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! =)