Meeting Our Sponsored Child- And Why Sponsoring is Worth It!

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Different than I Expected

My introduction to the inner workings of Children International was not what I was expecting. Before we arrived in Calcutta to begin working with the organization, I found out that CI has community centers all over India that handle the tasks associated with caring for sponsored children. These centers run health and education programs for the children in the community.

Even after I found out about the community centers and the services they provide, I imagined them looking like large office buildings or something of the sort. I was not expecting the homey feel of the centers, and how a small amount of space is put to such good use. We saw three centers during our first two days, and each of them had a very personal feel. Children were not treated like they were one of over a million sponsored children that CI has- they were called by their names by the staff members, and treated like a member of a family.

Home Sweet CI Center

I also had no idea that as well as supporting sponsored children directly, the money given also pays for nutritional, community, and educational programs that benefit all of the sponsored children in the area (and their families and communities!) So much is done out of the centers that is not simply a requirement for sponsored children.

After being introduced to such a well-run system of centers, I was excited to meet our sponsored child and see what her center was like. We have been sponsoring Tajmira for a little over a year and a half, and I couldn’t wait to meet her. I also wondered if a center in a more rural area, like the one in which Tajmira lives, would be very different from the ones I have seen the heart of Calcutta.

A Long Journey, and Another Warm Welcome!

After a two or three hour drive (that was supposed to take an hour and a half- welcome to traffic in Calcutta!) we arrived at the Tajmira’s center, and were given a warm welcome by the staff members there.  As with all of the other centers, some of the children did  cultural dances to welcome us, and they were awesome as always. I still can’t get over how talented the children are here.

Warming Up to Us

After a little bit, Tajmira arrived with her younger sister, who is also a sponsored child. We were introduced, and she was a little shy-which is completely understandable when strange white people are surrounding you and talking to you. A few minutes after we met, her mother arrived with her baby sister, and we decided that it would be nice to all have lunch together at the center. Being with the rest of her family made her more comfortable, and soon she was smiling at us at the table answering the questions we asked with the help of one of the staff members, who translated.

Special Gifts and Shock!

After lunch, we were invited to spend some time visiting Tajmira’s house. The house was small, but neat as a pin. Looking around, we realized that out of the three pieces of furniture that were in the house, two of them had been bought using special gift money that we sent Tajmira.  I was shocked! I remember getting the picture of the cabinet they had bought before we left on the trip, but I had no idea that it was one of the only pieces of furniture they had. The thought that if we hadn’t sent a little extra money to Tajmira, her family’s house would be almost bare- that was something I didn’t expect to find on our visit. Her father arrived while we were visiting; he was bringing his bicycle rickshaw home- it was another thing that our special gifts has given to the family. Instead of having to rent a rickshaw, Tajmira’s father now has his own and can work independently.

Not Just a Picture Anymore

Later on we played badminton with Tajmira and some of the youth group members at the center, which was really fun. Meeting such a sweet family made the sponsorship process so much more real for me. Before this trip, our sponsor child was a girl in a photograph on our fridge. We got some letters from her, but for some reason they didn’t seem fully real to me. They were handwritten, but I didn’t register the fact that a real child, with real hopes and dreams, and a real family, was the one putting pencil to paper to write to me.

Write to Your Child!

If you have a sponsor child, I highly recommend that the next time you get a letter (or any time!) you send a reply. It’s so easy- you can even do it online. And you cannot imagine the joy that a sponsored child feels when they receive a letter from their sponsor. Some children save the letters they have received for years, absolutely cherishing them.

Sponsorship- A Worthwhile Endeavor

And if you don’t have a sponsor child, consider looking into it. You are not just throwing money at a child when you sponsor- you are funding both that child’s education and health, but programs that the child’s entire community can benefit from. Sponsor money funds scholarships for dedicated students to go to university, food for children who are experiencing 2nd and 3rd degree wasting, youth councils that teach teens to be skilled leaders, and community awareness programs to prevent child labor and early marriage. Your contribution goes a long, long way.

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Posted on: January 21, 2011 | Categories: Blog, Children International, Education, Health Care, Health Education- Calcutta, India, Poverty

 

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