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!

Photos and Letters from Brayan

I’ve only ever received two letters from Brayan, which is much less than any of the other kids I sponsor with Manna 4 Lempira. Any other letter period, I receive at least one letter from each of my other kids, but only during two letter periods, did I ever receive any letter from Brayan. Because of this, I don’t know him as well as my other kids, but of course I still love him dearly. I do hope, as he’s getting older, I’ll start to receive more mail from him, even if it’s just a drawing. Up until now, none of the photos of him have ever shown him smiling. I think he’s camera shy, and I always had to imagine what his smile looked like. Well, in the photos posted the night before my trip, I finally got to see this little guy’s smile for the first time ever, and it is even better than I imagined!! I was thrilled!

From December 2016

From April 2017

From July 2017 😀

Doesn’t he have the cutest smile ever??

First Letter: “Dear Alisa, I am glad because I play with the toys. I hope that someday we can meet and share. May God bless you. I felt glad when I received the letter. My family and I pray for your family and you. I have a puppy called Tamos. He is very cute. I would like to have more photos of you. May God bless you today and always. These are my few words. Remember that my family always prays for you. Blessings!”

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The baby photo is such a sweet gesture that I treasure!

Second letter: “Dear Alisa, I am very happy to receive my backpack. Everything is very nice. I am happy to have you as my sponsor. The toys are precious. I love you very much with affection and greetings through the distance. I wish for the peach of God to flood your life with love and blessings. Have a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. I love you very much!”

Photos and Letters from Deilin, and some sad news

The Manna 4 Lempira Mercedes summer updates were posted the evening before I left for Guatemala. I eagerly anticipated the photos of the final 2 of my Manna kids. I was very excited to see both of their photos. But then I received an email with some sad news. The email said that Deilin had left the program, and that I would be able to send a final letter to her. In the Manna group on Facebook, I saw that many other sponsors also lost children, most of which were teenage girls too. We found out more information, that these children were not meeting the school attendance requirements of the program, so they couldn’t be enrolled anymore. However, if at any point they do decide to attend school again, they can be reenrolled. I’ve absolutely loved my time sponsoring Deilin and getting to know her huge heart, so it’s very sad to have to say goodbye and end that relationship prematurely. I will continue to pray for her, of course, and hope that my final letter can offer some last words of encouragement to this girl who is beautiful on both the outside and the inside.

From December 2016

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From April 2017

From July 2017

 

First letter (addressed to previous sponsor): “Hello! How are you? I hope that you and all your family are well. Thanks for my gift that you sent me. I really like the things; the purse, the books, and the colored pencils. I like it all. Thank you for always remembering me. I tell you that my sister Asly’s sponsor came here to the church where we meet. The pastor is Israel Portillo. I ask God that He allows me to meet you. God bless you! I love you very much! TKM- Te quiero mucho- I love you very much.”

Second letter: “Dear Alisa, I am happy for all the things you sent me in the backpack. I am very happy to have a beautiful sponsor like you, Alisa. You gave me many things, and I like all the things. For that I will never forget you. I hope you do not forget me. I am a smart, respectable, and honorable girl. I really like to come to church. I really like to draw. I hope you are happy all your life.”

 

Third letter: “Dear Alisa, Know that I give thanks to God that I have you as a sponsor. I ask God to keep you and bless each day. I live in Honduras, in the department of Lempira. My age is very beautiful because I have learned and enjoyed getting to know God. I am grateful with God for having you cross my path, and to be able to know a person as special as you. Also I have two brothers. I wish them the best. I love them very much. I thank you for the trust and friendship that you offer. I have always wanted to have a friend like you. My friends are Estrella, Beylin, Belkis, Lixi, Sulmy, and especially you. I really like the school. My favorite class is Math. I love to work with numbers and natural science. I would like to give classes of 3-4 years. I thank God for the backpack which has been very useful, and for the notebooks and everything else. Thank you. May God bless you! TKM- Te quiero mucho- I love you very much.”

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More letters and photos from Junior!

Junior is my correspondent through Manna 4 Lempira, and the other child I have at the Mi Betania center, along with Heidy. When I sponsored Deylin, I was able to choose a boy who had been waiting as a correspondent, and Junior’s sweet smile and information drew me in. He’s another child with 10 siblings! And some of his older siblings have their own children living in the home too, so there are a lot of people in that family under one roof. Every time I’m lucky enough to see pictures of them, though, they always look so happy. And if Junior is any indication, they’re clearly doing a fantastic job. This is the happiest young boy I have ever seen, and his letters are truly long and heartfelt. Amazing for a boy who just turned 9!! I’m very blessed to get to call Junior part of my Manna family.

From December 2016

From December 2016

From April 2017

From July 2017

 

First letter (addressed to previous sponsor): “I hope that you are well alongside your dear and beloved family. I am Junior. I am 8 years old. I am in second grade. I like to read, to write, and to pay attention in classes. I really like soccer, marbles, and trompo. I also like cows. I go to church. I pray for you a lot. I have a wish. I want you to meet me so I can know you and spend time with you. Hopefully you arrive someday. We hope in God that you visit. That is my wish. Receive many greetings from my family; from me receive many kisses and hugs through the distance. I love you very much. Thank you for being my sponsor. Thank you for the letters that you wrote. God bless you very much! From Junior with much love”

Second letter (addressed to previous sponsor): “I greet you very affectionately, wishing that you are well alongside your family. After this short greeting, I tell you that I go to school and church. My father has a cornfield. It is very nice. Soon we will have ears. I ask that you pray for me and my family. That God guards and keeps us always. I feel very glad to write you again. My family wishes to meet you. I hope you come so my mother, father, and siblings meet you and your children who are beautiful. I hope that when you come to my house, I am going to show you to my teacher and my classmates. I will teach you all that I have in my house that is very nice. My favorite text is Psalm 136:26. May the Lord guard you and keep you wherever you and your family are. I love you very much! With love”

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Third letter (addressed to previous sponsor): “Hello my dear sponsor, I hope that you are well alongside your dear family and friends who surround you. It is a happy moment that I took pen and paper in one of my hands to write you this little letter to tell you that I’m thinking of you. I am very well with my parents and siblings. I am serving God. I go to the church of Betania on Sundays and Wednesdays. It is a great blessing for my life. I tell you that I go out to the fields to cut coffee so I can buy seeds for Christmas. We are going to eat many things like roasted pork, tamales, cakes, and bread with many friends. Receive many hugs through the distance. I love you very much. God bless you!”

Fourth letter (addressed to me): “Hello my dear sponsor! How are you? How is your dear family? I tell you that I feel happy to write you this letter and to know that you felt happy to read my letter. We are in Honduras. I live with my parents. My father works hard every day because our family is big. We are 10 siblings, but my 3 sisters are already married. Seven brothers stay in the house and one niece and one nephew that my parents are raising. I am the last of the family. They love very much. I smile a lot. I like to go to church. My Bible teachers are very friendly. They teach us a lot from the Word of God. They teach us to pray for each one of our sponsors. We sing. We play. We feel very happy, but most when I found out you are my new sponsor who I will love with all my heart. I tell you that I enjoyed my vocations cutting coffee in the field. I really like it. Thanks to God because He gives us health, strength, wisdom, and also you. Thank you for my backpack and the other things and the surprises. I will use it all when I return to classes on February 20. I will be in 4th grade. My favorite food is fried beans, eggs, and rice. I like to play marbles and cars. I like to ride bikes. My favorite verse is Ephesians 2:1: ‘He gave us life when we were dead in our sins and trespasses’. I hope to write you another letter soon. I hope you travel here so I can know you better. I will be praying for you and your family that God provides for you. I ask your prayers to move forward in my school. Until soon, my dear Alisa. I say goodbye with much love and affection for you. God bless you!”

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What a long letter, huh? I’m sure he has an awesome sibling who helps him. I would love so much to go visit him someday, like he talks about in his letters. Kim’s family, who runs Manna 4 Lempira, sponsor his nephew, so I’m sure he’s very eager for a sponsor to visit him, since he’s clearly very close to his nephew since they’re never far from each other in pictures.

Photos, Letters, and a Video from Heidy!

I have received several more letters from Heidy and lots more photos of her since my last update on her. Heidy is the first child I sponsored with Manna 4 Lempira, and I’m extremely fond of her. She has 9 siblings. Having only 1 sibling myself, that’s hard to imagine even here in America, let alone in Honduras living in poverty! She has a quiet, sweet spirit and a beautiful heart. And knowing that she likely doesn’t get a lot of individual attention, I love being able to shower her with love through my letters.

From October 2016

 

From December 2016

From April 2017

From July 2017

First letter: “Dear Alisa, Hello! How are you and your family? My family and I are well. I am very happy that you are my sponsor. I tell you that in the school, I enjoy spending time with my friends. I also like to spend time with my family. Also, I go to church every Sunday because I learn more of God and His word. Also, I tell you that February 2 of next year is my birthday. I hope to pass it well. It is a pleasure to see you and your family in the photo. Your cat, Emma, is very pretty. You and your family are very special for me. With much love, Heidy”

Second letter: “Dear Alisa, Thank you for what you have sent me. How are you and your family? I hope that you are very well. Thank you for all that you sent me; special things I can enjoy. Thanks to God that we can send these letters. Dear Alisa, I know what you sent me, but I send you letters with love for you, sponsor. Thank you for making the effort to send me what you sent me. Have a Merry Christmas with your family.”

Third letter: “Dear Sponsor, How are you? I hope you and your family are well. My family and I are well. Alisa, thank you very much for the backpack and everything. I tell you that we begin classes February 13. I am using the backpack that you sent me. Thank you for the doll of Barbie. I really love it. May God give you a life full of health every moment and every hour. Many, many thanks. Blessings and thank you!”

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I’m so glad she loved her barbie so much. I realize how much it probably means to her to have one of her own. Knowing how much she loved it and that she’s an Anna from Frozen fan, clearly an Anna barbie is in her future for her next backpack! 🙂

Then the best surprise came Monday morning, when videos of some of the sponsored children were posted on the Manna 4 Lempira page. I was excited to look, wondering if one of my children would be in one, but enjoying watching them all even if they weren’t. Then I saw Heidy. And I got to hear her voice for the first time. And the best part? I’ve seen the biggest smiles from her in this video than I’ve ever seen in the over 14 months I’ve been sponsoring her! It’s always a treat when I see a smile break through in her photos, because they’re not always there. I get it and I know she’s happy from her letters. And when there is one, it’s usually tiny. But in this video, these are big, toothy smiles! She is so adorable, and I couldn’t stop watching it again and again. It meant the world to me that my Heidy was featured. Especially on a morning that I was in a lot of pain and very tired, thanks to the rain and not getting any sleep the night before.

Here are the video and a couple screenshots. I love this girl so much!!

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