Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 5/31/2012

This is Estela Nohemi. She lives in Guatemala with her mother and her two siblings. Estela and her family are unique in that they belong to one of Guatemala's indigenous peoples, and her first language is Cakchiquel (though she also speaks Spanish). Indigenous minorities face unique challenges and discriminations, and Sponsorship can provide them the only respite from that reality. Won't you show Estela that she and her family are equally worthy of opportunity and the promise of a better tomorrow?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

So Many Letters!

When I got home from work tonight I found an envelope in my mailbox with that beloved Children International logo. The envelope proclaimed, "A special message from your sponsored child, Jie!"

"Woohoo!" I thought, snagging it from among the junk mail. I was surprised at the thickness of the envelope--it felt like far more than a single sheet of paper inside. I scurried into the house and tore the envelope open. BEHOLD! Inside were FOUR letters from my girls!

Dear Shannon,
Have a blessful day!
Thank you for the letter. I'm happy to know that you're planning to visit our country. Hope you can come and see our beautiful country spot. In school I'll be in grade five this coming school opening. I try my best to be good in all my subjects. But now I just enjoy my school break. I stayed at home and helped my mother doing some work at home. My free time was spent in reviewing my past lesson because school opening is fast approaching. My favorite color is yellow.

Bye. Thank you for your help and God bless.
Your Sponsored Child,

Yay, she answered my question about her favorite color! Now I can get to work on her afghan. =)

Dear Shannon,
Hello!! A pleasant day to you of course and 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, too.
This time, I'm so busy for the exam in studying my lesson. I always do my best to have higher grades. At home, I always scan my notes during my free time to assure myself that I 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 the holy mass during 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 shown me.
May the lord Jesus bless you always.
Your Sponsored Child,

Mt girls are so focused on their school work -- it's fantastic! Sounds like Jie and her family are definitely Catholic. That gives me something else to write to her about--my family is Catholic, too! She didn't answer my question about her favorite color ... guess I'll just have to ask again. =)

Dear Ms. Shannon,
Hello! We hope that you and your friends and family are always in good health.
I am writing on behalf of Jasmin Jane. We would like to thank you for your good heart to help others like our family. We see some photos from you. Jasmin was so happy to see you and your pet Ali`i and some of your family and friends. She loves pets too. We have two cats, Staz and Nacky. she always plays with them.
Jasmin is excited this coming school day. She loves to draw and sing and she wants to become a teacher someday.
Thank you for your support. May God bless you always.
Sincerely yours,

Staz and Nacky -- what interesting names for her cats!

Dear Miss Shannon,
Good day!
Thank you for choosing me as your Sponsored child. It's so nice to see your photos and your letter to me. I appreciated it. It's summer here in the Philippines and I enjoyed my vacation days. I am now a sixth grade student this coming school year.
God bless you and your family!
Your Sponsored Child,
"Whoever wants to enjoy life and wishes to see good times must stop from speaking evil and stop telling lies."

That's quite the quote she chose to write at the end of her letter!

Receiving these letters has just made my night! I can't wait to sit down and write to them again in June (I'm trying my hardest to limit myself to writing only once a month, so as to not overwhelm my girls or the translators with letters!). In June, I'm sending each of my girls a sheet of stickers with her letter!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Day That Started It All

I was reading through my old journals today, and I found one very special entry.

Under the photo: Her name is Precy. she lives in the Philippines. It's a child like her that I will be helping.

August 13, 1996
Dear Reba,

I made an important decision today. I decided to sponsor a child. I feel so bad for all those small children who have nothing. It's so sad to think of all those children who don't get any of the help they so desperately need.

This now fits in with my plans for when I become an adult. I'm going to adopt needy children from other countries and raise them here in the U.S. I'll give them American names, but they will also know their birth names. They will speak both English and their native languages fluently. They will also speak each other's languages fluently. I will take them to visit their homeland frequently. They will lead happy, normal lives.


Well, obviously my plans for my adult life have changed a bit in the past 16 years! I haven't adopted any children, but I -have- gone on to Sponsor a total of eleven girls in that period of time ... and I plan to keep right on Sponsoring!

Spotlight Child of the Week, 5/23/2012

This is Myldred! She, her three siblings and their parents live in Guatemala. Their monthly income is only $130. Myldred has a talent for soccer, and like any teenager she enjoys listening to music and spending time with her friends. She will be thirteen in July -- won't you give her an early birthday gift of the hope and promise of Sponsorship?!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 5/17/2012

Today is my birthday! You know what would be an AMAZING gift? If one (or more) of my friends were to start a co-sponsorship with me!

This is Adriana. She lives in Guatemala with her parents and her three siblings. She enjoys drawing and music, and spends her free time playing with her siblings. Their family of six survives on $286/month. Adriana's birthday is in three days--co-sponsoring her with me would be such and amazing birthday gift for both of us!

Adriana has been tugging at my heart strings for over a week now and I really, really want to Sponsor her myself, but I simply can NOT afford another Sponsorship ... at least, not on my own.  Fortunately, Children International has begun allowing co-sponsorships and group sponsorships, so we could team up to make a difference in young Adriana's life! Can you afford $25 every other month? Or every third? The more of us there are, the less financial strain there is on any one Sponsor! And Miss Adriana will have the benefit of knowing that not only one, but MANY people support her and care about her. Plus, we'd be able to team up for special occasions to provide a Special Needs Gift than no one of us may be able to afford on our own!

Take a look at her adorable face. Can you see why I can't resist this spunky little girl? Will you make my birthday wish--and hers--come true?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Welcome Letters from Chris and Jasmin

Today when I opened my mailbox, I let out a squeal of delight! Inside was not one but TWO envelopes bearing the beloved CI logo. The first envelope contained a welcome letter from Pio Salvador at the Tabaco center. The second envelope contained TWO welcome letters--one from Chris, and one from Jasmin!

Dear Ms. Dillon,

Hello to you! How are you? I hope you are fine, happy and healthy as you read my letter. I am very happy to write to you.

My name is Chris. My family and friends call me "Nay-Nay." You can call me that too. My favorite color is pink. My favorite food is spaghetti. It is very delicious. I love to sing and dance. My favorite subject in school is Math. I want to be a teacher someday.

I hope you enjoy reading my letter. Thank you very much for sponsoring me. May God bless you for your kindness and generosity.

Your Sponsored Child,


Chris, Age 11
I love that she tells me her nickname, and tells me I can call her that too! And her favorite color--this is something I've asked several of my other girls, as I intend to crochet blankets for them.

Dear Ms. Dillon,

Hello and good day to you. How are you? I hope you are happy and healthy as you read our letter.

I am writing on behalf of Jasmin. She is [a] very active child. She likes to play in our neighbor[hood]. She also eats her favorite [food], chicken.

We will try our best to raise her as a very loving child. She wants to be a teacher someday. Thank you for your support. May God bless you for your generosity.

Sincerely yours,
Mrs. Lea
Jasmin, Age 5

Jasmin is only five, so her letter was written by her mother. This is my very first time having a letter written by someone other than my child! I love how she says they will try to raise Jasmin as a very loving child--that's so sweet! And it's interesting that both Jasmin and Nay-Nay want to be teachers when they grow up!

I've already written to them this month, so I will do my best to contain my enthusiasm until June and reply to them then! =) I will have to remember to ask Jasmin what her favorite color is, since her mother didn't mention it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week: 5/9/2012

Meet six-year-old Karen! She, her six siblings and their parents live in Tabaco, in the Philippines. Karen enjoys playing with her brothers and sisters, and she also loves to dance and sing. Their family of nine struggles to get by on only $85 a month. Karen's older sister Rica is already Sponsored, by one of my friends from LiftOne. This gives you the unique opportunity not only to Sponsor Karen, but to keep in touch with Rica's sponsor! You can share stories and pictures, and maybe even combine efforts to really makes changes for Rica and Karen's whole family!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

When Sponsorship Ends

Many of us wonder what becomes of our children when they graduate from the Sponsorship program. We are given the opportunity to send them our contact information in our final letter, but then it is up to them whether to keep in touch. If they do not, then all we can do is hope that they are leading full, happy, successful lives.

Perhaps that is why I was so deeply moved today when a former Sponsored child popped up in the CI Facebook Group and shared a link with us for the Children International Manila Alumni Association--"A membership organization of CI-Manila Alumni formed to promote leadership and volunteerism among CI-Manila SCs [Sponsored Children] and SYs [Sponsored Youth] so that they will become agents of change."

"This is our time to share" their banner proudly declares at the top of their website. This amazing group of formerly-Sponsored children returns to the communities where they grew up--sometimes in cooperation with Children International, and other times on their own. They mentor Youth in leadership and teamwork activities. They team with the Haribon Foundation to conserve biodiversity. They educate communities on the prevention of diseases like dengue fever. They have become so much more than simply successful ... they really are agents of change.

These young men and women were children just like Jie, Hazel, Jasmin, Chris, Maria, Joyce, Cristine and Yulliana. They grew up in some of the poorest communities in the world. They were given the chance for a better life and hope for the future ... and now they're creating that same chance for the next generation.

In a recent discussion on LiftOne, we were trying to calculate how many lives were actually affected by one Sponsorship. We counted in our tallies the number of people residing in the same house as our children, and we realized then that Sponsorship was so much more than lifting one child from the clutches of poverty. But none of us could have fathomed counting THIS ripple effect into our numbers--the number of people being affected by these volunteers' original Sponsors is truly immeasurable!

I am inspired by these men and women, and I wish them well in their endeavors. And who knows? Someday, my girls may be among their ranks.

Nothing would make me more proud.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Letter to Jasmin

Writing to my older girls is easy--the only difficulty I have is to not write too much in any one letter. Writing to my younger girls, on the other hand, is a challenge. Trying to keep my letters simple enough that they can understand while still writing something that's actually interesting to read is hard for me.


This month, I'm writing letters to all my girls and, as a change, I'm drawing something on their letters. For Jasmin, I drew a Southwest airplane. I talked about why I love my job, and then I told her about bringing cupcakes for my coworkers on my upcoming birthday and asked about her family's birthday traditions. The letter came out just the right length, and I am very pleased with it!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Today's Mail and 313

For the past several weeks, I have been eagerly checking my mailbox each night when I return home from work, hoping to find an envelope with the Children International logo on it. I have several new Sponsorships, and so I am waiting for their photos, family reports, and welcome letters.

Today, I received Yulliana's photo and family report. This arrived very fast! Yulli is the newest of my new Sponsorships--I chose to Sponsor her this past Monday, having found her as I was looking for this week's Spotlight Child. She caught my eye because we share a birthday--when I turn thirty later this month, she will turn eight.

It's interesting that I've received her report and photo before the others'... I chose Joyce and Maria two weeks ago, and I've been Sponsoring Jasmin for over a month already! Wow ... that's hard to believe. This month has gone by so quickly!

Yulli lives with her parents and her three younger sisters in a one-room, concrete and wood house. She sleeps on the floor on a mat. Her favorite subject in school is Languages--this made me happy to see! A lot of my girls like math and science, so it's nice that Yulli likes the classes that I liked as a kid.

As I was placing her report in the new album I have created for her letters and photos, I noticed one more thing. Near the top, it lists the date on which the report was completed.

Hers was completed on March 13th.


313--my "lucky number", the number that appears at profoundly significant moments in my life. It was my unit at Basic Training. It was my ex-husband's dorm room number when we met. It was in the license plate of my first car. And now, it's on Yulliana's first family report.

Shared birthday. Shared favorite subject. And 313.

You can't convince me this Sponsorship wasn't meant to be!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Keeping Birthdays Happy

Today is my mother's sixtieth birthday. In two weeks, it will be my thirtieth birthday. That same day, one of my girls--Yulliana--with turn eight years old.

Tonight, my family went to a nice dinner at a steak and seafood restaurant, and then we all went out for ice cream. Mom received gifts of flowers and bottles of her favorite liqueurs and books on her favorite topics. We drove home in Dad's SUV, and now we're seated around the living room on comfy sofas, watching a show on a flat-screen television.

In two weeks, I will drive my pick-up truck to work. I'll bring in cupcakes for my coworkers, a tradition that I have derived from the childhood practice of bringing in cupcakes for the whole class on one's birthday in elementary school. After work, my friends will take me out to the Ferndale Tavern--our favorite after-hours hangout. I will open beautifully-wrapped gifts and enjoy drinks and pool with my friends. After, I will go home, enjoy a long, hot shower, and climb into bed, snug and warm and safe between my extra-plush pillow-top mattress and down comforter, head nestled in an array of pillows.

In two weeks, Yulliana will crawl off her mat on the concrete floor of her family's one-room residence and climb to her feet. The Philippines are on their school break, so she will be spared the hike to school. Instead, she will do her assigned chore--sweeping the floor--and then spend the day with her mother, helping to look after her three younger sisters while her father works as a driver in the city. They will consume a meager meal, prepared on the family's coal stove.

Without Children International, that would be the extent of Yulliana's eighth birthday. But that's not so this year. She will be invited to the center, where she will get to "shop" for birthday gifts for her special day. New clothes, a backpack, or maybe a pillow and blanket to make her sleeping mat a little more comfortable--just a small something to make her day more special, but for a child who has so little, it's so much more than just a birthday gift.

It's hope, that tomorrow will be better than today.

It's affirmation, that someone out there is on her side. Someone cares. Someone wants to help.

And it's a message, that someone wants her to have a Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 5/2/2012

This is Sury Holany from Honduras. She, her one sibling and their parents are struggling to survive on only $53 a month. This six-year-old cutie likes to paint, dance and sing, and she has a fondness for playing soccer. Won't you consider giving her and her family hope for a better tomorrow? Who knows! With your love and support, she could grow to be a World Cup star!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Changing Perspectives

When I first became a Sponsor, I was really still a kid myself. I was fourteen years old--my child, Gisel, was only five years younger than me. I paid for the sponsorship myself, out of my allowance--even at that age, I was aware that my $20/month income (which I didn't have to work for) was far more than Gisel would get to spend for herself in probably a whole year. But at that stage, Sponsorship for me wasn't really about "changing someone's life"--I didn't even really have a concept for what that meant. While I knew I was sharing what I had with someone less fortunate, my mindset was more along the lines of, "She speaks SPANISH! I can write to her IN SPANISH!" And that was the coolest thing ever, in my fourteen-year-old mind. I wrote to her every month, and I eagerly checked the mailbox every day when I got off the school bus, hoping for her replies.

Once I graduated high school and joined the Army, things evolved. I took on two new Sponsorships, but at the same time I became far less enthusiastic about writing to my children. I compensated for it--or so I thought--by sending larger Christmas, Birthday, and Special Hug Day gifts. At that point, I enjoyed being able to tell people I was a Sponsor, but somehow my passion for actually BEING a Sponsor had faded. I knew, in an abstract sort of way, that I was making a difference in their lives ... and that was good enough for me.

When I was discharged from the Army, some of the passion came back. Although I had to give up two of my Sponsorships, I was dedicated to being the very best Sponsor possible for Joan. I wrote to her frequently, and she wrote back--wonderful, personal letters that always brought a smile to my face. I felt a real connection with her, and I truly enjoyed watching her grow into a bright, mature young woman.

When I picked up Jie's Sponsorship, I did my best to write to her with the same frequency as I did Joan. It was more difficult--the connection just wasn't there the way it was with Joan. Jie is a wonderful girl, no question about it. She was just overshadowed a bit.

The abrupt, unexpected end to my relationship with Joan in 2010 nearly destroyed the whole idea of Sponsorships for me. I didn't consider dropping Jie, but neither was I particularly receptive to the idea of a "replacement child". Despite this, I agreed to see information about another girl waiting for a Sponsor, and I did wind up taking on Hazel as well.

But now my spark and passion were gone again. I went back to being a backseat Sponsor--I sent my monthly payments and gifts at Christmas and on their birthdays, but I didn't write very much. I just sort of figured that no news was good news, and that the monthly payments were really all the girls needed.

Fast forward to early 2012, when I rediscovered LiftOne. The last time I had logged on, it was merely a recruiting tool for current Sponsors to try and draw in new Sponsors. Now, a whole new world of Sponsorship opened up to me. For the very first time, I was able to connect with other Sponsors. I learned about Income Generating Projects and Special Needs Gifts and Direct Packages--none of which I had ever even heard of before. I saw the photos and heard the stories from other sponsors' visits to their children ... and I was inspired, as I have never been inspired before.

Within a few weeks, my whole Sponsorship experience evolved. I've taken on several new Sponsorships. I've requested various reports from my children's SAOs. I've written them letters and sent them photos.

And, once again, I find myself eagerly checking the mailbox when I get home each day ... just in case there's a letter inside from one of my precious girls.

I've come full-circle with regard to enthusiasm, but this time around that passion is deepened by an ever-growing understanding of what it REALLY means to be a Sponsor. It's so much more than just sending financial help. It's building relationships, and creating hope and opportunities, and devoting yourself to the pursuit of a better life for someone who will, in turn, change you forever.

I am humbled and honored to be a part of this great venture, and grateful to my girls' parents for giving me the opportunity to be a part of their lives. I don't know who I'd be without them ... and I don't want to know.