has been waiting for a Sponsor for over three years! Her family of six struggles to survive on only $98 per month. They have no electricity in their plywood-and-concrete home, and no running water either. I think what most captivates me about her, though, is the expression on her shirt: "Dream Today, Soar Tomorrow." That's the sort of hope and promise Sponsorship can bring to her life!





Unsure about Sponsorship? Take a test-ride by teaming up with an experienced Sponsor--me! I would be happy to co-Sponsor with you ... and if you decided after all that Sponsorship just isn't for you, you can rest assured in the knowledge that I will maintain the Sponsorship myself rather than let our angel fall back into the waiting pool. If, on the other hand, you decide you love Sponsoring SO much that you'd like to continue solo, I will be content to step aside and allow you to build that one-to-one relationship!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Planning a Visit: Foiling the Criminals' Plans

I'm not an experienced world traveler. In fact, my international expeditions thus far in life have all taken place in Canada (which, honestly, is no different than being in the USA). I've heard stories from friends and loved ones about their travel experiences, though, and there is no shortage of anecdotes online. These, of course, are sprinkled with a healthy dose of horror stories--being mugged, being kidnapped, losing your passport and not being able to return home. All of this has made me very wary over the years of branching out in my destinations of choice.

Now, however, I find myself faced with the prospect of visiting not only one, but TWO very different countries: Guatemala next spring, and the Philippines in a year and a half.

What I'm most worried about is having my money, credit card and passport stolen. I'm inordinately afraid of pickpockets even here in the US (at Universal Studios, for example, I walk with my hands in my pockets so that I can be physically touching my money), and I've heard how much worse it is overseas. The easiest and most appealing solution that has been offered to me thus far is to carry everything in one of those under-your-shirt money belts. I've heard, though, that they can be quite bulky and uncomfortable, so I was curious which brand was the most preferred and what other options I might have. Tonight, I sat down to research my options in that regard.

The first thing I came across was actually an actual belt ... at least, at first glance. This has a hidden zippered compartment inside for storing money, a driver's license, a credit card, and even a single key. This option appeals to me, because I would wear a belt anyway--no added, uncomfortable bulk under my clothes required. Plus, it's just fun! I'd feel like James Bond--just a little bit!--with my Top Secret Compartment Belt. The downside is that it's obviously not big enough to carry my passport or boarding pass. In the US, I would just leave these things in my hotel room. Overseas ... not so much.

So I searched on, and found a wallet that's large enough to hold my passport, ticket, credit cards, money, and a partridge in a pear tree. As a bonus, it also blocks RFID,  thereby preventing technologically-savvy criminals from obtaining your electronically-stored information. It folds in half and hangs from a lanyard, which allows you to wear it around your neck and tuck it inside your shirt. While it's certainly safe from being pick-pocketed there, it's not in any way secret--people are gonna see it, and unscrupulous fellows will know that it holds your treasured goodies. This, experienced travelers warn, makes you a more tempting target for muggers. Ack!

Not satisfied with that option, I continued to search and came across the Hidden Pocket by Eagle Creek. Large enough for money, credit cards and passport, it hooks to your belt and then tucks inside your pants! That made me think it would be uncomfortable, but the reviews on Amazon.com almost unanimously agree that it's soft, light, and you hardly realize you're wearing it. And as long as your pants aren't super skin-tight, no one else can tell you're wearing it, either. Sounds like a winner to me!

So, after carefully considering the various options, I think I will probably go with both the belt and the hidden pocket. That way I can split my money and cards up, so even if one of my anti-pick-pocket devices fails, I only lose half of my stuff.

This research has also taught me some valuable lessons that I'd not have realized otherwise. The first is that things like the Hidden Pocket and the James Bond Belt aren't intended to be used as wallets--if people see you take them out and/or take money out of them, it sorta defeats the purpose and makes you a target for mugging. The experienced travelers advise to carry money for the day's activities in your pockets like normal, and use the hidden compartments for the rest of your money and things that you need to keep secure by keeping on your person because the housekeeping staff at the hotel can't be trusted.

Some also suggest carrying a decoy wallet--something to appease an attacker and buy you time to get away before they decide to search you more thoroughly.  They say, if you get held up, to THROW the decoy wallet as far as you can and then RUN in the opposite direction. While the robber is busy absconding with your decoy (which they purportedly won't open until they have left the scene of the crime), you escape to safety. Assuming, of course, that you don't get shot for irritating the bad guy when you throw it.

Who would've thought this would all be so complicated?!

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's been an interesting week or two in my Sponsorship life, and I feel all topsy-turvy ... but in a good way! I started Sponsoring Yojana in Guatemala, which I've already shared. I received her welcome kit in the mail a few days ago ... except not! Inside was information on a three-year-old girl in Honduras, causing me a brief moment of panic until I logged into my account to make sure Yojana was still listed there (she is!).  So that was just a paper mix-up, fixable with a simple email to Children International, and I'm looking forward to receiving Yojana's actual information soon!

Then I wrote my weekly Spotlight Child of the Week blog entry about Anna Marie. Right after I posted it, I decided I just had to Sponsor her myself! So I went back to her profile and clicked ... and alas, it told me someone had just Sponsored her. Happy for her, sad for me!

A few days later, I clicked on the link for her profile again. To my surprise, it still came up (on the old site, once a child was sponsored you couldn't even see their photo and basic info anymore). So out of curiosity I clicked on the, "Need to sleep on it? Request more info" link, and it let me put in my info! So I thought, "Okay ... when I receive her info, I'll make the decision once and for all."

Today, I was looking at my account to answer the discussion thread about water sources, and I had another mini heart attack--Anna Marie is listed on my account! And darn, but her name sure looks right listed there along side my other girls. Smile So I don't have to wait to receive her info in the mail to decide ... she is my tenth Sponsored child!

Without further ado, I introduce you to sixteen-year-old Anna Marie from Manila!


Anna has a younger sister and two younger brothers.They live in Manila with their parents on a monthly income of only $93 (earned by her father, who is a driver. Her mother is unemployed). Her favorite subjects in school are Math, Science, and Home Economics! They cook on a coal stove and get their water from a neighbor's faucet. They cannot afford electricity, though it is available in their community.

I can't wait to receive her first letter and start getting to know her! We'll only have a short two years and two months together before she'll turn nineteen and graduate from the program. We'll have to make the most of every moment! Luckily, my planned trip to the Philippines will happen before she graduates.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 10/17/2012

 I'm having a very hard time not sponsoring Anna Marie myself. This beautiful young woman lives with her parents and three siblings in the Philippines on only $93 per month. She has been waiting for a Sponsor for over a year, and is also on Children International's "Most Needy" list. The family cannot afford electricity and gets their water from a neighbor's faucet. Anna Marie enjoys reading and drawing (the latter of which is also listed as one of her talents). Against the odds, she is still attending school. Give her the support and encouragement she needs to finish her education and escape poverty into a better life.




Unsure about Sponsorship? Take a test-ride by teaming up with an experienced Sponsor--me! I would be happy to co-Sponsor with you ... and if you decided after all that Sponsorship just isn't for you, you can rest assured in the knowledge that I will maintain the Sponsorship myself rather than let our angel fall back into the waiting pool. If, on the other hand, you decide you love Sponsoring SO much that you'd like to continue solo, I will be content to step aside and allow you to build that one-to-one relationship!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Planning a Visit: Guatemala

So! After educating myself about exactly where Guatemala is located, I decided just for the heck of it to do some research into which airlines fly from here to there. Turns out American, United and Delta all do, and for FAR less than it's going to cost us to fly to the Philippines in 2014!

"Hmmmm," I thought to myself. "Baltimore to Guatemala City--with a layover in Miami--takes less than seven hours. That's doable for a four-day weekend!" This is particularly significant because in 2013, Julio and I will be doing a series of mini-vacations, one four-day weekend each month. We'll be alternating who plans each month--mine are the odd months.

After speaking with Julio, we decided that it's okay to trade days between our months ... so I'm thinking that March will be a three-day weekend, allowing for five days in May, which is when I'm thinking of making the trip.

Next step in the investigation process: pass agreements! I know we have one with Delta. A little research has revealed that we have an agreement with American as well, and it will cost a mere fraction of the commercial airfare to get there!

So it looks like this plan is a go! I'd better scurry myself to the Post Office tomorrow and get my Passport application rolling!

ETA:

On the flip side, reading the State Department's warnings and advisories about traveling to Guatemala makes is sound ridiculously dangerous and downright terrifying. Yikes!

One More Angel

I have been contemplating for a while now taking on an older child who has lost their Sponsor. I have also contemplated branching out from the Philippines for the first time in ten years. And I was really intrigued by the notion of Sponsoring a child who speaks Cakchiquel. All of these things were lurking in the back of my brain as I took a gander at CI's brand new child search functions.

Which is how I wound up fulfilling all three notions in one go.

This beautiful young woman is Yojana. She's sixteen years old and lives in Guatemala with her parents and seven siblings (six of whom are girls! Wow!). They live in an adobe home with one bedroom and a kitchen. They have regulated electricity but get their water from a neighbor's well. I can't wait to get to know her better (as an added bonus, writing to her will give me a chance to exercise my rusty Spanish skills!).

Interestingly, on her profile when she was waiting for a Sponsor it listed both Spanish and Cakchiquel for the languages she speaks. But now on her profile on my account, it only lists Spanish. I'm pretty sure that's just an oversight, although it IS possible to forget your native language (Mother Teresa did!).

Her favorite subjects in school are math and languages, and her listed talents are drawing and painting--I can't wait to see the drawings on her letters!

I'm hopeful, too, that when she graduates the program in 2.5 years I'll be able to Sponsor one of her younger siblings and continue to build a relationship with the whole family.

So! Welcome to my Sponsorship family, Yojana!

Still Seeking Closure

I've written before about my Joan, and how she unexpectedly left the program and how Children International was unable to locate the family. I was looking at Joan's photos on Facebook again this evening, and I noticed in one of the photos that some of her friends were wearing pants that said "Sta Monica" on them. "Aha!" I thought to myself. "Maybe that's a school!"

It sure is. Colegio de Santa Monica, to be more precise, in Las PiƱas City. So my Joan is in college--that's very heartening to know! I wonder what she's studying. Sta. Monica has several different programs, including Nursing, Education and Business Management. She was always so focused on her studies in her letters, and she often told me that Math was her favorite subject.

Browsing further along, I noticed someone with the same last name had left a comment on one of her photos. "A sibling?" I wondered, and dug out one of her old family reports. Nope! But, that gave me the idea to search for her three siblings. I started with her oldest brother, Jeff, and found him right away. He still lives in Tabaco and although I cannot message Joan due to her Facebook settings, I could message him. He speaks English, according to his profile.

What would I say, though? Could I even send a message at all without seeming like a crazy stalker lady?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Spotlight Children of the Week, 10/12/2012

Children International has revamped its website! The new search features for looking for a waiting child are just awesome. So, to celebrate, I will share several young ladies who caught my eye!

One of the new changes is larger photos! Another change is the ability to view information for older children. Sixteen-year-old Marilyn, for example! She lives in the Philippines with her parents and two siblings. Their family of five struggles to survive on only $15 per month. Their house is plywood and corrugated metal, and they do not have electricity because they cannot afford it. Marilyn attends school, and enjoys playing with her siblings. She speaks Filipino and English (all children in the Philippines study English in school, but it wouldn't be listed on her profile unless she's fairly fluent).



Angie Elizabeth lives with her parents and two siblings in Honduras. She will be five years old in December, and she enjoys playing with toy cars and dolls. She's not in school yet, but she should start soon! On only $211 per month, her parents will struggle to provide her with uniforms and supplies for her studies. Sponsorship can help ease that burden and give her the hope and tools for a better tomorrow!

How could I not feature Rose Amelia?! She's wearing a Snoopy shirt! I very nearly Sponsored her on the spot. =) This four-year-old cutie lives in Chile with her mother and two siblings. Their family of four survives on $400 per month, which sounds like a lot compared to other children (especially in India and the Philippines), but the cost of living in Chile is much higher. Although she is very young, Rose already attends school--a promising first step towards a bright future!


Jennifer lives with her parents and three siblings in the Dominican Republic. She will celebrate her sixteenth birthday in November. She is fortunate to have electricity and running water available in her concrete-block house, and she is still attending school (beating the odds when so many girls her age have dropped out!). What she needs now is the support and encouragement of a friend to pursue a higher education and attain a level of independence and self-sustainability!


You can't help but be drawn in by Jairett Johana's spunk--her personality just leaps out of her photo! This sixteen-year-old lives with her mother and two siblings in Colombia. Their family of four survives on $200 per month. Jairett attends school, and in her free time she--like any teenage girl--likes to hang out with her friends. Her home is constructed of concrete blocks, with corrugated tile for the roof. The family is fortunate to have electricity and running water in their home.

Sixteen-year-old Azra has been waiting for a Sponsor for nearly a year. She, her two siblings and their parents live in India and struggle to get by on $85 per month. Their house is brick with a concrete roof, and although electricity is available in their home, they must retrieve water from a community faucet. Azra attends school and is a talented artist.



Unsure about Sponsorship? Take a test-ride by teaming up with an experienced Sponsor--me! I would be happy to co-Sponsor with you ... and if you decided after all that Sponsorship just isn't for you, you can rest assured in the knowledge that I will maintain the Sponsorship myself rather than let our angel fall back into the waiting pool. If, on the other hand, you decide you love Sponsoring SO much that you'd like to continue solo, I will be content to step aside and allow you to build that one-to-one relationship!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Another Great Saturday!

The pattern continues to hold true--when I open my mailbox on any given Saturday, I can expect to find an envelope of joyfulness inside!

This week's envelope contained two CP letters. One is from Maria, and the other is from Joyce. They both live in Tabaco, and their correspondence, so far, has tended to arrive together.

Dear Ms. Dillon,

Hello. How are you doing? I hope that you and your family are in good condition. I received your letter today. I was so excited to open it. Well, what are you planning for your today's vacation? Me, right this time I'm busy to write a letter from you and hope you receive it in a short time. To tell you, really, I'm so tired because my friends playing with me, but I stop playing when I got your letter.

Yes, to be a teacher someday is one of my dreams, so before that I promise you to study hard. It's because for you and my family. I read also that you are going to pense,l vani. Wow!! That also fun. You promise me to happening from tell me more about what's the went is. God bless.

Yours Truly,
Maria Cristina P.


Wow! What a letter! I think this may be the first she's written entirely on her own, without guidance or suggestions from an older relative or a CI volunteer. This probably also explains the sudden change from her previously perfect grammar.

It made me smile instantly when I read that she was excited to receive my letter, and I love that she asks questions about my vacations (her interpretation of "Pennsylvania" made me giggle). It sounds like my letter was delivered to her at home, rather than her having to come to the center to pick it up.

Dear Ms. Dillon,

Hi! Good day! I hope all are well like us here in our locality. About me, we had many activities in our school. My birthday, my family and me attended mass and my mother cooked a "pansit" that we shared every one of us. In school, we celebrated our Nutrition Month National Language, with a parade and program. We wear our National costume during the parade in the celebration of our National Language. This week, we have on Intrams. We have our sportfest and then games. One of the  highlights is also the search for Mr. and Ms. Intrams of 2012. I participated in the search but unfortunately my partner is win not me. I still happy, because I gave my best and another experience to cherish. I'm very happy for all the things happened to me. Thank you for the card and all the benefits you had given to me. God Bless.

Sincerely Yours,
Joyce T.


Pansit is any of a variety of noodle dishes, and it is tradition to eat pansit on one's birthday. The long noodles symbolize long life and good health. I have learned something new today!

I wish I could see her all dressed up in her National costume. I have a pen-pal in Norway who used to write about her national costume, as well. I've always felt it was a shame that a national costume isn't a part of our heritage and history here in the United States.

She shows great maturity as she writes about not winning Ms. Intrams 2012. I think it's wonderful that she is so active and participates in so many things at school.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Letter from Hazel!

I love opening my mailbox and finding a Children International envelope inside! This one held a CP letter from Hazel!

Dear Shannon,

Hello, how are you? Me and my family are in good health. Since it's rainy season here in the Philippines, I also enjoy taking a bath in the rain, but I'm afraid of lightning. After that I review my lesson although our school is suspend for almost one week, still I'm doing my assignment to be ready for our class discussion. Thank you for the post card, letter. It's a very beautiful card.

Again, thank you for writing to us! God bless you always.

Your Sponsored Child,
Hazel Ann

She bathes in the rain? Oh my. What does she do, I wonder, when it's NOT the rainy season? According to the most recent family record I have, Hazel's family has running water in their home. I guess I had always assumed that meant she had a shower of some kind.

I'm not surprised in the least to hear that school was suspended--I'm actually surprised that it was only for a week! The photos of the flooding looked pretty devastating. I'm glad to know she was able to return to school pretty quickly.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Children Who Leave the Program

From time to time, a Sponsor will received distressing news: "Your child has left the Program." This can occurr for a myriad of reasons--the family moved outside the program area, the family's circumstances have improved and they no longer have need of the services, the child has declined to participate further, the child or family is unwilling to meet participation requirements ... Whatever the reason, it is always a sad day for the Sponsor when this notice is received. There seem to have been a lot of LiftOne Sponsors receiving this notification lately, which has many of us on pins and needles, wondering if one of our children will be next.

Sometimes, Children International is able to provide some measure of closure. If they are still in contact with the family, a final letter of farewell can be sent. At the very least, they are usually able to tell the Sponsor why the child left the program. No amount of closure, however, will fill in the gap that the child's absence leaves in a Sponsor's heart. The Sponsor will always wonder if their child is safe, and healthy and happy.

Such is the case with me and my Joan. Her family moved unexpectedly, and did not leave a forwarding address. Children International was unable to locate them, and so I don't even know the circumstances surrounding her move. For years, I have hoped that the change was a positive one for her and her family, and that she is doing well.

On impulse one evening, I typed her name into the search engine on Facebook. Lo and behold! Two profiles popped up with her name. I cannot see much on either one, due to the privacy settings. But one profile is definitely her--I can tell from the cover photos, which are the only ones I can see.

Joan looks happy and healthy in her photos. Her clothes are clean and in good condition. In several of her photos, she is holding some type of smart phone. So it would appear that her family's situation DID improve when they moved, and she is now leading the life of an average teenage girl. This warms my heart--even if I cannot communicate with her, at least I know she is okay.

Hopefully one day she will confirm my friend request, and we will be able to reconnect. I miss her.

Spotlight Child of the Week, 10/1/2012

Hello, dear readers! I missed last week due to vacation, so I will double up this week with two lovely ladies!

This cutie pie is Jemmarie! She and her seven siblings live with their parents in Manila in the Philippines. Their family of nine struggles to get by on only $112 per month. Jemmarie counts singing and dancing among her talents. She enjoys reading, and her favorite game is Hide and Seek. She turned nine this past May--make her next birthday the happiest of her young life, secure with the promise of Sponsorship!



Seven-year-old Shama speaks Urdu and lives with her father in India. Their small family survives on $96 per month. She enjoys playing with dolls and has a talent for drawing. Shama will turn eight in December--give her an early gift of Sponsorship, and bring peace of mind and hope for the future to her and her father!



Unsure about Sponsorship? Take a test-ride by teaming up with an experienced Sponsor--me! I would be happy to co-Sponsor with you ... and if you decided after all that Sponsorship just isn't for you, you can rest assured in the knowledge that I will maintain the Sponsorship myself rather than let our angel fall back into the waiting pool. If, on the other hand, you decide you love Sponsoring SO much that you'd like to continue solo, I will be content to step aside and allow you to build that one-to-one relationship!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Urge to Write

Children International encourages its Sponsors to write to their children, to share life experiences and build a connection from across the globe. However, they also suggest a few limitations: they recommend that letters be no more than one page in length, and they recommend limiting correspondance to once a month. These recommendations help keep their processing and translation costs down, and also prevent the children from being overwhelmed with a bombardment of communication.

For the most part, I am content to operate within these limitations. I understand why they are in place, and in general they still allow me adequate communication with my girls.

Sometimes, though, I just have an itch to write. Various things can trigger it: reading an article about a program that I think one of my girls would enjoy, receiving a letter from one of my girls, a momentous change in my own life ... all of these make me yearn to pick up a pen, even if it's only been a week since I last wrote. I have a horrendous time trying to suppress these urges, and despite my best intentions, in the end I usually cave in and write again.

I'm thinking of starting letter books for each of my girls--fancy notebooks in which I write these sorts of letters, letting them gather in one place for an extended period of time and then forwarding them on as a memento. I'm thinking of doing this in addition to and separate from my monthly mailed letters. This would allow me to write as often as the urge strikes, and would make a unique gift to show my girls how often I think of them. I can paste in photos, too, and family and friends could write short greetings and encouragement as well.

Shopping for and decorating the notebooks will be fun! I'm just wondering now when would be best to start/send the books. Christmas? Each girl's birthday? They would make a special gift for either occasion, I think.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Letters!

Two special letters arrived in two different destinations today. The first was from Cristine, my group-sponsored child. This letter was physically mailed to our group's Lead Sponsor, Holly, who emailed me directly to share the surprise: she had received TWO letters from Cristine, and one of them was addressed specifically to me!

Dear Shannon,

Hello there! I'm very happy to received your letter, photos, and some postcards of your friends. I really love the stickers. Spongebob is one of my favorite cartoon characters. I will put your photo and your dog in my photo album. I will share some of the stickers to my friends and cousins. Wow! Its nice to know that you we will be traveling to your favorite place. I hope you will enjoy your vacation with your family. We are now on rainy season. Many Filipinos affected by the typhoon but thanks God that me and my family are all okay until here.

Thank you for spending your time writing to me as well as to your friend. I really appreciate it. God Bless you and happy trip.

Cristine

What a wonderful letter! I've been scouring the local stores for Spongebob goodies to include when I write to her again, so it's very good to hear that she's still a fan of Mr. Squarepants! And I'm glad that she wrote about the typhoon and assured me that she and her family came through the storm safely!

The postcards she refers to are from my Postcrossing Project, inspired by my fellow Sponsor, David!

When I got home from work, I found today's third letter waiting in my mailbox--a CR letter from Yulliana.

Dear Ms. Dillon,

I want to say hi you my dear Sponsor! We start doing multiplication in our math. My teacher gave us many homework in multiplying numbers. We will be having a long quiz this week. I am preparing for it.

Thank you for all your gifts to me.

Love,
Yulliana


Math--ugh! Haha Hopefully she enjoys the subject more than I did at her age. I'll have to keep an eye out for a multiplication activity book that I can send to her the next time I write!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 9/19/12

I very nearly clicked on "Sponsor Me" when I saw sweet little Roxanne's profile. This angel has no brothers or sisters, and lives with a Guardian in Manila. Drawing is listed is both her talent and one of her hobbies--I would look forward to receiving her letters with the drawings at the bottom! Roxanne will celebrate her seventh birthday in November--it would surely bring that beautiful smile to her face if she received the gift of Sponsorship!



Unsure about Sponsorship? Take a test-ride by teaming up with an experienced Sponsor--me! I would be happy to co-Sponsor with you ... and if you decided after all that Sponsorship just isn't for you, you can rest assured in the knowledge that I will maintain the Sponsorship myself rather than let our angel fall back into the waiting pool. If, on the other hand, you decide you love Sponsoring SO much that you'd like to continue solo, I will be content to step aside and allow you to build that one-to-one relationship!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Annual Photos!

When I logged into my account today, I found new annual photos for two of my girls!

Jasmin is so cute I can barely stand it! She's still five in this year's photo--her sixth birthday is next month. She's not smiling as brightly this year--perhaps the impact the flooding has had on her community is partly to blame for that. I think I'll send an inquiry to CI to find out if the flooding did any damage to her home that I can maybe help repair.

Nay-Nay is eleven years old, but I think she looks so much more grown up than that! This is far and away my favorite photo of her so far. I love that she's letting her hair grow long again. And that look in her eyes--the one that first drew me in--is still there. I am of course excited to meet ALL of my girls when I visit, but in particular I look forward to meeting Nay-Nay.

Spotlight Child of the Week, 9/14/2012

This lovely young lady is Maria Joy. She is an only child, and she lives with her parents in Legaspi (where my Jie is from). Maria has a fondness for drawing and also for reading. The family survives on only $40 per month. Maria's tenth birthday is coming up in November--give her the early birthday gift of Sponsorship so her hope for the future may burn as brightly as the candles on her cake!

Unsure about Sponsorship? Take a test-ride by teaming up with an experienced Sponsor--me! I would be happy to co-Sponsor with you ... and if you decided after all that Sponsorship just isn't for you, you can rest assured in the knowledge that I will maintain the Sponsorship myself rather than let our angel fall back into the waiting pool. If, on the other hand, you decide you love Sponsoring SO much that you'd like to continue solo, I will be content to step aside and allow you to build that one-to-one relationship!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hazel's Fundraiser Still On-Going!

As many of you already know, the first part of Hazel's fundraiser was completed very fast, thanks largely to an astonishlingly-generous contribution from a fellow Sponsor. The refrigerator has been delivered to her family, and I have received photos and Hazel's thank-you letter.

But there is work yet to be done! If you recall, the refrigerator was only half of the entire Income-Generating Project. Funds also needed to be raised for construction and supplies for her mother's store. This was the online portion of the fundraiser, and it is still on-going. I am raising the funds through FirstGiving--an easy, secure way to collect contributions for charitable causes!

You can view my fundraiser and make a contribution here. Truly, no amount is too small--you can see at the bottom of the page how quickly many small donations have added up to 47% of the goal amount!

I truly appreciate any support--financial, well-wishes, or otherwise--you are able to give! Hazel's family has been through so much this year (losing her father, the devastating floods), and it would be such a blessing to be able to ease their burdens and provide them with the security and peace of mind that the small store will bring to their lives.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 8/29/2012

Meet thirteen-year-old Ma. Kristina! She lives with her father and three siblings in Quezon City in the Philippines. She enjoys reading and has a talent for dance. Their family of five struggles to get by on $153 a month. Quezon City was one of the areas impacted by the recent flooding in the Philippines, so that $153 may have dropped drastically. I would love to Sponsor her myself, but I cannot add another to my group at this time ... at least, not on my own. Care to team up with me to bring her hope for a brighter tomorrow?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 8/21/2012

Meet Lanie Fe! She and her four siblings live with their mother in Manila on only $94 per month. Lanie turned twelve this past February. Like many girls her age, she enjoys playing indoors and outdoors with her friends, and she has a fondness for dancing. Won't you give this lovely young lady a reason to dance for joy by giving her the hope and promise of Sponsorship?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Saturday Mail

I stopped at my mailbox on the way out to a friend's house last night, and behold! I discovered a Children International envelope inside. Its thickness indicated that it contained more than one letter, and I was excited to open it and find FOUR letters AND two photos inside! The photos were Maria and Joyce's annual photos. They were accompanied by CR letters. In addition, there were CP letters from Jie and Jasmin!

Dear Ms. Dillon,

First of all, I would like to greet you. A pleasant hello to you and your family! I hope that you're always in good condition.

I am now eleven years old and a grade five pupil. My teacher now is Miss Carmelita Carillo. She is kind and good to us. She inspires me.

I would like to say thank you a lot for all the gifts you have given to me, like the birthday and Easter gifts and also the school supplies and Special Hug for my parents. Thank you very much for all of these. You're my inspiration and my family, too.

Take care and God bless.

Lovingly yours,
Maria
 
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! This is by far the most personal of Maria's letters (which is strange, since CRs tend to be less personal than CPs)--she's starting to warm up to me, which is such a wonderful feeling! And her English, as always, is just amazing.

Dear Ms. Dillon,

Hi! Good day! I hope that your family are in a good condition. May you are in good health.

I thank you for all the benefits you had shared to me. I really appreciate them. I'm so very proud to have you in our life. Now, I still continue my studies, because of your support to me. You are big help not only to me but also to my family.

Hmmf. By the way we have so many activities in our school this July, because in the Philippines it was a "Nutrition Month Celebration." We cooked a nutritious food, and eating a fruits. We had also a parade in the morning, participated by all pupils and teachers in our school, and in the afternoon have programs.

This coming Aug. 19, I am celebrationg my 14 bithday. My mother planned to go to church.

Once again thank you very much for the continuous support for me. I am praying that God will always give you guide and protection.

Take care always ..... God Bless!

Sincerely Yours,
Joyce
 
She is the second of my girls to mention Church in relation to a birthday--is this a custom in the Philippines, I wonder? I love the "Hmmf!" ... Jie does that, too! And today is her birthday -- Happy 14th Birthday, Joyce!

Dear Shannon,

Hi!!! I'm fine here, hope you are too. I've read your messages to me. It's so nice that you go to Julio's place. Hope that your vacation there was so very good and nice. It's autumn. :) Me and my family seen the postcard that you gave to me, the bear hug, the tree stem, the kingston beach and the Fort Lauderdale.  I like the Kingston Beach, the water is very clear and very silent place ... Here in our country the most popular beach is the Boracay beach, but I never go there because it's very far to our province. Here in Bicol the best tourist spot is the perfect cone shape "Mayon Volcano." It's very nice to see. Hope you see the Mayon Volcano, especially the "Cagsawa Church." Maybe next time I will send to you a picture, so at least in simple pictures you've see the Cagsawa Church and Mayan Volcano.


Hope you like my short story. :) Till next time ... hmmpf ... love lots and more power to you and your whole entire family. Thank you.

Your sponsored child,
Jie

Hahahaha! I love this girl! He letters never fail to make me smile. I'm very happy that she mentions the postcards--looks like David's idea was a hit!

Dear Ms. Shannon,

Mabuhay! How are you, ma'am? We hope everything is okay with you.

Again I am Jasmin Jane's mother. My daughter would like to thank you for the letter and cards you sent to her. She was very happy. She often looks at the cards before she sleeps. She likes them very much. She wants to tell you that she loves swimming. She knows how to swim. She likes going to beaches although we never had chance to do that.

I would like to end this letter saying thank you for everything. Jasmi also expressed thanks and belated happy birthday!

Yours always,
Lea

Lea writes such lovely letters. I am very happy to hear that Jasmin knows how and loves to swim! Three of my girls now have mentioned a fondness for beaches -- I wonder if there is one close enough to take them there instead of to the pool when I visit? I will have to research that a bit.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hazel's Annual Photo

I'm receiving lots of Hazel updates lately! Today when I logged into my account, I discovered her new annual photo:

Her hair has grown a little bit longer! She actually looks younger to me in this photo than in last year's. What do you think?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Spotlight Children of the Week, 8/13/12

I missed last week's Spotlight blog due to my vacation, so this week I'm doubling up with a focus on metro Manila, which was recently ravaged by floods.

First, I would like to introduce you to nine-year-old Marcelle. She lives with her parents and four siblings, and enjoys playing indoors with her dolls. Before the waters submerged her city, her family's monthly income was only $46. Now, it's possible their situation is even more dire. Won't you come to her rescue and help her family rebuild what they have lost?



This young lady is Daisy, also from Manila. She and her seven siblings live with their parents on $200 per month (again, that is a pre-flood income estimate). Daisy enjoys reading and playing outdoors with her friends. She will be fourteen years old in less than two weeks. Bring a spark of hope back to her life and give her the greatest birthday gift of all--Sponsorship!



Unsure about Sponsorship? Take a test-ride by teaming up with an experienced Sponsor--me! I would be happy to co-Sponsor either of these girls with you ... and if you decided after all that Sponsorship just isn't for you, you can rest assured in the knowledge that I will maintain the Sponsorship myself rather than let our angel fall back into the waiting pool. If, on the other hand, you decide you love Sponsoring SO much that you'd like to continue solo, I will be content to step aside and allow you to build that one-to-one relationship!

Back from Vacation

I was away on vacation for a week, and came back to a whole host of goodies!

Most excitingly, Hazel's refrigerator has arrived! There was enough money left over after purchasing it for the family to also purchase some supplies for the business, and some school snacks for Hazel!


She sent a lovely thank-you letter:

Dear Sponsor,

Hello! How are you? About us, we are doing good. I am very happy and thankful for the special gift you gave to me and my family. The refrigerator will help my mother a lot in her small business. As of now she is cooking food that we are selling in our neighbors. The left over food, we keep it in the refrigerator. We also bought snack items that I can bring when I go to school. I am now in grade five. I am enjoying school.

Thank you so much again for your big support in me.

Your Sponsored Child,
Hazel Ann

Next, I found two new photos of my girls when I logged in to my Children International account. One was expected ... one was not!

Maria's annual photo was the expected one. Her birthday is coming up in September; she will be twelve.















 Joyce's photo was definitely NOT expected! Her last photo was updated in February, so this was definitely a surprise! Joyce's birthday is in just a couple days; she will be fourteen.

Then, I learned of the devastating flooding in Manila and Quezon City--all together, five of my girls live in these two areas.  I logged online for the first time in the week, only to be confronted by images like this one:


Children International issued a statement, saying that their centers were closed due to safety concerns. They also said that they would contact Sponsors whose children are directly impacted by the flooding. I haven't heard anything ... yet. I am praying that no news is good news.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Planning a Visit: Flights

Today, I tackled the daunting task of beginning to research flight options for a visit to my girls. I have specific things I'm looking for: a non-stop flight from the U.S. to Manila, from a city to which SWA flies, on an airline on which I can Non-Rev travel (aka, save myself a whole lot of moolah by using my airline-employee benefits).

My first choice was Delta. I had been told that they have a non-stop flight from Detroit, MI, to Manila. Unfortunately, I was told incorrectly. Delta does not have ANY non-stop flights from the U.S. to Manila. Strike One.

Next, I did a general search for airlines that fly non-stop from anywhere in the U.S.to Manila. Most were airlines that I had never even heard of. Strike Two.

Philippine Airlines DOES have a couple non-stop connection to U.S. cities. However, I have been warned in the past about the questionable levels of safety on non-U.S. carriers, so more research was in order. Like any airline, PAL has its share of incidents and accidents. However, it doesn't seem out of proportion compared to our U.S. carriers. And they are accredited by the IATA. So things look good on that front.

Even better, PAL has non-stop flights to Manila from San Francisco AND Los Angeles, both of which are cities served by SWA. Score! I think we will opt for SFO, if the flights cooperate. I'm not overly fond LAX.

There is currently one flight per day from SFO to MNL. It leaves SFO at 9:15PM and makes a "technical stop" (whatever that is) in Guam. It arrives in Manila at 5:30AM ... two days later. So if we leave SFO on a Tuesday night, we land in Manila on THURSDAY morning! Yow!

Coming back, there is no stop in Guam. The flight leaves at 10:30PM, and arrives in SFO at 6:30PM on the same day. Haha! That's pretty whacky. =) We'll probably wind up spending the night in SFO, and then flying on Southwest back to Baltimore the next morning.

So there we are! It's still far too early to actually arrange for travel passes ... but now the initial research is done!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cristine Receives a DP!

Of my eight girls, Cristine is unique in that she is Sponsored by a whole group. I joined the group a few months ago, and I have enjoyed this new experience so far! I've written to her twice--a letter of introduction when I first joined the group, and just last month I sent a letter along with my Sponsorship contribution (because it's a group Sponsorship, I only make two contributions a year). There are no replies to my specific letters (yet!), but today we all got to see the response to a package one of her other Sponsors sent!


That's quite a pile of goodies! Cristine has, in previous letters, mentioned that she likes Sponge Bob, so a lot of the gifts are Sandy Bottom-themed!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 7/30/12

This week, I would like to introduce to you Claudine. She lives with her three siblings and her parents in Manila. Claudine caught my eye because her favorite pastime is reading--a rarity in children from countries where the emphasis on reading for pleasure isn't as strong as here in the States. Her family's income is only $163 per month, so I imagine she doesn't often receive new and engaging books to read. As her Sponsor you could change that, and encourage her love of literature as she grows into adulthood. Her birthday is August 19th--she will be fourteen years old. What better birthday gift could you give her than the hope and promise of Sponsorship?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Financial Perspective

Last night as I was checking my Children International account for new photos and family reports (a couple are due sometime soon!), I happened to idly click on the "year-to-date contributions" link. Under the "monthly sponsorship" heading, the amount was around $800. "Huh," I thought to myself. "That's about half of one paycheck."

Then I stopped, and really thought about that realization. In seven months, my Sponsorships have cost me only half of one paycheck. Half of one, when I've earned fourteen. That means that my Sponsorships are only 3.5% of my entire after-tax income. "Wow!" I thought upon that realization. "Some people tithe 10% of their income to their church. This is less than half that!"

People have, in the past, expressed various concerns upon learning how many children I Sponsor. The majority of those concerns are phrased something like, "It's wonderful that you're so generous, but are you sure you aren't biting off more than you can chew?"

Now, instead of simply assuring them that it's not more than I can afford, I can reply, "Does 3.5% of my income sound like too much, when you consider that it's changing the lives of EIGHT families in the Philippines?"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 7/25/2012

This precious little girl is four-year-old Maybel Bernadas from Tabaco in the Philippines. She and her four siblings live with their parents and struggle to get by on only $69 per month. The hope and promise of Sponsorship can turn her sad, hopeless face into a brightly smiling expression of joy. Won't you be the one to turn her frown upside down?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Spotlight Children of the Week, 7/11/12

This week, I bring you a rare occurrence in the Waiting Children list: Twins!

Jhoise Monserra
Martina Belen
Jhoise Monserra and her twin sister Martina Belen live with their parents in Chile. They have no other siblings. Jhoise and Martina turned two in February. They both like to dance and love playing with dolls. What a unique experience it would be to Sponsor twins! Or to team up with a friend and each Sponsor one of them. In fact, if someone wants to team up with ME, send me a message!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

CPs Galore!

There's nothing in the world quite like the feeling of opening the mailbox to find a Children International envelope inside! This one proclaimed, "A special greeting from your Sponsored child Yulliana!" but as I eagerly snatched it from amid the pile of junk mail, I noted that it felt too thick to be only one letter.
Inside were THREE beautiful letters from not only Yulliana but also Joyce and Maria!

Dear Shannon,
Hello! A big hug for you. I've just received your letter and I'm so happy when I read it. The pictures are so nice and I'm happy when I see your picture. I'm happy to know we have the same birthday. So on my next birthday, I'll go to church and pray to God to give you good health and more blessings to come! I'll wait for another letter from you. Take care!
Love,
Yulliana Nicole

I love that she sends a hug -- I sign all my letters "With big hugs" and she is the first of my girls to respond to that. =) She's just such a sweet child--and a very happy one, if this letter is any indication!
CP from Joyce
Dear Ms. Dillon,
Hello! I'm fine and especially my family.
I'm happy that you gave me photos of you and your sisters and friends. Are so beautiful and nice. Julio and you are perfect with each other, an Ali`i is so cute.
Hmmf! This summer we bonding with my friends and my family. Me and my friends went to the falls and beach. We swim and play there. Sometimes we go to the playground. My family and I was bonding in our house. We talk about studying and good health of my family.
I'm excited in this coming schooling, because I will meet again new friends and more fun activities in our school. We will have again new lectures in different subjects. I never forget the happy memories in the sophomore level.
Thank you again for the letter and beautiful photos. Say my "hellow" to your friends and to your handsome boyfriends, especially to your family. Once again thank you very much for all the benefits. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS!
Sincerely Yours,
Joyce

I love to hear that she gets to enjoy fun passtimes at the beach and falls (and I guess that answers the question of whether she likes to swim! hehe). I can't wait to tell Julio that she called him my "handsome boyfriend"--he'll love that! =)

Dear Miss Dillon,
Hello! I have just received your letter. I am very surprised. You are pretty. You look very kind and energetic. Your friends are also friendly. About me, I am in good health. Classes are here again. I am in grade five. I will study hard because I want to reach and fulfill my ambition. I also don't forget to help my parents in doing household chores. I take care of my younger sister and brother. Thank you so much for all of the gifts you have given to me and to my family. Thank you also for the time you've shared in spite of your schedule at work and with friends.
I will always keep in my heart your kindness and goodness to me.
Take care.
Truly yours,
Maria Cristina

I continue to be impressed with Maria's proper grammar and spelling -- her English is extraordinary for an eleven-year-old! I had to chuckle when she said I look "energetic" and also at how she ascertains that my friends are friendly based on the photos I sent.