Sunday, December 29, 2013

Conversations With Juan

For the past two months, one member of my team at work has been a man named Juan*. He is in his late thirties and came to the U.S. from a developing country in South America. I carry photos of my sponsored girls in the front pocket of my safety vest, and that led to some very interesting conversations with him about the conditions he grew up with and how lucky he feels living in the U.S. and working for a company that provides health benefits for him and his family.

Our job is not glamorous. It is an entry-level, blue-collar position. We will never become wealthy doing it. But it is steady work, with guaranteed hours and pay raises each year, and some pretty awesome health, travel and retirement benefits. Juan tells me that once he couldn't have even dreamed of such a job.

He has described incredible gaps between the wealthy and the poor in his country--in health care, and in every other aspect of life. He owned one pair of shoes--dirty and full of holes--that he only wore for special occasions. His parents found work as they could and struggled to purchase enough food to keep hunger at bay. The only reason Juan was able to escape, he says, is because he taught himself from books and pamphlets to speak English and then got lucky to be hired for a position he wasn't really qualified for BECAUSE he could speak English ... which eventually led to the contacts he needed to obtain a position here in the States.

For people who don't or can't take some sort of initiative like he did, he says, there is no hope. Even when they DO try, it still takes an incredible amount of luck. Juan thinks he is the luckiest man in the world because he is able to put food on his table (700 miles away, where his wife and kids live in another state), send his kids to school, and buy them shoes. No matter how busy work gets (and during the holiday season, it's downright INSANE), he never has a word of complaint.

I've always known that the coworkers of ours who complain constantly and try to get by with doing as little work as possible don't appreciate how good we really have it, but after speaking with Juan I find myself wanting to smack them upside the head. At the very least, I wish they would take the time to sit down and listen to his story.

We all have difficulties and problems, but we should never take what we DO have for granted. Because there are people out there who would give anything to be us.

*name changed to respect privacy

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Gifts

Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Maligayang Pasko!

I was sitting with my family around our tree in our living room yesterday morning when an email notification popped up on my phone. It was from GoFundMe, informing me that someone had made an anonymous donation to my fundraiser for Anna Marie's third semester of college. That anonymous donor gave $100, and left a simple message: "Merry Christmas." I was so surprised and touched by this gift!

My future mother-in-law also gave me $60 for Christmas, which I have decided to allocate as a donation to the fundraiser as well.

And then, on an unrelated-to-my-fundraiser note, a member of CIMAA shared a blog post with photos of the group's activities throughout 2013. I first posted about CIMAA in May 2012--they're the non-profit organization made up of formerly-sponsored children in Manila who do community outreach and education programs in the very neighborhoods where many of them grew up. I was excited then to learn of the organization's existence, and to know that participation is a possibility for my girls once they graduate! And I love to see photos of their activities, so the blog that was shared was a special Christmas surprise!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Spotlight Children of the Week: Christmas 2013

'Tis the season! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Festivus, and Happy New Year!

There's a song that I hear often on the radio at this time of year. It was done by a collaboration of artists in the 1980s, and every time I hear it I am reminded of my girls and the work Children International does.  I encourage you to listen to it as you look over these children waiting for the miracle of hope. I have chosen to feature two children on the 'Most Needy" list from Zambia, since the song specifically mentions Africa.

Natasha lives with her mother and three siblings on $60 a month. Electricity is not available in her community, and her family must get their water from a community faucet. Despite the fact that she is approaching eight years of age, Natasha hasn't yet started school.She enjoys playing games with her friends, and she counts dancing and sports among her talents. An education will make all the difference to this young lady's future, but she cannot do it without your help...

Nine-year-old Christopher's story is very similar to Natasha's. He lives with his mother and three siblings on $60 a month. Electricity is not available in his community, and his family must get their water from a community faucet. He enjoys playing outdoor games with his friends, and he is talented in sports. He is fortunate to be enrolled in school, but he still faces many obstacles--obstacles he can overcome with the love and support of a sponsor like you!

Lots of Updates (and Lots of Photos)!

My dear friends, I have been remiss in keeping up with this blog lately. As many of you know, life hit me pretty hard in late spring and early summer. I'm finally feeling like I may be on the upswing ... just in time for the holidays!

Let's begin with simple updates:

Annual Photos!

Jessica, August

Jessica, December





Next, we'll talk about new Sponsorships!

Luke and I decided to jointly sponsor a young lady from India. Her name is Jannati--some of you may recognize her from a Spotlight Child blog I wrote several months ago. Jannati lives in Delhi with her parents and five older siblings. The family's three-room home is entirely brick--floor, walls AND roof! They have regulated electricity, a private water pump and a septic tank, and they cook on a gas stove. There are two beds in the home, but Jannati sleeps on a mattress on the floor. She attends school, where her favorite subject is languages. In her free time, she likes to run and play hide-and-seek with her friends.

In November, I was looking through the list of waiting children to find another candidate for a Spotlight Child blog. As I clicked through the girls in the Philippines, I noticed several photos that were very different from what we're used to seeing. Most of the Philippine children dress in their very best clothes and smile charmingly for the camera, and the photos are taken with pretty floral backgrounds or on nice benches at the center. These new photos ... were different. They all seemed to have been posted in the same seven day span, and nearly all of them had the bright yellow "Most Needy" marker.These photos looked like they may have been taken right in the children's neighborhood. They're not smiling. They're not dressed in freshly-washed, new-appearing clothes. Many of them are barefoot.

They're the sort of images that appear in the television ads, actually.

And they were heartbreaking.

Two of the little girls in particular grabbed at my heartstrings: Anikka and Danise. Their birthdays are only two days apart; they both turned five a couple weeks ago. They both have dirt floors. Anikka's roof is thatch, her family has no electricity, and they get their water from a nearby stream. Danise's family has a palm-leaf roof and illegally-tapped electricity. There is so much I can do to help both of these girls--they have so little! So I tightened my belt a little more, and decided to sponsor them both.

And updates from my other girls:

Anna Marie
Anna Marie has successfully completed her first semester of college, studying in a Bachelor's program for Business Management with a focus on Human Resource Development. The funds for her second semester were submitted to Children International in September, and the semester began in October! I want to thank everyone who contributed to the fundraiser--all together you provided over half of the total amount due! If you are interested in helping again, I do have a fundraiser set up for her third semester (or, of course, you can always contact me directly if you don't want to donate via FirstGiving!).

Joyce's Birthday
Joyce's Family
Joyce turned fifteen at the end of August. I sent an SNG for her in celebration of her special day. Most of it was used to buy food and clothes, of course, but they did use some of it to have a birthday party for Joyce! Her whole class and her teacher came, and she had a birthday cake for the very first time in her life. CI sent me a LOT of photos, including some of her family AND one of her with her classmates and teacher--how cool is that?!

Joyce's Class and Teacher
When a fellow Lifter, Macky, traveled to Guatemala this autumn to visit her own sponsored children, she offered to put together a collection of goodies for my three girls there, too! Of course I took her up on her generous offer, and the smiles on my girls' faces make me so glad I did!
Cindy & Sandy

Whew! I think that MOSTLY catches everything up! I'm sure there were a couple other SNGs that I haven't even scanned the photos for yet ... I'm getting there! =)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Spotlight Child of the Week, 9/1/2013

This is seven-year-old Jannati. She lives in India with her parents and five siblings. The family struggles to survive on an income of only $140 per month and while they are fortunate to have regulated electricity for their home, they must obtain their water from a pump. Jannati sleeps on a mattress on the brick floor of her family's home, the walls and roof of which are also brick. She attends school, and she enjoys playing hide and seek with her friends.

I'm having a VERY hard time not sponsoring her myself--I have to keep reminding myself of the girls I have already made a commitment to. I would love if someone I know was to sponsor her, so that I could keep up with her progress that way! Won't you be the person to make a positive impact on this intense little girl's life?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Typhoon Season

This time of year is difficult for those of us who sponsor children in the Philippines. August is statistically their rainiest month, and the islands are often pounded by tropical storms and typhoons. While these forces of Mother Nature can produce damaging winds, the real danger for our children is the flooding that occurs. Their homes, constructed from scrap materials, are no protection from rising waters or gales.

Evacuation for families living in poverty can prove nearly impossible, especially when the entire city is under water. They usually lack any mode of transportation beyond a bicycle, and few have the resources or contacts to get out of the storm's path.

According to this report on, on Sunday alone the total rainfall was over 20 inches. That's an entire month's worth of rain ... in a single day. The article adds that the deforestation of the mountains and the clogged waterways where the nation's sprawling squatter communities are located contribute to the drastic flooding.

Children International posted a statement yesterday:

Staff in Manila, Philippines, have sent us an emergency report from the field. Children and families from two communities we serve have been evacuated or have left their homes; water is over five feet deep in some areas.
The affected families are from two areas in Metro Manila.
We are monitoring the situation closely and will update you as we get information. If your sponsored child has been seriously affected by Tropical Storm Maring (Trami), you will be notified as soon as possible.
Please note: The heavy rains have not affected the Bicol area (Tabaco and Legazpi).

I have four girls in the metro Manila area--Anna Marie, Chris, Dianne and Jasmin. I'm holding my breath, waiting for the letter in the mail to tell me that they are all okay. I know the field agencies are doing everything they can to assess and react to the situation, but since the centers are also in the affected areas, their capabilities must be hindered by the flooding.

It's scary. All I can do is wait ... and hope ... and pray.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Spotlight Child of the Week, 7/8/13

Meet seventeen-year-old Jonna from the Philippines. She lives with her parents and eight siblings in a plywood house in the Philippines. Although the family has running water in their home, they cannot afford electricity. Jonna attends school, and she will graduate from the Children International program on my wedding day!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Anna Marie is a College Student!

Today, I received a very exciting envelope in the mail: the follow-up report, photos and letter from Anna Marie's first semester tuition SNG! My scanner is packed due to my recent move, but I can share the report and letter...

The report states:

Brief Description of Project:
Anna Marie received financial assitance for her continued education. She will be using the sponsor's donation to continue her tertiary level education to take the Bachelor of Science in Tourism per task ####### for 1st year of the first semester in college. The sponsor included extra funds to cover unexpected expenses or for Anna Marie to purchase something nice for herself. The sponsor would like a photo of the youth wearing her college uniform, if possible.

Though Anna Marie previously wanted to take BS Tourism, during the inquiry and entrance examination from a public university she was able to pass and opted to take a different course that is CS in Business Administration major in Human Resource Development Management.

Accomplished to Date:
Anna Marie passed the entrance examination and now enrolled in a state university near their home. She got an 86% in the result of the entrance examination. She took the BS in Business Administration major in Human Resource Development Management course, close to her first choice of course degree. She also bought school supplies and school uniform. Anna Marie is now ready for her first semester as a first year college student.

To Be Accomplished:
She will be attending her first class on June 10 and will provide updates to the Field Officer for her further needs in school.

Wow! That's a lot of information packed into one report, and all of it good news! It was possible to have photos of her in her uniform--I was so excited to receive them! I wondered about her change of choice in what to study, but she answered that in her thank-you letter...

Dear Sponsor,

Wonderful day to you my dear sponsor!
I am thankful for the big blessing you have shared with me. I am now taking up Bachelor of Science in Business Administration major in Human Resource Development Management. It's my second choice course degree and aside from becoming a Flight Stewardess or Attendant I also would like to become a successful business woman. That is why I took my second choice course because I also want to learn about business when I have my own to help my family. Without your help, I wouldn't be able to pursue my dreams. I promise to give my best in my studies so you'll be happy and proud of me.
A million thanks for your kindness and generosity. May our almighty God shower more your blessings. Take care always.

With prayers,
Anna Marie

Anna Marie has such great dreams--I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to help this bright young woman reach for the stars!

I have a fundraiser on FirstGiving for Anna Marie's second semester (it was Love-Bombed at the end of May and is currently 32% complete!). With my recent demotion, there's no way I can swing the full amount myself, so I am especially grateful to everyone who has contributed so far--and to everyone who will contribute in the coming weeks! I am determined to keep Anna Marie in college, no matter what it takes.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Sad Family Update

I knew Yulliana's Family/Child Report was due any day, so I have been dilligently checking before bed each night to see if it was posted. Last night, it appeared. She's grown two inches and gained seven pounds. Her favorite subject changed from Languages to Mathematics (which matches what she wrote to me in one of her letters). The family seems to have moved--their house used to be concrete walls and floor with a wooden roof. Now, they have corrugated metal walls and roofing with a concrete block floor. Fortunately, they still have running water, electricity and a toilet.

I suspect the reason behind the change in their home is that her father Edgar, who had previously been listed as a Driver, is now Deceased.

I think his passing must be very recent. Her last letter, which was written just before Valentine's Day, included a drawing at the bottom with a man, a woman, and four girls. She labeled the drawing "My Family."

Yulliana is the third of my girls over the years to lose her father. The previous two, Joan and Hazel, each left the program within a year of their fathers' passing.

Yulliana's mother Argentina is now left to support four very young daughters (Yulli is the oldest at 8. Her sisters are 7, 5 and 3) on her own. She's a street vendor. Interestingly, the family's monthly income didn't change, holding steady at $190.

I'm sending an immediate SNG to help the family out, and I intend to inquire about her father's passing and whether there are any other adults residing in the household to help Argentina either with additional income or taking care of the young girls. I hope the poor woman has some help!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spotlight Child of the Week: Special Edition!

Those of you who have been following my blog know that my Spotlight Children tend to follow a pattern. Usually, they are girls. Usually, they are either a member of an indigenous group or they are from the Philippines. Today's post ... is different.

This somber young man is a very special six-year-old boy named Micky. Micky's family of five lives in Guatemala. They are so desperately poor that they do not even have their own home. Instead, they share one small room in a larger house made of scrap metal. Their few, meager possessions (including Micky's four outfits and single pair of shoes) are stored in this small, insecure place. 

Sponsorship would mean a world of difference for Micky and his family. Micky would receive clothes and school supplies, along with regular medical and dental care. Beyond these tangible benefits, your support and encouragement would let Micky and his family know that they aren't quite so alone in the world. The knowledge that someone cares has the power to bring this bright smile to his face. Won't you be the cause of that smile?

To Sponsor Micky, call 1-800-607-2080.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spotlight Child of the Week, 3/15/2013

This is eight-year-old Sofia Elizabeth. She lives with her parents and four siblings in Guatemala. Their family of seven struggles to survive on a meager $260 per month. Their home is constructed of concrete and wood with a corrugated metal roof. They are fortunate to have regulated access to electricity, but they must obtain their water from a neighbor's faucet. Sofia does attend school. In her free time, she enjoys playing with dolls, cars and other toys. She is talented in singing, and also in reciting poetry. Sofia and her family face unique challenges and discrimination because they are Mayan. However, they have not given up their unique culture--Sofia wears the traditional Mayan outfit, and she speaks Cakchiquel in addition to Spanish.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mixed Feelings

Today I received the response to the inquiry I sent about Yojana's education and post-high school plans. The report says:

In the first quarter (of ninth grade, last school year), she failed two subjects ... however, she made a commitment to herself to study hard to improve her grades, fortunately, she finished ninth grade with success. Yojana wants to continue studying, she would like to become a Nurse to help sick people. Her family looked for a school in which she can be able to study this career but they found out that she has to wait until she turns eighteen (she just turned seventeen). Since she is not interested in another career, she decideded to look for a job to save money to pay her career.

Yojana's parents are happy to realize that their daughter wants to become a professional. They want to support her but right now five of her siblings are studying so the expenses are many.

In the long run she won't be able to attend university because this is a non-formal education (!?!?!), she will get a degree that will allow her to work as a nurse in a hospital or in a sanatorium.

The career (program) is only one year from January to December. She will begin in 2014. Yojana and her family are thankful with the sponsor for the interest in helping her with her education and for the support they have received.

We encourage the sponsor to ask for related costs regarding the first year of Nursing Career in August 2013.

Well! That's a lot to digest. I am glad that she knows what she wants and, until she is eighteen, she is committed to working towards realizing her dreams on her own. It's frustrating that she has to wait a year--I will have to be sure to encourage her to stick with her dream. I know once people stop schooling for any length of time, it becomes harder and harder to go back to it, and I don't want her to fall into that trap.
It's interesting that she only has to study for one year to become a nurse, and that it's non-formal education. So different from here in the States!

I actually felt a small sense of relief when I opened the report and didn't see a list of expenses--after paying for Anna Marie's first semester, I was worried about how I would afford Yojana's higher education as well. Now I have the opportunity to save up a bit (though I have no real idea what the target amount is!).

I am not surprised that Yojana's parents are struggling with education expenses--she has SEVEN siblings! The two youngest are still too young for school, though it will only be another year or two. I had already planned to sponsor one of her younger sisters when she graduates the program.

So! I've got August marked in my calendar, and in the meantime I think I'll send an SNG to help the whole family!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Paying for College

 My eldest Sponsored youth, Anna Marie, will graduate from high school in March! This is an exciting milestone in her life, and I am so proud of her for overcoming the obstacles life has thrown at her.

Knowing that her graduation was fast-approaching, I sent an inquiry to Children International to find out what her higher education plans, hopes and dreams are and what I can do to help.

The report came back, and said the following:

Anna Marie was delighted when she learned that the sponsor is concerned about her future plans regarding studies. Currently, she's in fourth year high school/grade ten level in public school quite close to home and will be graduating in March 2013. Currently no fund is needed from the sponsor since she will be graduating next month from high school.

She would like to take Bachelor of Science in Tourism in college. She also wants to become a Flight Attendant someday. It is a four-year course with eight semesters. Below is breakdown of expenses and schedule of payment.

Tuition: $325
School Uniform: $50
School Tours: $125
P.E. Uniform: $12.50
Books: $63
Meals and Transportation: $250
Total: $825.50 per semester

My first thought was, "Dang! I need to go to the Philippines to finish college!" Compared to U.S. tuition, that's downright cheap. However, it's far more than I can afford to pay every six months on my own, especially with Yojana also graduating high school this year.

The payment for the first semester is due to the college by May first, so I sent that one off in its entirety myself. The payment for her second semester is due October first, so I've set up a FirstGiving Fundraiser to hopefully raise the amount (or at least a significant portion of it). I will find out if she will have to pay for "School Tours" again and if she needs new uniforms every semester, but for now I've set the target amount of the fundraiser to $900 to allow for some fluctuation in prices and to cover the FirstGiving fees.

This particular fundraiser has already got a strong boost, because it is converted over from the fundraiser that I had partially complete for Hazel's family when she suddenly left the program. It's already more than a quarter way to the goal!

If you'd like to contribute to my fundraiser but would prefer to send money directly to me or directly to Children International, please don't hesitate to contact me and I'll be happy to share the how-to details with you!

Spotlight Child of the Week, 3/7/2013

My apologies, dear friends, for my extended absence. My family is going through a difficult time as we prepare for the passing of my uncle, and that has kept me otherwise occupied of late. I'll try to return to my regular schedule ASAP!

This sweet angel is four-year-old Sandy Amelia. She lives in Guatemala with her parents and one sibling. The family of four is struggling to survive on only $104 per month. Their home is adobe with dirt floors. They are fortunate to have running water, but although electricity is available in their community, they cannot afford to have it in their home. Sandy enjoys running and playing with dolls. She speaks Spanish in addition to her native Cakchiquel.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Christmas DP Received: Dianne!

A lovely surprise awaited me in my mailbox today: one of those beloved CI envelopes, stuffed with a letter and photos of Dianne! As you may recall, my child Hazel abruptly left the program in early December. Shortly thereafter, the DP I had sent to her for Christmas arrived at her SAO and Debbie asked me what I would like done with it. I inquired if it could be transferred to my new child, Dianne, and Debbie forwarded the request. That was the last I heard of it ... until today!

I hope the fact that the package and the enclosed card were addressed to Hazel wasn't confusing or traumatic for her -- hopefully, someone was able to gently explain why she was receiving gifts originally intended for someone else. I see that there is a note attached to the outside of the package, though I can't read what it says.

The enclosed report says that the package arrived at the SAO on December 14th--I'm not sure if that's when it arrived at Hazel's SAO or Dianne's, since they are at different ones--and she picked it up on January 16th, so she'll have to wait a bit to really enjoy some of the Christmas items!

Her thank-you letter says:

Dear Ms. Shannon Dillon,

Mabuhay! How are you? I hope you are fine.

I am very grateful for the wonderful gifts you sent me. I am very fortunate to be your sponsored child. I am surprised but I am happy. Now, I have my own calculator, comb, hairbrush, card, toothbrush, ball pens, magic towels and so many more.

Again, thank you very much. May God bless you and your family always!

With love and care,
Dianne Alexis

She's very sweet, and her spelling and grammar are great! But the most heart-melting part of the whole letter is what she drew at the bottom--a heart, with the words "I love you Ms. Dillon" written inside!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Putting Together a Package

Since December, I have been storing up a collection of Hello Kitty items for a Direct Package for Jasmin. I had originally intended to wait until her birthday to send it, but now I'm thinking I may send it in late May, so that it arrives in time to be a special back-to-school gift! I know that in the U.S. most kids get new clothes for a new school year, and various accessories as well, so I thought it would be fun to treat Jasmin to this too!

So far, I've got two tee-shirts and a skirt, a nightgown, washcloths, hair ties, bracelets, a pencil pouch, an activity kit, a coloring book, stickers, a water bottle, and a fork-and-spoon set. I had been planning to add some more to it, but it barely fits into the padded envelope as is! It weighs a ton, too. I'm going to have to tape it up real well, to make sure it arrives in one piece.

I can't wait to see the pictures! It will be hard, waiting until May to send it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Two Letters Today ... Again!

I'm on a roll this week! When I checked my mailbox before work today, I found the welcome kit for Jessica AND an envelope with the CWs from Cindy and Sandy, my Guatemalan twins! Both letters were written by the girls' aunt Alicia.

Sandy's letter says:

Estimada Padrina,

Ms. Dillon Sandy Fabiola le saluda con carino. Le cuenta que esta muy horguyosa con su familia. Ella le cuenta que esta muy bien de su salud. Ella esta muy feliz de ir en la escuela por su primer grado que va ir este ano. Le mando muchos abrazos por aberla apadrinada. Se lo agradesa mucho. Ahora esta muy feliz con usted por aberme elejida como su aheijada. La agradese mucho a usted padrina por aberme elejida. Esta agradecida con usted. Le mando muchos abrazos y un saludo.

Alicia Veronica
Soy tia de Sandy Fabiola

Translation (mine, not CI's):

Esteemed Sponsor,

Ms. Dillon Sandy Fabiola greets you with love. She tells you that she is very proud with her family. She tells you that she is in good health. She is very joyful to go to school for her first grade that she will go this year. I send you many hugs for having sponsored her. She is very grateful for it. Now she is very joyful with you for having selected her as your sponsored child. She thanks you alot Sponsor for having selected her. She is grateful to you. She sends you many hugs and a greeting.

Alicia Veronica
I am the aunt of Sandy Fabiola

What a grateful letter! I don't think I've ever been so profusely thanked before! I am happy to know that she is going to attend first grade this year.

Cindy's letter is, unsurprisingly, similar:

Estimada Padrina,

Ms. Dillon Cindy Fabiola la saluda con carino. Le cuenta que esta muy bien con su familia. Quiere agradeser mucho por aberla aseptado como su aheijada. Ella esta muy contenta de recibir su carino y su ayuda. Cindy le cuenta que ella va en la escuela en su primer grado. Ella esta muy feliz por aberla aceptado. Ella esta muy horgullosa. Ella agradece mucho por aber empadrana. Se ciente muy feliz. Le manda un habrazo.

Alicia Veronica
Soy tia de Cindy Fabiola

My translation:

Esteemed Sponsor,

Ms. Dillon Cindy Fabiola greets you with love. She tells you that she is very well with her family. She wants to thank you a lot for having accepted her as your sponsored child. She is very happy to receive your love and your help. Cindy tells you that she goes to school in her first grade. She is very joyful that you have accepted her. She is very proud. She thanks you a lot for having sponsored her. She feels very joyful. She sends you a hug.

Alicia Veronica
I am the aunt of Cindy Fabiola

Again, the gratefulness just spills off the page!

On the back of both letters, I have learned that the area where they live has churches, schools, forests and rivers, but no volcanoes (thankfully!). They both like a wide variety of fruits, and they celebrate birthdays and Christmas.

Looks like I'll be spending my days off writing back to all my wonderful girls!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Two Letters Today!

At last, my CW from Anna Marie has arrived! She writes:

Dear Ms. Dillon,

Hi! A pleasant day! Welcome to the Children International family! I am Anna Marie. I'm 16 years old. My favorite color are blue, black, pink. For me these are my lucky colors. My favorite subject are math, livelihood education, science and I'm happy because I'm graduating this year.

My favorite hobby's reading books. It's my pasttime. I spend most of my day in school. About my family, I have two brothers, one sister and my parents are simple yet kind and loving to us. They are the people who take care of us. I describe myself as a loving person, cheerful and generous, and also love pets.

These are some of the things about me. Thank you for sponsoring me. May God shower you with many blessings.

Sincerely yours,
Anna Marie

Awwww! "Welcome to the Children International family"--that's awesome! I'm happy that she told me her favorite colors--I can crochet her a blanket! I wonder what "livelihood education" is? She is graduating this year--I had been wondering if the changes in the Philippine school system would affect her. Apparently not.

I also received a CR from Jasmin, written by her older sister Louvie:

Dear Ms. Dillon,

Good day! How are you? I hope you and your family is in good condition.

On behalf of Jasmin Jane, my little sister, I'm her sister Louvie writing to you.

Christmas is near! Jasmin would like to greet you an advance merry merry Christmas and also a happy happy New Year! She's so excited for the Christmas day. She loves watching the glowing Christmas lights. She always wear Santa hat and she's fun of singing Christmas songs. She can't wait for the Christmas gifts she will receive. Jasmin loves Christmas!

We wish you a happy and a Merry Christmas!

With Big Hugs,

I love that Jasmin loves Christmas as much as I do! I remember my own childhood joy at driving through our neighborhood, looking at all the lights. And I love that she signed the letter, "With Big Hugs."

Monday, February 4, 2013

I Did It Again!

I recently received my three-year raise at work. I knew it was coming--I had already increased my "limit" number of sponsored children accordingly. However, it was almost TRIPLE the amount I expected! So I've increased my limit again, to a total of fifteen children (2 group-sponsored, 13 individual). I already had eleven individual sponsorships, so I'm being very careful and taking my time filling the last two slots.

Today, I was browsing through the waiting children for another Spotlight blog when I ran across Jessica from Ecuador. She speaks Quichua in addition to Spanish--one of the things I've been keeping an eye out for! I am excited to add her to my Sponsorship family! She's seven years old and lives with her parents, who are both street vendors. She is an only child. The family's home consists of one multi-use room, with a wooden roof and concrete walls and floor. They cook on a gas stove, and are fortunate to have running water, regulated electricity and a toilet. Jessica attends school, where her favorite subjects are Art, Math and Grammar.

I can't wait to write to her!

Spotlight Children of the Week, 2/4/2013

There were four indigenous children when I browsed through the waiting list this afternoon, however only three are featured here. Stay tuned for details on the fourth child!

This is three-year-old Damaris from Guatemala. She lives with her parents and one sibling on only $78 per month. The family's native language is Cakchiquel, but she also speaks Spanish. They are fortunate to have running water in their concrete and corrugated metal home, but their electricity is unregulated. Damaris is too young to attend school. She enjoys playing with dolls.

Nine-year-old Namukolo has been waiting for a Sponsor for almost three years! She lives with her parents and four siblings in a concrete and corrugated metal house in Zambia, and she does attend school. The family struggles to survive on only $80 per month. Electricity is available in her community, and her family gets their water from a community pump. In addition to Nyanja, Namukolo and her family speak Lozi. 

Seven-year-old Doris Marisol lives with her parents and two siblings in Guatemala. Her home has adobe walls and a dirt floor. They are fortunate to have regulated electricity, but they must get their water from a neighbor's faucet. Doris does attend school, and she speaks Spanish in addition to her native Cackchiquel. She enjoys playing with dolls and running.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Letters from Yojana and Dianne

I found one of those beloved Children International envelopes in my mailbox today! Inside were two letters:  a CW from Dianne and a CP from Yojana.

Dear Ms. Dillon,

A very pleasant day to you!

My name is Dianne Alexis, but my friends and family also called me "Dianne" as my nickname. I am 9 years old, grade 4. Orange is my favorite color. I love to eat pork Adobo. Language and English are my favorite subjects. Watching TV is my hobby. Dancing is my talent. I want to be a professional teacher someday.

Thank you for choosing me as my sponsor.

Hugs and kisses,
Dianne Alexis

Lots of good information in her first letter! Her favorite color is orange ... just like Hazel's was. What a neat coincidence. I love that English is one of her favorite subjects!

Saludos querida Shannon

Querida madrina le cuento que estoy muy vien de salud alado de toda de mi familia. Espero de que usted este my vien de salud alado de su familia y de su novio tambien. Le cuento de que ya paso unas semanas de el dia de los santos y estubo muy alegre porque convibi muy alegre con mi familia. En estos dias estoy de vacaciones y estoy muy alegre y feliz porque gane el grado de tercero basico. Le contare un poco sobre mi estudio. Me gusta jugar basquetbool con mis amigas y la materia que mas me gusta es exprecian artistica porque me gusta divujar y pintar y mis maestras son muy divertidos. Despues de graduarme me gustaria segir estudiando y ayudando a mi famylia. My ciudad es muy alegre porque ay muchos arboles y pajaros al escuchar. El sonido es muy alegre y estar rodeado de muchas cosa tambien. Faltan unas cemanas para que llege la navidad. Estoy muy agradecida por esbribirme y mandarme su foto y de sus ermanas. Ay me las saluda y tamvien a su novio. Me despido de usted con vesas y abrazo con todo su familia.

Se despide con carino,
Yojana Aracely

Translation (mine, not CI's):

Greetings dear Shannon

Dear sponsor I tell you that I am very well of health along with all of my family. I hope that you are very well of health along with your family and your boyfriend too. I tell you that a few weeks ago was the Day of the Saints and I was very cheerful because I shared cheerfully with my family. These days I am on vacation and I am very cheerful and happy because I passed the third basic grade (9th grade). I will tell you a little about my study. I like to play basketball with my (female) friends and the subject I like the most is Artistic Expression because I like to draw and to paint and my teachers are very fun. After I graduate I would like to continue studying and helping my family. My city is very cheerful because there are many trees and birds to listen to. The sound is very cheerful and to be surrounded by many things is too. In a few weeks Christmas will arrive. I am very thankful for writing to me and sending me your photo and (photo of) your sisters. Greet them for me and also your boyfriend. I say goodby with kisses and hugs with all your family.

I say goodbye with love,

Such a cheerful letter! I am so glad that she wants to continue studying -- hopefully, I will be able to raise funds to help her pay for either college or technical training. I shot myself in the foot somewhat in that area--Yojana and Anna Marie will likely have college expenses at the same time, which will be costly! It's so worth it, though!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Christmas Package Received: Anna Marie!

Anna Marie's package arrived at her agency office almost three weeks before Christmas, but she did not pick it up until January 7! So she'll have to wait until next Christmas to enjoy some of the holiday-themed items included. Interestingly, I received the response packet BEFORE I received her CW letter (which I am still waiting for).

She is just as lovely in these photos as she is in her annual photo! She hasn't grown much in the past couple years, though--she is wearing that same shirt in her 2011 annual photo. Hopefully her Birthday and Easter gifts will be clothes, so she has some variety!

My friend Minie saw these photos and excitedly told me that she was from the same Service Area as Anna Marie! What a small world! She commented on the collage, which she has a small photo of still.

Anna Marie's thank-you letter is straight-forward and formal--unsurprising, since hers is a new Sponsorship for me and we haven't had the chance to get to know each other at all yet. She writes:

Dear Ms. Dillon,

A pleasant day to you. I hope and pray that you're in the best of everything.

I just want to say thank you for the package that you gave to me. These are Christmas card, toothbrush, best friend necklaces set, 2 pack tissue paper, 30 pcs hair elastics, comb, washcloth, a pair of colored sock, 3 bar soap, 1 pack pentel ball pen, and 6 pcs Marry and Co pencil pack, 6 pcs pencil, calculator, 2 pad post it, small spiral notebook, 2013 calendar, and 1 bar wylar light juice. I'm so happy to receive those things and I'm so very proud for having a generous sponsor like you.

Thank you very very much to all the things and support specially in my studies. May God shower you his blessings for your kindness.

Your sponsored youth,
Anna Marie

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Christmas Package Received: Maria

Maria received her Christmas DP on December 6th, in time for Christmas! I love that she is wearing the Santa hat in all of the photos! The comments on the report state:

Maria Cristina was so surprised upon learning about the package sent by the sponsor. More so after seeing the gifts inside the package. This is an early Christmas gift for this young lady which she never expected. The school supplies will be of great use on Cristina's schooling same with the hygiene kits/items most especially that Cristina is now a young lady. She needs to dress up properly and appropriately. She is so excited wearing the Santa hat after opening and while sorting out the things inside the package. Cristina and her family appreciated much the gifts and thankful for the blessings shared to them. The spirit of Christmas is truly felt [by] the family members.

Interesting to note that Maria is referred to repeatedly as Cristina in the comments--I had read that children whose names were written "Ma. Cristina" often went by their second name and not by Maria, but I had always assumed that since she spells it out fully, she went by her first name. I'll have to ask her about that the next time I write to her!

Her thank-you letter says:

Dear Sponsor,

Greetings of peace and a prosperous new year to all of you.

I feel so greatful upon receiving your package with different items you've send to me. Like the school supplies, santa hat, book to color, calculator, toothbrush, and comb, hairbrush, 2 magic towels, ordinary towel, hand tissue, bar soap, set of hair soap clips, Christmas card, mountain majesty calendar.

These are of great help to me and to my family. I will take good care of these and use for my studies especially the school supplies and calculator.

I am so much thankful for those special gifts may the God Lord showers you with more blessings and wonderful life to share.

Very truly yours,
Maria Cristina

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spotlight Children of the Week: 1/27/2013

Meet Jenifer Mariela! She lives in Guatemala with her parents and two siblings in an adobe home with dirt floors. The family is fortunate to have a private well for their water needs, but their electricity is tapped illegally. The family of five is struggling to survive on $117 per month. Jenifer only speaks Cackchiquel--since she is four years old, she is too young to have started school. She enjoys playing with dolls, and counts singing among her talents.

This is seven-year old Precious from Zambia. She lives with her parents and one sibling in a concrete home with a corrugated metal roof. Electricity is not available in her area, and she must get her water from a community faucet. The family of four is struggling to survive on a mere $50 per month.  Precious enjoys playing with her sibling and her friends, and she has a particular fondness for playing with toy cars. She shows an aptitude for sports. Precious does attend school, and she speaks Nyanja in addition to her native Tonga.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Christmas Package Received: Jasmin!

I've received the follow-up photos and thank-you letter for the package I sent to Jasmin for Christmas! She continues to be just too adorable for words in the accompanying photos. According to the report, Jasmin received the gifts two weeks before Christmas--perfect timing to allow her to enjoy the holiday-themed goodies!

Interestingly, Jasmin's thank-you letter was written by her older sister Louvie (age 16) instead of her mother Lea! She writes:

Dear Ms. Shannon,

Hello! How are you? We hope and pray everything is fine with you!

In behalf of Jasmin Jane, I am her sister writing to you. Jasmin would like to thank you for the wonderful gifts you've sent her. She was very happy when she got the gifts. She also would like to tell you that she was very fortunate she has a sponsor like you. She would like to greet you a merry Christmas and a happy new year! Jasmin hopes to write you all by herself soon.

Again, Jasmin would like to thank you for all the blessings, especially the early Christmas gifts she received. God bless!

Respectfully Yours,

I am so excited that Louvie mentioned Jasmin writing all by herself soon--I can't wait to get that first precious letter!

The tee-shirt I sent to her was a child's size small ... and it looks like she will be SWIMMING in it. I hadn't really grasped exactly how tiny she is until I saw this photo! Fortunately, she will grow. Hopefully she is able to wear it soon!