Introducing Ramya

While I have been talking about some smaller organizations, there was one that was not new to me. I had heard about it before and know several people who sponsor through it. The Organization is called United with Hope. They work in India, which my heart still breaks for after Compassion was sadly forced to end their work in the country. United with Hope is also a Christian organization, but since they are so much smaller and just work with one community, they are able to continue operating. The person who runs the ministry is a Compassion sponsor herself. Knowing all of this, and seeing others’ pictures of beautiful Indian children, I’ve always been pulled to want to sponsor with them. But it took me awhile- over a year. Honestly, I think it’s because it was very hard to find up to date information on the websites or Facebook pages on how to sponsor or which children were available. I guess it was good that I waited, though, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have Ramya. On one of the Facebook pages, there were some children in an album listed as needed sponsors a month ago. I messaged the page to see if Ramya was still available. I got invited to a private Facebook group that is kept up to date, found out she was available, and sponsored her.

There are a couple different programs United with Hope has that you can sponsor a child (or widow) through. I sponsor Ramya through the tutoring program. It is run by the pastor of the church. Sponsorship is $10 a month and gives the children tutoring and meals 6 days a week. There is a very low literacy rate in the area and many children are unable to go to school. You can also purchase extra gifts through a store on their website to send to your child, along with sending letters and packages.

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Ramya is the younger sister of another girl who was already attending the program, and now she is old enough to attend, too. She is 6 years old. I already have TONS of photos of her! These are just a few:

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The girls having fun

Receiving a backpack and school supplies

Participating in lessons

Receiving food

Introducing a New Correspondent

I have a beautiful new correspondent child, but not through Compassion. Like I had talked about smaller organizations when I shared about The Bridge of Hope, I also discovered another smaller organization: Revive a Rural African Child. This Christian organization is run voluntarily by one man with a huge heart for the children of Uganda. Eddy runs Revive a Rural African Child, and he cares for the children and has started the Visionary Learning Center, a place for children to study and learn that is run by teachers and volunteers. They are in the process of building a library. What is different about RRAC is that there is no sponsoring of children; only penpals. I was definitely intrigued how this worked.

You can sign up to be a penpal to a maximum of two children, and you send the letters directly to Uganda. You can also send packages. Since you aren’t sponsoring the child financially, only corresponding, you should be committed to writing regularly before signing up. While there is no monthly sponsorship commitment, there is obviously a cost for Eddy to send out mail to us, as well as to pick up each package at the post office that he receives, so there is a way to donate. But there is no set amount, and you can give what you have to give when you have extra to give if you want to; there is no requirement or obligation. Now, keep in mind that if you are used to corresponding with children through an organization like Compassion, RRAC is obviously different, because it’s run by one person and not hundreds. Eddy is very busy with the children, as he should be. He is fantastic, though, at providing updates on the work he is doing, and posts photos and videos with explanations several times a day! As a new supporter of this ministry, I love getting to learn about all the wonderful things they are doing and learning! Just look at the Facebook page to see some examples!

If you would like to be a penpal or find out more, there is a Facebook group to join: Revive a Rural African Child Penpals, that is separate from the main page. Some lovely ladies volunteer their time to help run the group and match penpals and children. They just posted a very informative FAQ post, that explains a lot!

After learning all of this, I decided to sign up to be a penpal. I figured I’d start with one child for now, and then add another in the future. Since there isn’t anything to go by but a list of names/gender/ages, I trusted that God would lead me to the right name. My new penpal is Nusura, and she is 6 years old. My heart melted when Eddy sent me this picture!

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I just love this photo with this beautiful smiling girl holding this sweet note! I can’t wait to get to know her better!

I sent her a letter as quickly as I could, although I’m sure it will take some time to arrive in Uganda. Eddy lets us know and takes pictures when he receives anything. Nervous about sending a package on my own, I thought I’d try sending one through Amazon Global. It took quite awhile to find something that would actually ship to Uganda- many things don’t, even in Amazon Global- a fact that you don’t find out until you’re partway through checkout. But finally I was able to send something through. It’s one of my favorite kids books ever “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes”. My students loooove Pete the Cat, so I figured she would too. It’s just something small, but it’s a start to see how it goes through. And I was able to send a gift message with it.

I spotted Nusura in a picture posted to the Facebook page recently of some of the kids receiving school supplies. Look at that smile!

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Introducing Mariatu… and how God Brought Her to Me

I’ve been researching some smaller organizations that I’ve heard about. I have had a wonderful experience with sponsoring with Manna 4 Lempira for the past 15 months, a smaller organization, so I know how great they can be. I wanted to make sure, of course, the legitimacy of these organizations and what they provide. I wanted to see if their values called to my heart, and if God placed any desires on me to support them. One such ministry that I was called to was The Bridge of Hope. It is a Christian organization that works in 4 communities in Sierra Leone, one of the very poorest countries in the world. The average life expectancy is only 45 years old. The average adult has had less than 3 years of schooling. The Bridge is operated primarily by volunteers so that donations can go directly to helping the people of the communities. They work with local, indigenous leaders on projects that are driven by locals, instead of Westerners. Sponsored children have access to education, dental care, a feeding program with daily nutritious meals, clean water, churches and teaching about Jesus, medical clinics, the rebuilding of their community, and agriculture and animal farming projects and loans to help families and members of their community. Child sponsorship with The Bridge of Hope is $15/month.

All of this being said, I decided to sponsor a child to support the work of this ministry and do more for a child in Sierra Leone. I browsed through lots and lots of photos, looking for one that I felt called to. When I saw an 8 year old girl named Mariatu, her eyes and shy, unsure smile made me feel a connection. I sponsored her and wrote my first letter to her, which can be written online.

This week, I logged into my account, and I was surprised to see a different girl named Mariatu, with a different last name, age, birthday, child number, and photo, instead! Seeing as I had already sent a letter, and I didn’t want there to be any confusion, I sent an email to The Bridge of Hope to clear things up. I got a response less than 24 hours later, and it could only be described as God’s plan. It turns out the Mariatu I had sponsored had moved away with her family to another village. Their child advocate in Sierra Leone, who had my letter to her, had given it to another girl who was unsponsored and also named Mariatu. The advocate said she was very excited to hear she had a sponsor. I also got emails with additional photos of her, a child profile with some more information, and a video to me!

Now, I definitely couldn’t say no at this point! Not that I would have anyway. As soon as I saw this adorable little 5 year old Mariatu’s picture on my account, before I knew what was going on, I was in love. She was younger than what I was planning on, but God’s plans are greater than mine. For another little girl to be waiting with the same name was clearly no coincidence. I’m grateful I didn’t have to choose another child and that God chose this little girl for me and made it very clear and easy. And, like I said, I’m in love with her already!

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Mariatu’s favorite color is green and her favorite subject in school is number work. When she’s at home, she helps by “greeting parents and elders”, which I think is adorable. Her favorite game to play is to “play cook”, and when she grows up she wants to be a teacher. Another future teacher. This girl is clearly meant to be mine.

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The video is precious, and I love her smile at the end. Everything happens for a reason!

Introducing Yeyson and Greysi!

Last week, I added two new Manna 4 Lempira children to my family. I had been praying over all of the children that needed sponsors. Suddenly, one night I felt a pull on my heart that hadn’t been there before for Yeyson and Greysi, siblings. I said an extra prayer for them and went to bed. As I was trying to fall asleep, they weighed heavily on me, and I began to think about sponsorship. But, with it being so close to the time of the year we send backpacks full of school supplies and gifts for our sponsored kids, and already having 6 kids to purchase and send items for, I really wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to add on 2 more. That night, I had a dream about Yeyson and Greysi, and I was their sponsor. The dream was very vivid and impactful, and I woke up with a clear meaning from it on my heart. Sponsor them, and everything else will work out.

I knew how happy they’d be to receive their backpacks full of gifts. Why wait over a month, if I knew I wanted to sponsor them anyway and deny them that? Making things easier on myself is definitely not a good enough answer.

So that morning, I requested to sponsor these sweet siblings from El Tablon. They have a single, unemployed mother. Even though I’ve never sponsored siblings together in the past, it makes so much sense that I can give encouragement to all three of them as a family unit.

Yeyson is 8, and his favorite subject is Drawing. His favorite color is blue and his favorite activity is playing soccer. When he grows up, he wants to be a teacher (I have a special place in my heart, of course, for all children who do).

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Greysi just turned 3 this week. She’ll start school in February. Her favorite color is pink and her favorite activity is playing with dolls. She also has one of the cutest smiles I have ever seen. I love how hard she is smiling, but she’s still peeking through with one eye open!

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I’ve loved getting to shop for them along with my other Manna kids. It’s all working out! Because without a doubt, I knew I was meant to sponsor these two.

Guatemala Day 4 part 2- Even More Love… and introducing a new child

This is the second part of Day 4, since it would have been an incredibly long post all in one (part one is here).

When we arrived back at the project, GU943, we were given a tour. We first got to see the amazing greenhouses, which our Guatemalan leaders had raved about on our bus ride that morning. The greenhouses were purchased with Complementary Interventions Funds (CIV Funds), which are provided by large donors and allow for, well, complementary interventions at projects aside from all of the amazing things Compassion provides that are standard at each project. The greenhouses are run by two men, gardeners, who teach the teenagers how to grow plants in the most effective ways. The kids are learning skills that will help them in future careers while also learning a lot about science- which is so cool! They had amazing looking tomatoes, peppers, and flowers inside. My tomatoes at home don’t look as big and round and wonderful as these did. The men clearly take pride in keeping everything clean, as we had to sanitize our hands and the bottom of our shoes before entering.

 

Then we got to see some more of the vocational programs. Here’s what makes these programs so awesome. They’re not just classes for the teenagers in the program to learn more about areas that interest them. They are actually certified instructional programs so that when these teens complete them, they get a certificate necessary to get a job in that area. They can graduate from Compassion already certified for a great, educated job! How great is that?? First we saw the baking program. I think we all watched in awe as one of the boys started mixing the sugar into the butter by hand. They don’t have any kinds of electric mixers, like we are so used to cooking with and don’t even think twice about using, but it works for them. They use what they have. And they made some beautiful cupcakes for us!

 

Next, we also got to see the manicure program and the sewing program. The girls who did nails had some beautiful samples on display that they were very proud to show off. They painted the nails of some of the ladies in our group, while the guys sat as far away as possible. They did a great job! The girls from the sewing program weren’t there that day, but their teacher was, who talked to us and had their work out on display. Each girl gets her own manual sewing machine in the room to work on. They started out by learning to make aprons, but now are starting to make more complicated garments, like pleated skirts. The girls use their own measurements and make clothing for themselves, which is very cool, but the teacher said that a lot of them have been getting orders from neighbors who want some of their work, too! They’re already beginning to build up little businesses as teens! After seeing the poverty in this rural town, I can’t rave enough about how amazing these programs are.

 

Finally it was time for the all exciting PLAYTIME! And it was so much fun! I felt so in my element, sitting on the floor surrounded by kids who swarmed around, all wanting a part of making pipe cleaner beaded bracelets with me. I’d compliment kids on their bracelets as I helped fasten them on little wrists, and their big smiles were everything. I loved it here and loved these children. I had amazing experiences all week, and fell in love with everywhere we visited. But my connection to this center was different, deeper. It’s hard to put into words, but I felt it in my heart.

 

Click on the images to see these ADORABLE faces larger 🙂

Near the end, after I had run out of beads, little Ezekiel found me. He told me he wanted an apple, as apple bobbing was one of the project set up activities. He was apprehensive and wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to leave him. He tried so hard, again and again, to bob for one of those apples. We left for a little bit, him taking my hand, but it wasn’t long before he was asking to go back to the apples again. Finally he was able t outtake out with his hands to eat and he was so happy! “Delicioso?” I asked? “Si!” he replied.

 

Then I had to say goodbye to Ezekiel, because we all visited the project office where the director proudly showed off their files. They were immaculately organized, and she clearly takes a lot of pride in that, as she should. I hung back after, while everyone else was drifting off back to the barn-like building we started in, to ask if they had children in need of sponsors. “Yes, 50,” she replied. That was all the confirmation I needed. I told her I was asking because I wanted to sponsor a child from her project, since I loved it so much. She thanked me multiple times. The translator I was with asked if I had a specific kid in mind. I told her that honestly, I had met so many kids that day and I had no clue who had a sponsor and who didn’t. I knew I’d be happy to sponsor any child there as it would be an investment in the work they were doing in the project as well as the individual child.

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It was time for our final goodbye. We entered in a small room and the staff passed out very special gifts to us. They were hand-sewn and hand-embroidered pillowcases, made by the girls in the sewing program! Each one was unique, and I can’t wait to get mine on a pillow and display it.

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Soon after our arrival there, as we sat waiting for the preschoolers to perform, our tour leader had asked if I would present the gift to the project when the time came and thank them. I said I would, at that point having no clue as to the extent to which I would connect with this place. But God did, of course. After a powerpoint with even more awesome information as to great things they do, I let God speak through me as I thanked the amazing people of this project and gave them a bag of things we had brought in our suitcases as gifts. We all joined around the staff to pray over them, and then we gave hugs. When I got to the project director, she hugged me so tightly and didn’t let go for awhile. Her tearing up had me tearing up. I was so glad I could be a part of acknowledging all the wonderful hard work she and everyone there were doing for these kids.

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The pastor, who can be seen in the above picture, was an integral part of our day, too. He gave a speech in the beginning and said a special prayer at the end. He went with on one of the home visits, the one where they were helping to work on the roof of a home, and he rolled up his sleeves and got to work alongside the members of our group happily. Most impressively, though, we learned that this pastor, when given the choice, decided to expand the project buildings rather than expand his church. That is complete dedication and investment, and it showed through from him all day. He has such a wonderful heart for the project, and I’m certain they wouldn’t be where they are today without him, too.

We returned to the museum/restaurant that we ate lunch at on Sunday for dinner this day. We got to eat in a different room this time, also gorgeous, and the food was very delicious. I had tangerine chicken which was my favorite meal of the trip. The stark contrast from the projects and home visits to our hotels and restaurants was definitely not lost on us. I understand the need to stay at and eat at nicer places, because of safety, but thinking that those families will never be able to afford meals like this can be heartbreaking.

 

 

So… that night back in the hotel room, I searched by center number on the Compassion site for children waiting at the project we had just visited. There were several children on the website. I didn’t know how I was going to possibly choose one. I certainly couldn’t that night. I decided to leave it to God and pray on it, which I continued to do for the rest of the trip.

I went into this trip open to sponsoring another child, knowing I may make a connection. Several of the toddlers we met the day before were sponsored by members of our group who made connections. Others made connections with different children or places. Still others weren’t called to add any new children this trip, which is also perfectly ok. I think it’s great that God drew us all to different children/places/needs and we all listened. As far as I know, I’m the only one who had this deep of a connection at this particular center, but I thank God for it.

Fast forward to when I arrived home, and God put a child on my heart. If only I could have sponsored them all, I would have. But Ingrid was the child on my heart, and I felt sure about my sponsorship of her. I clicked to sponsor this beautiful 6 year old girl with a smile filled with hope and promise, and I couldn’t wait to start writing to her. Ingrid lives with her parents and grandmother and both parents are sometimes employed; her father in construction and her mother in day labor.

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After I sponsored her, I looked back through my pictures from that day, just in case, and I discovered a striking resemblance between her and the tallest of the children who performed for us that morning. It’s hard to tell for sure, but I’m pretty sure that it’s her. I asked in my first letter to her, so hopefully I’ll get answer and know for sure! What do you think? Feel free to tell me if you think I’m totally off.

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Click here to read Guatemala Day 5- A Bright Future

Introducing Ludvi!

When Deilin left the Manna 4 Lempira program, I knew that I wanted to add another girl. The team had just registered many new children when they were in Honduras last month that were going to be available for sponsorship last week, while I was in Guatemala. I was able to look through some of their profiles and videos before I left. I was drawn more to girls from Mercedes, because that’s where Deilin was from. There were many wonderful girls that I would have been lucky to sponsor. But I felt an immediate connection with Ludvi. After time and prayer, I still felt so pulled to her, and I couldn’t get her off of my mind. So the morning that these children were available, I used the wifi in my hotel room and shared my heart as why I felt called by God to Ludvi, asking to be considered to be her sponsor. I didn’t get to see any messages back until I arrived back at the hotel that evening and connected back to the wifi, but I knew it was in God’s hands. Apparently, many other sponsors were also interested in sponsoring Ludvi. I wasn’t surprised, due to her heartstring-pulling profile and sweet smile. But then I had another message, that stated that after prayerful consideration by Manna 4 Lempira, I was going to be Ludvi’s sponsor. I was so excited, especially being currently surrounded by poverty in Central America at that very moment, because I knew what an honor it was and one that I do not take lightly.

So, now I can officially introduce Ludvi as a new member of my family! She is 9 years old and has 9 siblings. They all have a single, unemployed mother. I found out that Ludvi has to walk very far to get to the church. Her favorite color is pink, and she loves playing with dolls. She wants to be a preacher when she grows up. Can you see why I want to shower this girl with love?

Introducing Cristian, photos, and letters!

Cristian is the other child I sponsor at the El Tablon center with Manna 4 Lempira. He is the newest of my sponsored children with Manna. I found it hard to believe he didn’t have a sponsor yet, with his fantastic smile. I also knew that his older brother had a sponsor, and Cristian had been waiting quite awhile. When I added him to my family at the end of April, it made it so that I now have one boy and one girl at each of the 3 centers, which I love! Plus his child ID number is also my favorite number, which was another sign it was meant to be 🙂

Cristian is 11, his favorite subject is math, and his favorite color is red. His favorite activity is playing soccer, and he wants to be a mason like his father when he grows up. He has 2 siblings.

When Cristian was first registered

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From December 2016

From April 2017

From July 2017

I also got 2 letters from him, both written before he had a sponsor. It can’t be easy, especially as a kid, writing when you haven’t been chosen yet. But he is so thankful and a very talented artist! I can’t wait to get the next letter from him, which will be the first since I sponsored him!

First letter: “Hello. How are you? I am Cristian. It gives me much pleasure to know that I have a sponsor that is so kind with us children of Honduras. I have a very happy family. May God bless you. I know that you will be very happy and receive blessings from God. From Cristian for you with love and caring.”

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Second letter: “Hello sponsors of the United States. I thank you very much for the help that you give us. Many thanks. I hope you continue helping us. We always put it in God’s hands. Thanks. Thanks a lot.”

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