Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 6/26/2012

Normally, my Spotlight Children are girls. I favor girls because I have always figured that, while poverty is hard on everyone, it is even harder for young women to escape the cycle ... particularly in societies where more traditional roles and values still prevail. However, through discussions on LiftOne, I have learned that boys wait much, much longer for their first Sponsor than girls do (perhaps because a lot of people think like I do and therefore choose girls). So, this week, I have chosen a handsome young man as my Spotlight Child: meet Jairon Karl! He and his two siblings live with their parents in Quezon City in the Philippines on $95 a month. Like most seven-year-old boys, Jairon likes to run and play outside. Would you be the one to end his wait, and give him the hope of Sponsorship?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 6/19/2012

This lovely young lady is Miss Stephany Alzaga from Tabaco in the Philippines. She and her four siblings live with their parents on a desperately low monthly income of only $58 a month. Stephany is talented in sports, and she has a particular fondness for running. At thirteen years old, she is eligible to participate in Youth Program activities like Game On! ... but only if she has a Sponsor to open that door for her. Won't you be the one to give her that opportunity?

Friday, June 15, 2012


I have been an on-again, off-again participant in Postcrossing for over five years. It's a really fun project for people who like to receive mail and see other parts of the world. The basic premise is that for every postcard you send out, you will receive one back from a randomly-assigned participant somewhere in the world. And there are thousands of participants ... including my fellow Sponsor and LiftOner, David.

David came up with the idea to change his Postcrossing profile to include a request for people to send him cards for his sponsored children instead of for himself. I thought this was a brilliant idea! So I updated my Postcrossing profile as well, requesting that people send me cards for my girls. And send they have!

The first cards I received were from a direct swap with a lovely lady named Helen--she had already sent card for David's kids, and he recommended her to me. She lives near Disney in Florida, and sent me cards for Cristine and Yulliana:

From Helen, for Cristine!
From Helen, for Yulliana!

Next, I received cards from Katya, who lives in Belarus--she sent cards for Chris and Cristine:

From Katya, for Chris!
From Katya, for Cristine!

Then I received a card from Vihbash in India, sent for Hazel:

From Vihbash, for Hazel!
 So I would say that, so far, this experiment has been quite successful! I can't wait to send these on to my girls with their July letters ... and I can't wait to see where we receive postcards from next!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spotlight Children (ten of them!) of the Week, 6/13/12

Recently, Children International and Debbie Gibson teamed up to encourage people to Sponsor children, via a Social Media campaign called Debbie's #TopTen. Well, I'm certainly nowhere near as famous as Debbie is, but since I've been doing Shannon's Spotlight Child of the Week already, I figured I'd ramp it up this week and go ten-for-ten! So, without further ado, here are Shannon's TEN Spotlight Children of the Week!

Odalis Pamela and her mother live in Ecuador, struggling to get by on only $150 a month. Times are hard everywhere, but women and girls face unique dangers in developing countries. Won't you give Odalis and her mother the reassurance of knowing that someone is watching out for them?

Eleven-year-old Salma Norma and her parents also live in Ecuador. Their monthly income is $158 a month--less than $2 per person per day. Salma enjoys playing with dolls and has a talent for dancing. Won't you give this lovely young lady the means for a happier childhood and the hope for a better future?

Anusree lives in India with her parents and one sibling. The family's monthly income is only $106--barely enough to feed four people, let alone pay for educational expenses and medical needs. Anusree speaks and writes in Bengali--a beautiful language! Her family wishes for her to have a better life than theirs ... will you be the one to give them the means to realize that dream?

Nine-year-old Dipta and her parents also live in India, but unlike Anusree, she speaks and writes in Hindi. Dipta's family struggles to survive on only $64 per month. Education and encouragement are Dipta's keys for a happy and successful future, and she needs someone like you to provide her with these tools!

Evelyn and her parents live in Zambia, Children International's newest country of Sponsorship. Their family income is only $80 per month. Evelyn will be ten years old in September, and she has a talent for sports! With your encouragement and support, she could participate in Children International's Game On! program when she turns twelve, and who knows? Someday, she could be an Olympic athlete!

Claudia Lizbeth lives with some of her relatives in Honduras. Today is her eleventh birthday--eleven is such a young age to be without her parents. The household income is a meager $126 a month. With so much instability in her young life, you could be the light at the end of the tunnel for Claudia--the message she has been waiting for, that things will get better and that there are things in the world that she can rely on.

Laura Rubenia and her three siblings live with their mother in Guatemala. She will be fourteen years old on Friday. Like any teenager, Laura enjoys listening to music and spending time with her friends. Unlike other teenagers, though, Laura's family of five struggles to survive on only $156 a month. Laura is rapidly running out of childhood time--in a few she will be a woman, trying to make her way in the world. Won't you give her the support and encouragement she needs now, to make that future as bright as possible?

Eight-year-old Alliah Natasha and her three siblings live with their mother in Quezon City in the Philippines. The family's monthly income is only $47 per month, and while education is free and compulsory in the Philippines, the required supplies and uniforms often prove to be more than Alliah's mother can afford to provide. Without these simple items, her education will suffer, and her hope for the future grows that much dimmer. Sponsorship can keep that spark alive, and fan it into a flame.

Crisalyne will be nine years old in September. She and her two siblings live with their mother in Quezon City in the Philippines on a mere $116 a month. Crisalyne enjoys playing with her siblings, and she has a talent for singing and dancing. Her family and Alliah's are similar in many ways--access to free education, but kept at bay by a lack of needed supplies and uniforms. She could grow up to be a teacher, or an accountant or a nurse, but only if she receives the support, encouragement and education she needs. Won't you be the guardian angel who provides this for her?

I would be remiss if I didn't round out my Ten with a young lady from Colombia--home to my very first Sponsored child, Gisel. Chelsy Patricia lives with her mother in Cartagena on a meager $90 per month. Chelsy loves to play with dolls, and she has an artistic talent for drawing. She will celebrate her twelfth birthday in September--a critical age in many South American countries when children often drop out of school and seek work to help support the family. Encourage Chelsy to continue her education, and help her realize the dream of a better tomorrow!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Why I Love Saturdays

I've noticed over the past two months that my correspondence from CI tends to arrive in the Saturday mail. Today was no different! The postal carrier delivered to me another of those beloved envelopes, which proclaimed, "Enclosed is a special message from your sponsored child, Hazel." This was a surprise, since I have very recently received a letter from her (in response to a letter I sent). Today's letter is a "CR" letter -- one of the two letters each year she is required to send.

Dear Ms. Dillon,
Have a great day to you.
Mother's Day was celebrated every month of May. First thing I did when I woke up in the morning was to greet my mother a "Happy Mother's Day." She looked at me and gave a smile. I also thanked her for always guiding me to be a good child. I am thankful too to God for giving me a mother who was always there when I needed her.
Thank you for all the help. The shoes that you gave were my favorite shoes. It helps a lot to me. God bless you more.
Your Sponsored Child,
Hazel Ann

This is the second letter I've received from her describing a holiday and how her family observes it -- I love it! I didn't know they celebrate Mother's Day in the Philippines just like we do here in the states!

Also enclosed in the envelope was a "CW" (welcome) letter from Joyce!

Dear Ms. Dillon,
Good day!! Thank you very much for having me as your sponsored child.
Hi! I hope you are doing okay as you read this letter of mine. 
I am Joyce T, eldest daughter of Mr. Benjamin and Mrs. Miraluna. I have 1 brother and 1 sister. At present I am a Senior student of a Public School here in our place. My favorite subject is Math because I want to work in a bank as an accountant someday and I do really love numbers. Aside from Math I also love Science and Mapeh. 
My eyes are brown color, with long black hair. I am a little chubby because I do love to eat vegetables, meat and fish.
My mother is only a plain housemaid and always takes care of our needs. My father is a refrigerator and cooler daily labourer. He works hard to support our daily needs, especially with regard to our educational needs. I can say that I belong to a very simple family  but I am blessed with love and care.
Until here my letter. Thank you very much!
Sincerely yours,
Joyce T.

Wow! What a letter! She wants to be an accountant -- that's certainly different from my other girls thus far! I can tell her about my Uncle who is an accountant. I wonder what "Mapeh" is?

I am a little worried that she thinks she is chubby. She looks a very healthy weight in her photo (as opposed to many other sponsored children, who seem very skinny). Of course, I must remember that I am looking at this from an American perspective -- chubby may not have the negative connotation there that it does here.

I love the details about her family that she gives, too, especially about her father. On the family report, it only specifies "daily worker", so it's nice to know what sort of daily work he does!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hazel's IGP: Update #1

Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of a fellow Sponsor and a couple of non-Sponsor friends, I have in hand more than enough to fund the refrigerator portion of Hazel's IGP, a short three days after receiving the report! I can't believe how quickly that came together, and I was left literally speechless by the generosity in particular of someone I've never even met. I cannot even find the words to adequately express how touched I am by this whole experience thus far. And I know the best is yet to come--when Hazel and her family receive the gift, and their lives change forever for the better. I know that my joy today will be dwarfed by theirs ... and I will be sure they know that joy was the work of several generous, kind, wonderful people who ALL want them to have the hope of a better future!

I will be sending this first portion of the IGP in the morning! The second portion, the FirstGiving Fundraiser for construction materials and sellable grocery stock, is coming along nicely as well -- hopefully that will complete soon and they will be able to begin the construction to improve the store!

I will be sure to post another update and photos as soon as I receive them! I'm so excited for Hazel and her family -- and so grateful for everyone who has helped make this possible!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Spotlight Child of the Week, 6/5/2012

This week, I've returned to the Philippines to introduce you to Layka! This beautiful young lady lives in Tabaco--the same city as my own Joyce and Maria. Layka's been on my watch list for quite a while now. Like any other seven-year-old, she likes to spend her free time playing with her friends. Unfortunately, that fun is dampened by the fact that Layka and her seven siblings live with their parents on a meager $113 per month. Don't let poverty rob this little angel of a happy childhood--give her the support she needs now and the hope for a brighter tomorrow!

Hazel's Fundraiser

After conferring with several more experienced sponsors and also having a few friends ask for an off-line way to donate, I've decided to split the fundraiser in two!

Part One: The Refrigerator
Cost: $380.96

This will be the off-line fundraiser. It was pointed out to me that, because I was planning to make a large portion of the donation myself, it is wiser to do it this way and avoid the FirstGiving fees. So, if you wish to contribute but aren't comfortable giving your credit card info to the FirstGiving website, please contact me directly and we will discuss the various options! Truly, no amount is too big or too small, and the total amount raised (even if it goes above the target) will be forwarded to Children International for Hazel and her family to use for their store.

Part Two: Construction and Supplies
Cost: $400

This will be the online fundraiser. The amount includes a rounded total of the quoted price for construction materials and labor ($120.64), the quoted price for grocery items to sell in their store ($238.10), and an extra 10% to cover FirstGiving fees. You can view my fundraising page on FirstGiving here, and can contribute online directly from that link as well! I've used FirstGiving several times as a donor--it is a safe and secure way to contribute money.

Thank you in advance to any and all who support this endeavor, be it monetarily or with words of encouragement and prayers for Hazel and her family. Words are insufficient to describe how much it means to me that there are those willing to help my precious sponsored child.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Maria's Welcome Letter

On a much more cheerful note, I also received the welcome letter from Maria today!

Dear Ms. Dillon,
Good day! A pleasant day to you and to your family.
My name is Maria Cristina. I am eleven years old. I am the third child of Manuel Sr. and Jessica. I have one sister and three brothers. I help my parents doing household chores at home. I also take good care of my younger sister. I am in grade five now. My favorite food is fish and fruits such as mango. My ambition in life is to become a teacher someday. I study hard to finish and reach my ambition. I also love to play with my friends. Thank you very much for the chance you gave to be your sponsored child. I am very happy. I will always include you in my prayers to keep you safe always.
Truly yours,
Maria Cristina

What a sweet, informative letter! I love that she tells me all about her family. Her spelling and grammar are exceptional! And she wants to be a teacher, too--I have a lot of future teachers in my current group of girls!

And now I can look forward to writing a reply, once I finish setting up the Fundraiser for Hazel!

Hazel's Inquiry Report

It is with mixed emotions that I read the report I received in the mail today.

On her latest family report, Hazel's father was listed as deceased (previously, he had been listed as a daily worker). The family's monthly income also dropped dramatically, from $190 to only $60. Additionally, an older sister who hadn't previously been listed appeared on the report. I sent and inquiry to Children International, asking about the circumstances of her father's passing, the appearance of the new sister, how the family's current income is generated, and what (if anything) can be done to boost the income a bit.

The report states:
Hazel's father died of brain cancer last January at the age of 47. According to the mother, he was always complaining of severe headaches since July 2011, but due to lack of money, he did not consult a doctor about his condition until December of 2011, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

The mother at present is getting income from selling cooked food in front of their house and sometimes frozen meat products when there's available capital. With a capital of PHP500.00 or $11.71, she gets a net income of PHP100.00 or $2.35, but most of the time she is only selling cooked food due to very limited funds.

That's why the mother was overjoyed to learn about the inquiry of the sponsor regarding the IGP. she said, if this will materialize, the additional income would surely help them a lot in their everyday expenses. The mother has been dreaming of opening a small variety store in a small space in front of their house, but due to limited budget, it remains a dream until this inquiry. The whole family is very grateful for this opportunity. Since they are selling cooked food and sometimes frozen meat products they are requesting also for a refrigerator to keep the meat product frozen. They need the following to have their small store:

Assorted Construction Materials, Including Labor: $120.64
Refrigerator: $380.96
Assorted Grocery Items for Sale: $238.10
Total: $739.70

As regards to Joanna, the sister of Hazel Ann, she was out for more than a year because she had to work as a house maid in another place to help her mother with their expenses. She is now back home with the family after the father died, and if funded she will be helping the mother to manager their IGP.

Thank you.

Whew! That's a lot of information in one report! So .... $740 is a LOT of money, and it's far more than I can swing on my own. However, I can set up a FirstGiving fundraiser to try and raise the full amount. I really, REALLY want to help Hazel and her family in the wake of the loss of her father--what a sad time for them, and to be faced with such economic hardship on top of it is just unthinkable.

I will post again when I have the fundraiser page set up and ready to go. Thank you in advance to any and all who can support this endeavor--either monetarily or with words and thoughts of encouragement.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Saving for a Visit: The Early Stages

A few weeks ago, I began saving for a trip to the Philippines to visit my girls. I plan to go in January 2014, which leaves me a year and a half to save. I'm off to a great start (I think) with a couple hundred dollars socked away ... but I don't really even know what my target amount is.

Some of it has been easy to research. Airfare, thanks to my employment, is going to be a fraction of the normal cost (around $300 each for me and Julio). Hotels ... well, the Marriott in Manila is $185 a night, which is quite steep for a 4-night stay. I love the Marriott, but I think I will have to look elsewhere. Ideally, I'd like to keep the Manila hotel under $500 total. Luckily, CI can recommend safe, reliable hotels in each of the Sponsorship cities. So I'll get their list, and go from there.

Then there will be transportation from Manila to Tabaco, and from Tabaco to Legaspi. We can take a bus, or we can take a puddle-jumper plane. Each has its own safety concerns. I may opt for the bus, though, since I'm not traveling alone. On the other hand .... it's a six-hour drive. Yikes!

After that, I've figured on $100 each for my girls to go shopping while I am there. So that's $800.

I'd like to visit maybe two of my metro Manila girls each day, and then use one day to take all of them to an amusement park or water park or pool. So that's admission for me, Julio, our CI translator and driver, each girl, and whatever members of their families come along. One of my fellow LiftOne sponsors often visits her children in the Philippines, and she mentioned that there is a place called La Mesa quite near one of the Sponsorship centers. This seems a likely candidate for my outing with my girls. Admission is $3 per person, making it an inexpensive venue for group fun! Of course, my girls may not own swimsuits ... I'll have to ask about that.

By very, very rough estimate, I'm pegging the expense at around $3500. I think I'll set my initial savings goal at $5000, to give a good buffer. So if I save around $300 a month, I'll surpass that goal. That's completely doable ... it's only two overtime shifts per month!