Saturday mornings meant one thing when I was a kid – CARTOONS! Tom & Jerry, The Smurfs, Muppet Babies, The Jetsons, Garfield, Alvin and the Chipmunks. I’d even watch “boy stuff” like He-Man and Transformers. I would be so bummed when noon rolled around and the last of the Saturday morning animations ended that I’d often just sit and stare at the television for a while.
It was during these post-cartoon periods that I would sometimes wind up watching the infomercials for charitable organizations with celebrities like Sally Struthers pleading for the audience to open their hearts and sponsor a child. In far off places like Africa and Asia children were dying of malnutrition and treatable diseases. “For the price of a daily cup of coffee” I could change a child’s life.
Even back then I remember thinking about the discrepancy of it all. There I was sitting in my nice home with wall-to-wall carpeting and a remote control TV shoving Fruity Pebbles into my face, while somewhere in the world kids my age didn’t have enough to eat. Or clothing to wear. Or the chance to go to school. It boggles a young mind. You feel helpless to make a difference, because where are you going to find 67¢ a day? So you switch off the TV, shake the sadness from your head and go pester your little brother. (Sorry, Travis.)
Throughout my adulthood I’ve continued to be interested in sponsor-a-child programs. Once I did have that 67¢ a day to give, I would sometimes look up different charities supporting impoverished communities both overseas and domestically. However, my own cynicism, fueled by charity news scandals of the past, always stopped me. I felt I just couldn’t be sure how much of that money was actually supporting the children they were showing in those photos.
On this trip we’ve had the chance to see with our own eyes what it means to sponsor a child. We’ve walked through the facilities and met the staff who are caring for children and families in need. In the process, my skepticism has been replaced with admiration and respect for what these places are able to do with such a small amount of money. Certainly, I can’t speak for all organizations with a sponsor-a-child fundraising program, but I can for the ones we’ve worked with in our service projects. They’ve been inspiring and joyful places where both volunteers and paid staff give children the nourishment, education, enrichment and love they need to live their best possible lives. Stansberry Children’s Home and Talita Cumi in Santa Cruz, Bolivia are two organizations our family now believes in and will continue to support into the future.
We are now sponsoring a girl named Araceli Calustro Pereira, or Ara for short. She’s 14 years old and attends the 5th grade. Ara is the oldest of four siblings who all came to live at Stansberry Children’s Home about two years ago. We had the chance to meet Ara on our last day in Santa Cruz. Standing at about Liv’s height, Ara is a tiny girl with a big smile. We told her the girls can practice their Spanish as they write to her, and maybe she’ll get to practice her English as well. Watching Ara smile, laugh and joke with her friends, one would never know the trauma she’s experienced in her young life.
In addition to a monthly payment to the organization, we’ll also be sending Ara letters and gifts for special occasions, like her birthday which is coming up in November. Ara will be our connection to this journey in the years to come, and I we hope she and our girls can develop a friendship between our two continents.