Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Feature! - Marcos, Andres, Antonio, Emanuel, & Fernando

It's almost October and 400 children still need sponsors before the month is over for Compassion to reach its goal of 3108 new children sponsored this month. The following children have been waiting for over a year for a sponsor. Change their story today!!

This is Marcos.
Marcos is seven-years-old and lives near Managua, Nicaragua. He lives with his mother (who is employed) and one sibling. Adults in the area earn about $105 per month. Marcos helps his family by carrying water, gathering firewood and teaching others. He enjoys ping pong, soccer, and playing with cars. He attends kindergarten where his performance is above average and regularly attends church activities. Change his story today! Or change the story from someone else in Nicaragua!


This is Andres.
Andres is eight-years-old and lives near Monteria, Columbia. He lives with his mother (who is sometimes employed). Adults in this area earn about $125 per month. Andres helps his family by running errands and cleaning. He enjoys playing soccer, running, and playing group games. He is doing well in school and regularly attends church activities. Change his story today! Or change the story from someone else in Columbia!


This is Antonio.
Antonio is four-years-old and lives near Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico. He lives with his father (who is sometimes employed), his mother (who maintains the home), and five siblings. Adults in this area earn about $106 per month. Antonio helps his family by gathering firewood and carrying water. He enjoys playing basketball, singing, and bicycling. He is doing well in school and regularly attends church activities. Change his story today! Or change the story from someone else in Mexico!


This is Emanuel.
Emanuel is four-years-old and lives near Huancayo, Peru. He lives with his father (who is sometimes employed), his mother (who maintains the home), and two siblings. Adults in this area earn about $187 per month. Emanuel helps his family by running errands. He enjoys playing with cars. He does not currently attend school but he attends church activities regularly. Change his story today! Or change the story from someone else in Peru!


This is Fernando.
Fernando is four-years-old and lives near Manado, Indonesia. He lives with his father (who is sometimes employed), his mother (who maintains the home), and one sibling. Adults in this area earn about $65 per month. Fernando helps his family by running errands. He enjoys playing group games. He does not currently attend school but he attends church activities regularly. Change his story today! Or change the story from someone else in Indonesia.


As always, if none of these children speak to your heart, I invite you to find one that does. If you are unable to sponsor a child, please pray for these children and that they will able to find loving, supportive sponsors soon.





Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A story of poverty

The following post is written from the perspective of a sponsored child through Compassion with inspiration coming from my kids and formerly sponsored kids that I have heard speak through the years.
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Dear Sponsor,

I love you. Thank you for giving me this gift and for praying for me. I will not let you down! My teacher suggested that I tell you about what my life was like prior to the best day ever, the day I found out that I have a sponsor.

I was born in a village outside of a large city. I have an older sister and brother. Life in the village was not good. We never had enough to eat and my parents struggled to find jobs and earn money. My father decided that we should move into the larger city because there would be more work there. He received a loan so we could buy a small house then we were in debt. My parents were worried that they would not make enough to pay for the house and the things our growing family needed like food, water, clothes, and education.

In the city, the only home we could afford (even with the loan) was in a large slum. Drug lords ruled the streets and demanded payment for protection. Our home is very small and barely holds all of us. There is one mattress an old stove, and a small table. I am young enough that I could sleep on the mattress with my parents but my brother and sister have to sleep on the dirt floor. I don't like the slums. There are plenty of kids but my parents say it's too unsafe to play outside with them. It's always loud and sometimes I can't sleep because of the noise and because I am scared of what's going on outside. We can't lock our door and I hear gunshots and screaming almost every night. I fear what would happen if they came to our door.

By the time I start school my mother is pregnant again. My family is excited for this blessing from God but I know my parents fear how they will be able to take care of another child. When the baby is born I stay home from school to help my mother take care of him because my older sister is very smart and is doing well in school and my parents don't want to take her out because they think she will go far in life. I guess I won't.

The new baby quickly becomes sick. My mother isn't getting proper nutrition and can no longer breast feed so we don't have much to give the baby. He is thin and cries a lot which makes me cry but there isn't anything to do. My baby brother dies before his first birthday.

My mother was so upset that she couldn't leave her bed for months. She blamed her self and was angry with God. My father tried to make her feel better but nothing worked. He quickly became frustrated that he was the only one working and providing for the family. A little less than a year after my brother died he left and never came back. My older brother dropped out of school to provide for the family and told me that I had to go to school so I did.

I really enjoy school. I love learning and making friends even though it's hard to learn when I can't afford the supplies. I always try my best though. I love to read and I think it would be fun to be a teacher myself but I don't know if it will ever happen. My sister told me that to be a teacher you have to go to college and we can't afford to go to college. She told me that we'll probably all be market sellers like our parents and didn't understand why we should bother with school.

I made a friend in school. She lives in the same slum as me and is very nice. She likes to read too and we talked about being teachers together at the same school even though it will probably never happen. Her family is just as poor as mine.

At home the situation became worse. My mother stayed in bed, my brother continued to provide and my sister seemed to slowly stop caring. She stopped working as hard in school because our parents weren't there to encourage her anymore. She didn't see the point of continuing with school even though she was only a couple of years away from graduating because she didn't see a future for us. I began to believe it myself.

My friend stopped coming to school every day and eventually stopped coming at all. I saw her in her home in the slums and figured her parents were making her work. She always looked so sad and I felt bad that I was able to go to school and she wasn't. One afternoon when I came home from school I saw two men enter her house and give her parent some money before going into their bedroom. I didn't see my friend in the house but before I got far enough away I could hear loud crying and screaming.

I became used to life as it was, a dangerous, sad, lonely place. I stopped trying to make friends, stopped caring about school, and became angry with everything that went wrong in my life. I didn't get to eat that day? It's God's fault for giving me such a terrible family. I failed a test? It's God's fault for giving me such a terrible teacher. I became sick off of the water I drank? It's God's fault for not providing for me.

One evening when I came home my brother told me that we needed to go to church that night and I didn't want to. God and I weren't on good terms. He wasn't looking out for me the way that I had been promised. I had no father, a mother that could barely get out of bed most days, a tiny, smelly house in a disgusting, loud slum, no materials for school, no food, no clean water, three outfits, and nothing to keep myself clean. The last place I wanted to be was church. My brother told me I had to come because he heard about an organization called Compassion International that could help us. I was intrigued so I went along. If all else failed I was prepared to give God a piece of my mind.

We were led into the sanctuary and a representative of Compassion explained to us what the program was about. We would be paired with a financial sponsor from another country who will write us letters and give us gifts. After we're enrolled we will be able to participate at the project and receive food, access to clean water, help with school, learn about healthy living, make friends, participate in other recreational activities, and learn about Jesus Christ. It sounded pretty sweet and my mother signed me up that day.

I was scared to go to the project for the first time because I didn't know what to expect but it was so cool! Everyone was so nice and welcomed me right in. They helped me with my schoolwork, gave me a great lunch (the best meal I'd had in a long time!) and I got to play games with very nice kids. A lot of the kids had sponsors already and they told me about the letters they got and how much they loved their sponsor. On letter days I would look at the pictures and gifts my friends got and was sad that I didn't have a sponsor yet. I began to learn about Jesus and was encouraged to pray about why I was upset with Him, which helped me I think.

I remember the day I found out I had a sponsor like it was yesterday. After lunch I was called into the project supervisors office. At first I thought I was in trouble but then I noticed that she had a smile on her face. "I have great news!" She said. "A family in the United States wants to sponsor you!"My face formed a huge smile and I couldn't believe it was true! A sponsor! A real sponsor! A family! I ran from the office and told all of my friends.

Every time I get a letter I read it over and over until I have it memorized, then I put it in a box in the bedroom of my house. I have never felt so loved in my entire life. When I feel sad I take out the letters and read them all again to remind myself that you love me and you're praying for me and that I can do anything. You make me want to work hard in school because I don't want to let you down. You make me want to be nice to others because I want to set a good example. You make me want to be kind to my family because I want a family like yours. You make me want to love God as much as you do because He seems like a pretty cool guy.

My life is so different now. I have food to eat, I have supplies for school, and I for the first time in my life I get gifts on my birthday and at Christmas! My mother has received counseling for depression and is doing much better. My sister has been inspired to keep working hard too. She is very smart and she is saving her money to be able to go to college. With the help of Compassion my brother has been able to go back to school too. Our whole family is happier and healthier. I know that I have a future now and I have hope of a better tomorrow. I have dreams now. I want to go to college and become a teacher and help kids like me learn. I would love to sponsor my own child someday too to return the favor.

Thank you sponsor for changing my life!
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Even though this is not a true story, this is the reality of millions of children living in poverty all over the world. It doesn't have to be this way. You can be the person that changes a child's life. It start's here. It starts now. It starts with you. Change the story.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Country Feature - Ecuador!!

The tour of South America continues with Ecuador!.

Ecuador is a small country on the western coast of South America bordering Columbia and Peru. Here are some facts I learned about Ecuador from the Compassion website:
- most people live in urban settings
- the official language is Spanish but many people speak Quechua, the language of the Incas
- Compassion works throughout central and western Ecuador
- it gained independence as Ecuador (from Francisco Pizarro and Columbia) in 1850
- the economy relies heavily on oil exports so world fluctuations in that greatly affect their economy
- the economy was in a disaster state in 1990 because of the drop in world oil prices but was saved in 2000 by adopting American currency as legal tender (but the economy remains unstable)
- troubled by political instability

Here are some more facts I learned from the US Department of State:
- the infant mortality rate is 22/1000
- natural resources include petroleum, fish, shrimp, timber, gold, and copper
- population is evenly distributed between the mountainous central highland region and the coastal lowlands
- over 600,000 Ecuadorians emigrated to the US or Europe during the economy collapse of 1990
- formally housed the Inca Empire

In the slums of Ecuador, typical homes are made of cement and brick walls, dirk floors, and corrugated iron roofs.Communities need suitable housing, potable water, employment opportunities, telephone service, recreational centers, academic resources, schools, paved streets, qualified teachers, parks, domestic violence prevention programs, clothing, food, improved sewer systems, sports facilities

These three kids have been waiting for over a year for a sponsor! Let's not let them wait another day.

This is Ximena.
This beautiful little girl has been waiting for a sponsor for 421 days! She is eight-years-old and lives in the mountainous community of El Quinche where adults make about $340 per month. She lives with both parents (both are sometimes employed) and three siblings. Ximena enjoys playing with dolls and listening to music. Change her story!


This is Andres.
This handsome young man has been waiting for a sponsor for 421 days! He is nine-years-old and lives in the coastal community of Jaramijó where adults earn about $150 per month. Information is not currently available about his family but you could change his story today!


This is Yandry.

This handsome young man has been waiting for a sponsor for 421 days! He is nine-years-old and lives in the coastal community of Jaramijó where adults earn about $150 per month. Information is not currently available about his family but you could change his story today!


This is Mishel.
This beautiful young girl has been waiting for a sponsor for 260 days! She is nine-years old and lives on the plains of Majipamba where adults earn about $50 per month! She lives with her mother who is sometimes employed and one sibling. She enjoys telling stories and art. Change her story today!


This is Yajaira.
This beautiful young girl has been waiting for a sponsor for 260 days! She is nine-years old and lives in the mountainous community of Pajan where adults earn about $180 per month! She lives with her father (who is sometimes employed) and her mother (who helps maintain the home). She helps at home by taking care of animals and enjoys playing with dolls, bicycling and playing group games. Change her story today!


This is Jusleiby.
This beautiful young lady has been waiting for a sponsor for a sponsor for 239 days! She is six-years-old and lives in the coastal community of Barrio Aire Libre where adults earn about $80 per month!. She lives with her uncle and grandmother who are both sometimes employed and three siblings. She loves to sing and play group games and her performance in kindergarten is above average. Change her story today!


As always, if none of these children speak to your heart I invite you to find one that does from Ecuador, or from somewhere else! $38 a month changes a story and changes more lives than one!

Love & Peace

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Feature - Waiting 417 days!! (Rangga, Gustavo, Daniel, & Carlos)

There are many kids that have been waiting for a sponsor for 416 days!! I'm going to feature a lot of them because they all desperately need a sponsor.

This is Rangga from Indonesia.

He is four-years-old and lives with his step-father and mother (who are both sometimes employed) and one sibling. Adults in this area earn about $111 per month.
Please click on his name to learn more. If he does not speak to your heart, there are many kids from Indonesia that have been waiting for a sponsor for a long time.


This is Gustavo from Bolivia.

He is six-years-old and lives with his father (who is sometimes employed) and his mother (who maintains the home) and three siblings. Adults in his area earn about $114 per month. He lives in an area that is prone to exploitation and abuse. Please click on his name to learn more or to sponsor him. If he does not speak to your heart, there are many kids from Bolivia that have been waiting for a sponsor for a long time.


This is Daniel from Ghana.
He is five-years-old and lives with his father and mother (who are both sometimes employed) and seven siblings. Adults in this area earn about $10 per month!! He lives in an Aids infected area. Please click on his name to learn more or to sponsor this little boy. If he does not speak to your heart I invite you to find a child in Ghana that has been waiting for a long time that does.


This is Carlos from El Salvador.
He is six-years-old and lives with his father and mother (who are both sometimes employed). Adults in this area earn about $90 per month. Please click on his name to learn more or to sponsor this little boy. If he does not speak to your heart I invite you to find a child from El Salvador that has been waiting a long time for a sponsor that does.

Still having trouble finding a child that speaks to your heart? Look here

Love & Peace

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Brazil Sponsor Tour 2012: Part 5, An epic conclusion

After my two and a half days in Fortaleza I felt like I had a full vacation. I mean, what more did I need after seeing my precious Brazilian sister? But the trip was only half over! We flew south to Sao Paulo to repeat what we did in Fortaleza there. (Just as a little side note, Sao Paulo is the 5th largest city in the world with a lovely 20 million people living there).

For our first full day there we visited a center in Sao Paulo and spent the morning playing and doing crafts with the children of that project.




(Note the little girl on the left. I visited her home later in the day).

Then we went on home visits in the slums of Sao Paulo where these children live. The slums here were different in that the home were stacked on top of each other up and down hillsides with narrow, steep paths to get to the homes. When it rains there is nothing stopping water from coming into the homes. There were similarities like the raw sewage, stray animals, terrible smell, and incredibly small homes.

The home I visited houses at least six people and was about the size (if not smaller) of my college dorm room. The mother and father live with at least four of their kids (they have six and I don't remember if they all still live there). The youngest three are in the project and two have sponsors. The mother told us that she doesn't feel safe there but they have no where else to go. All of their clothes were piled up in the bedroom to dry out because they're all damp from rain. The back wall of the kitchen was entirely covered in black mold from the rain. Their bathroom is a tiny space off of the kitchen. The kids sleep in a small room in the very back of the house that is also used for storage that the mother built herself because there simply was not enough room. Electricity is too expensive so they have exposed wires and have created their own electric systems to they have power (which is illegal).

Again, we were not allowed to take pictures within the slums but I got some pictures of what they're like from the bus area. They stretch on for miles



After lunch we drove to the country office in Campinas to learn more about Compassion Brazil.
The countryside to get there was beautiful.

 While at the country office we learned about the behind the scenes work of Compassion Brazil, got to see where all of the letters come in and get distributed and meet some of the amazing country staff. We were shown a video about a new area of Brazil that Compassion Brazil is working in called Codo. One of our translators, Ana, created the video and it was heartbreaking. I don't remember all of the statistics but girls start having children there when they are pretty young, many have multiple miscarriages, the infant mortality rate is very high, and the village is completely cut off from the rest of Brazil. There are no major roads getting in or out of it. The poverty there is on par with Haiti or parts of Africa. We also learned that next year Brazil will be getting a Child Survival Program and the work will begin in Codo which is very exciting!

That night we went to a pizzeria in Campinas. Prior to this trip I didn't think of pizza when I thought of Brazil but apparently a lot of Italians have settled in Sao Paulo and its surrounding areas. Many Brazilians think their pizza is better than the Italians. I've never had real Italian pizza but I will say that Brazilian pizza was pretty darn good. And then there was the dessert pizza. I absolutely love bananas and I'm mildly addicted to chocolate this joint had banana pizza and chocolate pizza. Bam.
It was seriously fantastic. Definitely up there with the best things I've ever eaten.

The following day some people went to the second fun day (for those that sponsor children in the southern part of Brazil). The rest of us went to the soccer museum because soccer is basically religion in Brazil.
Even though I'm not a huge soccer person I thought the museum was cool and I definitely learned some stuff. For example, most bars/restaurants do not allow people to wear soccer (football) jerseys because when people see rival jerseys it frequently causes fights. In Brazil the teams are also connected with the social classes so games get very heated. Not only is it a battle of the teams but in many ways its a battle of the classes.

The museum is actually a stadium (games are still played there sometimes) and it was the sight of the 1954 World Cup. Brazil was in the final game and lost. Brazilians were so upset about this that many committed suicide after the game by jumping off of the top of the stadium.
As a whole, the entire experience was everything I wanted it to be and more. It was a perfect week and I would go back and do it again in a heartbeat (if only I had the money...) :) I plan to go back someday hopefully with my parents or with another sponsor tour to see Isadora again and say hello to Lorenna and see more of this beautiful country.











Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Something Exciting

September is blog month at Compassion and throughout the month of September, Compassion wants 3108 new children to find sponsors. As of yesterday (Monday, 9/17), 1515 new children have sponsors!! That's only 1593 more to go with two weeks left! This is very exciting to me. If you have started sponsoring a child this month or referred a child to someone else or know someone else that has or have thought about or prayed about these children, thank you! You are changing their entire lives.

An amazing example of the life-changing truth of Compassion, check out this video that was posted on the Compassion blog today. Amazing!!

Also, please take the time to look at these kids that have been waiting for over 400 days for a sponsor!! Please pray for them and pray that they will find a sponsor soon. If you are able, please consider sponsoring one (more more!)

Love & Peace

Brazil Sponsor Tour 2012: Part 4, The day I met Isadora

Where my story left off I had finished my first full day in Fortaleza, had met a plethora of really cute kids, saw an example of the work Compassion does, and saw first hand what poverty is like in Brazil. Where we pick up the story is on my second full day in Fortaleza, the big day. The day I met my Brazilian sister, Isadora.

The previous night our trip leader talked to us about what this day would entail and tried to bring us all down to earth a little. As much as we all wanted a movie moment where we see our kid and they see us and we run to each other in slow motion and we hug and fireworks erupt in the sky and sparkles rain down on us and rainbows shoot across the sky, it just might not happen. Many of the kids had to travel pretty far to come see us. It may be their first time on a plane, first time leaving their town or village, first time being away from home, stuff like that so they could be very shy or scared. She stressed that it's great to be excited, but to try and give our children grace and ourselves grace.

The meeting took place in a park called EcoPoint and we took a bus there. For our short drive I clutched my backpack of gifts for Isadora and prayed that she wouldn't be too shy and that we would have a fun day together. Our bus pulled up and my heart was racing.
I could see some of the kids assembling inside and we all walked in at our own pace. The kids were lined up with signs saying our names for ease of finding each other, with our individual interpreters and the family member or teacher that came with the child.

I walked in, grinning, anxious, and so so so excited. My eyes scanned the line of kids and I picked out Isadora. I walked towards her and she saw me. Her face lit up and she ran to me and gave me a huge hug. For real. There were no fireworks, sparkles, or rainbows, but it felt like a movie moment to me.
Isadora came with her grandmother and a teacher from her project. My interpreter for the day was the fantastic Lorenna (who I continue to talk to because she is a lovely person).
After the introductions we created a plan for the day. The park had a zoo, horseback riding, soccer, volleyball, swimming, face painting, and plenty of space to walk around and play. Naturally we did everything. All day long I could not stop thanking God for Isadora and how prefect she is. I could not have asked for a better day.

This is what it looks like when your dreams come true:














We had the best day I could have ever asked for in a million years times a million. We had so much fun together and got the opportunity to talk to each other and ask questions. She was able to use some of the English she knows and I was able to use some of the Portuguese I know and we even taught each other some new words throughout the day!

About a half hour before it was time to leave I gave her a new backpack full of gifts.
I put things in each pocket so she would have lots to look for. She was pretty excited :)





In addition to the new backpack for school, I gave her a big notebook for school/journaling, a binder with page protectors so she has a safe place to put her letters from me, a photo album with pictures of my family in it which she can add to with the pictures I send her (so she feels like she's a part of my family), a recorder with a fingering chart (because I'm a musician and those things ruled when I was  a kid), some of my old Barbies (because she loves them!), a stuffed animal that I knit myself, a Simpson College t-shirt (gotta represent!), a new brush, stuff for her hair, necklaces, toothbrushes for her and her family, and other fun things to play with.

She gave me gifts too. She wrote a letter for me expressing how excited she was to be able to meet me (which Lorenna helped translate). Even though I told her in her birthday card that I was going to come meet her, she was not notified about it until about a week before. They do this in case something happens with the sponsor and the sponsor ends up not being able to come and because the kids often become so excited that they don't eat or sleep. Isadora told me that she had trouble sleeping the night before because she was so excited. (I was in the same boat).

Saying goodbye at the end of the day was extremely hard. I knew it would be, but she started to get upset when she realized that it was time to part ways which made me sad. She asked when I was going to come back and Lorenna and I agreed that, God-willing, I will return before she graduates which made her happy.

I'm not going to lie though, I had to hold back the tears when we said our final goodbye because I didn't want to make her upset but I cried on my way back to the bus and when I had to say goodbye to Lorenna. It was somewhat comforting in my heart to know that I will return, hopefully sooner rather than later and that God-wiling, I will find a way to get there again.

Facebook status that night: Perfect day with Isadora, my beautiful Brazilian sister. She is so so so precious and beautiful. Wow what a day. Hugs and smiles and pictures and swimming and horseback riding and soccer and volleyball and the zoo and face painting and gifts and learning languages. Everything I have ever dreamed of and so much more :)