A Better Feeling Than Nothing

IMG_2092I don’t really remember the feeling I felt when Mr. M and I sponsored our first two children back in 2009. We sponsored a Roy, a young boy from Lebanon with the most vibrant blue eyes and Emelisa, a girl from Albania whose favorite subject was French. After Miss C was born I felt that it would be a good idea to sponsor, Adriana, a child her same age to help her learn about privilege and social responsibility.  When I met a woman in 2014 who talked about her sponsored children in such intimate detail, when I knew so little about the girls we sponsored, I felt ashamed and endevored to get to applologize for my inattentiveness and strive to get to know them better. In 2015, when Emelisa referred to us as her second parents, I felt humbled. When, after 5 years of sponsorship, I received a picture of Ariana smiling, I felt joy. When Alice, who we sponsor in Burundi, told me that the entire village gathers together to hear the social worker read the letters I send her, I felt shocked and inadequate in writing letters worthy an audience.

With all the feelings I’ve felt about sponsorship, I’d been curious about how it felt to be sponsored. While visiting a small, rural medical clinic surrounded by what felt like vacant space as far as the eye could see, I asked this question of mothers, who now grown are World Vision volunteers. They told me it made them feel happy to be sponsored, that someone who didn’t even know them would care enough to help them. They felt proud to have been chosen. They told me that they felt a desire to try harder.World Vision Nicaragua-3

We met with a teacher in a rural school who shared that having been sponsored as a child help him to gain confidence and fueled him to try to help others achieve their dreams. He spoke to us wearing a broad smile on his face and a small child on his hip. His evident care for the young boy led us all to believe him to be the boy’s father, but after further discussion we learned that he was a caring teacher, looking after a young student whose parents hadn’t yet arrived to take him home.World Vision Nicaragua-162

We met a civil engineer who, along with his sister, had been sponsored by a woman from New Zealand. She wrote to tell them that she felt that the best way to help the siblings have a better future was to fund the older brother’s college education so that he could get a job that would support them both. Now, he puts his skills to work as a World Vision staff member, helping to build a brighter future for all children in Nicaragua.

We met mothers who felt grateful that someone would be willing to invest in their child’s future. One felt thankful that she were able to give her children clean water to drink, that there was a stable roof over the one room home and that there was a stable latrine behind the home. Another felt happy for the education World Vision had done around breast feeding that had led to much healthier children in the area.World Vision Nicaragua-11

After personally meeting Valeria, the little girl we sponsor in Nicaragua, I felt grief at bidding her farewell. We both had tears in our eyes and quivering lips as I told her through out translator that I felt so very proud to be her friend. I also felt so very thankful for the opportunity to have gained such an up close look at the hope and possibility that World Vision weaves through all their projects. I feel know that Nicaragua has a brighter future as a result of ordinary people making the choice to share about $1 a day with someone they may never meet, may never hug, may never speak to face-to-face. BUT, I also know that child and that child’s mother will feel the love in that simple act and it may just be the spark that ignites something really big in that child’s life. I invite you to experience the feeling of changing a life today: cause.worldvision.org/salina If there’s one thing I’ve learned – doing something to try to make a difference sure feels a lot better than doing nothing.

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It Takes a Village

World Vision Nicaragua-47.jpgEach time World Vision enters a new community, they do so with the mindset of stabilizing that community in order to break the cycle of extreme poverty holding that community from reaching their full, God-given potential. Entrance always comes with an exit strategy, but it doesn’t come with an end to problems.  Today, I would like to tell you the story of the 582 World Vision volunteers in one of the three regions in which World Vision operates in Nicaragua. I met several of these volunteers last week when I was given an up close look at World Vision’s work in Nicaragua. Their selfless dedication to improving the lives of children allows World Vision to scale their work far beyond what other organizations can do.

Imagine if you were to transform a community and help it become self-sustaining for generations. On one hand, you could do all this for the community in a year or two: build wells, schools, clinics, and stores.  You could use sponsorship dollars to pay for books, uniforms and school fees to attract children to attend school. When you step away, some of this work will remain, but much will return back to the way things were before – the way people are accustomed to and equipped to handle things.

World Vision Nicaragua-8Alternatively, you could partner with community leaders, civic groups, local & national government, other NGOs, parents and youth, taking the time to train those who will remain, long after you have gone.  You could help to build schools, train teachers and help change the culture around education. When parents and civic leaders see the value in children attending school past elementary, when students become mentors who help struggling students learn to read and write, when sponsored children grow up and become teachers: we all win.

The later approach is that taken by World Vision and has been proven to be more effective in the long run because the community is vested in the decision process, they understand the why and they are passionate about helping to create change.  When you take time to develop a community and create opportunity, educated children they will grow to become parents, teachers and civic leaders who will help the next World Vision Nicaragua-162generation achieve even more.  I met some of these people while in Nicaragua who had been sponsored children in their younger years and now are creating a brighter future for the next generation.  They spoke with pride and dignity about the experience of having someone outside their community care about them; it spurred them on to work hard and now to give back to a program they felt gave them so much. Some of the volunteers are mothers of sponsored children and see the benefit of giving their children a better tomorrow. Others, with great gusto, told us that this was their community and they were there to do the hard work to make it better than ever.
Development work is hard work, costly World Vision Nicaragua-6work, slow work, but it pays dividends in transformed communities. By using a network of highly trained volunteers and teaming with other organizations, World Vision can scale their work far beyond what any NGO could do alone.  Volunteers, who have several years training and experience, meet with families and help monitor children for signs of preventable disease & malnutrition, to ensure they are in school and that they have access to needed social services.  When volunteers identify a gap, they work with World Vision to solve for the root cause of the problem. Examples range from providing bikes to children who are not in school because it is too far to walk, or engaging with the Ministry of Health to provide services if a child is ill.  When you sponsor a child, you join hands with thousands of others around the world to create a network of transformation, a network of greatness in the lives of those touched by this work.  Today, I reach my hand out to you and invite you to join this network for good. Will you be bold enough to reach back? cause.worldvision.org/salina And better yet, in addition to supporting this great work, will we allow these people to teach us about the power in working together to create positive outcomes in our own home communities?

Why the American Should Cross the Road

This last week, I had the extreme pleasure of accompanying a group of seven other World Vision volunteers to Nicaragua to get a better look at how World Vision conducts their development work.  What an experience! Today, I would like to tell you the story of one family we met along the way.

World Vision Nicaragua-61We had driven quite a ways down a bumpy, dusty dirt road surrounded by unfamiliar vegetation and homes that could easily fit onto my screened porch. Chickens, a scrawny dog and a pig greeted our arrival when the van finally stopped at our destination.  The grandparents, their seven sons and the son’s families, occupied smalls homes set in a row on the dusty property.  Between the seven sons were thirteen children and more, obviously on the way.

World Vision Nicaragua-91The family occupation is basket weaving, which consists of purchasing long sticks of bamboo from a local grower.  The sticks are transported back to the family’s home where they use a machete to separate the bamboo into the three layers needed to weave baskets. This step takes half of the day, but once it’s complete the weaving process, which takes about 20 minutes per basket, can begin. The finished product is loaded onto the same horse-drawn cart that delivered the bamboo sticks and finished baskets are carted to the market in Granada, a 45 minute drive by car.  The raw bamboo costs the family just over $7, from which they craft 7 baskets that they hope to sell, yielding $50 for their day’s labor. I don’t know about your family, but my family of four can easily spend $50 at lunch; this $50 must cover the expenses for the family of 29 people.

World Vision Nicaragua-85The children absolutely stole my heart. There was one boy in particular who was especially outgoing and soon held my attention in a great peek-a-boo game.  Within minutes, this game had turned into playing soccer and then tag.  Most of the children were barefoot and dust covered.  They thought our sunglasses strange and even more so, the Bandaid I applied the toe of my new friend, who received a cut chasing me across the separated bamboo.

World Vision Nicaragua-73For my part, the sight of the children taking a rest from our game to dip their cups into the large drums of clean water behind the house, the outdoor latrine and the chickens following the children into their homes were all foreign sights. When I’d guessed one of the older girls to be 7, I’d adjusting my expectations to account for the smaller statue of the Nicaraguan people. She was 10.

I asked one of our World Vision hosts if this was a typical living situation for sponsored children in Nicaragua and emphatically nodding, he stated that yes, living conditions in the area where we had visited were very good – as we had seen.  In the north, where the development work was in a much earlier phase and food scarcity was a bigger issue, living conditions would not be as good.World Vision Nicaragua-22 World Vision has helped establish community wells so that families can fill their water drums and cart those drums back to their homes without having to travel more than 1-2 kilometers. They have helped build and support schools so that all children, even those in rural areas, can have access to education.  When these children became malnourished, they worked with the mothers to help train them in nutrition and helped them get necessary staples. It was evident that sponsorship dollars were going far in Nicaragua – far in brining basic necessities, safety, security and opportunity. I appreciated the contentment the people we met with felt over having access to these necessities and felt a pang in envisioning my own life of abundance.

So, why should the American cross the road? To help someone to the other side. To help someone have access to BASIC necessities: water, enough food to keep from malnutrition, access to education, etc.  Sponsorship through World Vision is a partnership: we as sponsors work in partnership with governments, other NGOs, the teachers, parents, volunteers and World Vision staff to bring a better tomorrow to places that will never feel the burden of the abundance so many of us live in today. If you’re ready to join this network of good, click here: cause.worldvision.org/Salina

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