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Entries in power of education (12)

What Sponsorship Does Today... And Tomorrow

Does sponsorship make a difference?

You may wonder about that when you pray over the photo of a child you've put on your fridge, or when you get communications from us in the mail. This commitment I've made, does it matter?

A few months ago, two staff from One Child Matters headquarters in Colorado Springs traveled through Ethiopia and Kenya on their way to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

As always, God directed their steps, bringing two children to the projects just so they could meet. Our friends had other meetings on their schedule, but when they met these two, it was obvious that God had something to say to us through them.

First: Antony. He attends a One Child Matters project in Kenya which helps him succeed in the nearby government school. Antony was eager to tell us all about his sponsors, even begging us to go to his house so he could show us their picture.

Antony's home is a simple mud structure, and when our friends stepped inside the dark hut, they were astonished to see a shelf built into the mud wall. Antony's mother had ensured her son would have a place to study by candelight. It is that little mud shelf you see at the beginning of this video:

Antony's love for his sponsor is so clear, so profound. His prayers are sincere, and their photo cherished.

We wanted to share Antony's story with you because sometimes it's hard to see the difference you are making on this side of eternity. But oh, just imagine the reunion in heaven when Antony will finally meet those who invested in him!

We pray that as you seek ways to make a difference in the life a child today, you recognize that sponsoring a child is effective and important. Which is why we've been talking so much about Hiwot, a young woman in Ethiopia who was sponsored from age 8 until she graduated.

Hiwot's gratitude was so evident, we asked her to share her story with all of our sponsors. Today, Hiwot has a bright future, and her heart for God continues to grow. Take a few moments and learn more about how sponsorship continues to shape Hiwot's life.

We love how sponsorship reflects the love of God into the heart of a child in need. And we are so grateful for your partnership in transforming the lives of children all over the world. Thank you for standing up, for proving that one child matters to you!

Reading And Writing Can Right Your Child's World

September 8th is International Literacy Day, designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1965 to focus on the development of a crucial life skill for people all over the world. 

Literacy is traditionally defined as the ability to read and write, and to gain further knowledge through those skills.

In the United States, it’s the building block of all education, and for many, a basic right. The U.S. literacy rate is estimated at 99%.

If we look at the countries we serve, a few countries can come close to that. The Philippines, Jordan, and Zimbabwe have literacy rates above 92%. The Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Kenya, and Swaziland are all in the high 80s, and if we were listing these by highest rates, Honduras wouldn’t be far behind with just over 84% literacy rate.

And then for the second half of the countries where we minister, literacy rates plummet. Cambodia hovers around 74%, still recovering from the devastation of the Khmer Rouge era in the late 1970s that specifically targeted the educated classes and wiped out their education system.

India has 62% literacy; although barely half of all women over the age of 15 know how to read, 3 out of 4 men do, highlighting a disparity in educational opportunity based on gender. Nepal boasts just over 60% literacy with a similar breakdown along gender lines.

Bangladesh and Mozambique both struggle with a 56% literacy rate. Haiti’s rate in the most recent figures before the 2010 earthquake devastated its capital, found less than half (48%) of Haitians could read. And Ethiopia comes in last for our countries with an astonishing 39% literacy rate.

If those statistics didn’t make your eyes glaze over, we’re glad. Because you are making a tremendous difference in the lives of children who may be the first in their families to learn to read. Because of your sponsorship, your child can continue to receive an education and the support he or she needs to succeed. Because of sponsorship, we will see those country statistics change -- for the better.

Studies show that the gift of literacy continues to give – women with higher rates of education have healthier children and make more money. Older children who can read can encourage their younger siblings, ensuring more children stay in school.

We’ve shared before how your letters are mini-literacy lessons, giving your child (and possibly other family members) a chance to practice both reading and writing.

Your letters also break through the isolation of poverty and shatter the messages children hear through their circumstances – that no one cares, that they are the only ones who struggle, that they’ll never amount to more than this.

That’s why we’re focusing on education this year, because as a sponsor you can play a major role in encouraging your child’s schooling. Over the years, your sponsorship ensures your child can get the help they need to succeed while gaining confidence as they discover that the God who created them in His image also loves them dearly. We think that’s the best foundation for the future growth of any child, and we are so grateful for you for helping us build it!

If you haven’t sent in your “What I Learned” letter, please do so! We’ve received thousands of them, and they are incredible pieces of encouragement and strength for the children. Thank you for partnering with us. 

Children Who Say “I Have A Dream”

Today is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. On August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 people gathered to demand equal opportunity: they marched "for jobs and freedom." Martin Luther King, Jr.'s moving proclamation -- what we now call the "I Have A Dream" speech -- has challenged and inspired this nation ever since.

As we remember that powerful time in U.S. history, we also look around the world at the countries we serve and are reminded that many children are denied opportunities to achieve their own potential at nearly every turn, often due to circumstances and cultures that formed long before their time.

Husni in 2008, with his slum behind him. Dreaming is a rare privilege for children living in extreme
poverty – but as sponsors, we’re in the dream business. The faithfulness of your support opens doors once forcefully closed for children living in rural Kenya and the refugee camps of the Middle East and other areas around the world.

In the slums of Delhi, India, we have several projects who have seen how sponsorship nourishes the dreams of children.

In the neighborhood where Husni grew up, darkness and hopelessness seemed to be everywhere. His father was a day laborer and struggled to find enough work to support Husni, his brother and three sisters. When his mother learned of the child development center opening, she rushed to enroll young Husni in the program for young children. Because of the lack of stable income, the family could only afford to send one child to school, and that was Husni.

Husni’s family faced many challenges. His father died in 2007, leaving only his mother to care for the children. She began selling vegetables house to house to try and make ends meet; Husni’s brother fell in with bad company and became an alcoholic.

Husni with his mother this year.Husni worked hard to help his mother, but he never let his dream of finishing school die. The staff and teachers at the child development center inspired him and kept him on steady moral footing through the Bible teachings. Many of Husni’s young friends became aimless and ran in the wrong crowds, but not Husni. Because of the influence of the teachers and staff, Husni knew that he was a young man with purpose and promise.

As Husni matured and succeeded in school, the project staff recommended him for a diploma program in computers run by the government of Delhi, and Husni was accepted! He continues to help his mother and always dreams big. “I want to achieve great things in life, and I want to help other children who are suffering and have no one to stand with them,” Husni says. “I know that whatever I am today it is because of this program and the love of my sponsor.”

Alleemah in 2008.

Aleemah also lives with many dreams, but this was not always the case. Although her family was considered part of an upper caste and middle class, things fell apart after her father became mentally ill and began wandering the streets. With no income, Aleemah’s mother tried to become a day laborer but could not make enough to feed Aleemah and her older brother and sister. The family lost everything.

Moving into the slums of Delhi was difficult on everyone, but Aleemah’s mother suffered the most. A month before her death, Aleemah’s mother went to the local One Child Matters program and pleaded with the staff to take care of her children if something happened to her. After their mother died, Aleemah and her siblings were forced out of their rented room and had nowhere to turn but the child development center.

Aleemah looks back on that time as the valley of death, but now she looks forward to a great future. “I could see the hand of a living God as I studied and understood that the Bible talked to me. The loving God was taking care of me, and I could not help but fall in love with this great and mighty God.”

Aleemah today. “My God and my sponsor stood with me during these hardships, they helped me find hope and life,” she says. Aleemah is finishing her 12th grade and wants to become a nurse to help other children. “One Child Matters helped snatch me from death and hopelessness,” she shares. “I have been sustained and educated, and I live with a purpose. And I am eternally grateful.”

You can also help a child rise above the fear and hopelessness of extreme poverty through sponsorship. Sponsors are tangible reminders of God's love during the most formative times in a child's life. Thank you for considering the unique opportunities sponsorship provides for children who can go forward with purpose, because they often go on to selflessly help others!

Your Letters Are Amazing!

For weeks now, we’ve received mail bin after mail bin of your “When I was in school” letters.

And just to be clear, they are so wonderful! So many of you have gone above and beyond what we imagined with these letters.

We asked you to include photos or to draw pictures of your own time in school to help emphasize that you understand the importance of school, and that you experienced the challenges and joys of this unique time of life yourself.

That’s been our favorite part – you all are so creative and so generous with your photos! We know that the children and their families truly treasure photos of you, and these will be no exception!

Check out a few of your letters that really moved us! Thank you for including your sponsored children in your lives in such a creative way!

We loved how this sponsor highlighted specific phrases in the background for encouragement!

This sponsor included a drawing by her daughter -- we LOVED this! We know that many of you don't have copies of your old school pictures, but your sponsored child would love to see any sort of picture from you, we promise!

Yet so many of you chose to send your own personal photos. If you would prefer to make a copy and use that to send on, your sponsored child will still love it. But we thoroughly enjoyed these blasts from the past! We highlighted a few more of these photos below so you can see the detail.

We also really appreciate that you took the time to include captions. Noting your age in the photo is a great point of reference for your child. What a neat photo!

Here's another great one. Some team sports shots never change, do they?

Here's a wonderful class photo. We are so glad the sponsor pointed out where she was in the photo. In some regions, especially India, similar class photos still occur.

If you haven't sent in your letter, there's still time! And if you couldn't seem to find a photo for this activity, please send more photos when you get the chance. They don't have to be school photos, but your child will treasure any glimpse of you.

Thank you for all you do for the children, for sacrificing your own personal mementos and photos to encourage a child halfway across the world.


Genn: A Sponsorship Success Story

At first glance, Genn blends right in with her students. A slight young woman, you’d easily think she was only 12 or 13. Sweet and shy, Genn has undergone tremendous transformation.

Ten years ago, life was tenuous. Genn, one of five children, knew that her widowed mother, Francine, was struggling to support Genn and her siblings as well as their grandmother. They lived in a three-sided hut (often called a squatter’s hut) made out of scavenged materials; the entire family slept on the floor. They cooked meals over a fire outside and had no bathroom.

Every day was a struggle for Genn’s family. Genn and her siblings should have been in elementary school, but often her mother needed them to help take vegetables into the city to sell. On the days they were able to attend, many times they only made it a half day – the children were so malnourished and weak that they were often ill.

At age nine, Genn and three of her siblings were enrolled at Happy Horizons Academy, a One Child Matters program. The project found work for Genn’s mother in the kitchen. With more stable income, the children were able to stay in school, and the health of the entire family improved.

Genn began to enjoy school and never missed the Saturday and Sunday group activities where they learned about God’s love and how to be healthier and happier citizens of the world. The faithfulness of her childrens’ sponsors made an impact on Francine, who often remarked that she learned about God and how He took care of them through the love and kindness of the others.

As she grew older, Genn wanted to find a way to reinvest what was given to her – the project had restored her and her family to health, they had nurtured them with love, and they had given her hope for the future. She announced she wanted to go to college and become a teacher.

Genn excelled in her first few semesters at the college, and her siblings continued to do well at the project. Her mother, now a full-time cook at Happy Horizons, was providing for the family. But then Francine fell ill with a fever and was taken to the hospital. Within a few days, Francine died.

The family was devastated. Three of Genn’s siblings were still at home with their elderly grandmother. Without an income, they could not pay for her mother’s funeral expenses, and Genn could not pay to finish college.

And yet, God continued to be faithful. The sponsors stood by the children, and the project pooled resources to pay for the funeral for their friend and fellow coworker. Genn qualified for an extra scholarship and returned to school.

Earlier this year, she graduated and fulfilled a dream: she was hired to teach at the Happy Horizons Academy. Now Genn is providing for her siblings while investing in children in her community.

Genn looks back on her time at the project as absolutely formative, and as she graduated, she sent a letter to her sponsor:

"No words can express how grateful I am to have a sponsor like you. Thanks to God so much for that. After four years in college, now I am soon to graduate and it would not be possible without your kind heart and support. Thank you so much for leading me towards this achievements. You are a great part of my success. Thank you. Thank you so much! I know God will bless you more and more and give you strength always. May you help and change more lives. May God take care of you always. I love you dear sponsor."

Genn’s sponsor shared this with us and provided her own acknowledgement:

The thing is, I think of Genn as so much more than a "sponsor child".... she is like my own daughter. It is I who has been blessed by God to have her in my life. I thank God for HIS faithfulness when it came to being able to help support Genn through the years. Genn, I am so proud of how hard you have worked in spite of all the challenges you have faced... you are beautifully and wonderfully made! God truly is amazing that He brought you into my life!

Beyond The Classroom

For years, our mission has driven us forward: to equip children in developing nations to reach their God-given potential by creating opportunities for spiritual, physical, social, mental and emotional development.

Over the past two summers, you have helped us address spiritual needs as you wrote out prayers for your child. Last year you learned about the way we address your child’s physical health needs at the project level.

So this summer, as we focus on education and that crucial level of mental development, it may help to think outside the classroom.

As we shared earlier, less than half of our programs are schools who provide formal education. The rest focus on educational activities and support, from field trips to group and individual tutoring if needed.

Yet to continue helping children reach their God-given potential, the educational elements in our programs must venture beyond a blackboard and textbook. Our staff work hard to develop vocational programs – things we call “life skills” such as gardening, barbering, and wood working to help children gain training and experience to help them later in life.

We were thrilled when we saw the fruit of these vocational skills on children in our programs in the Philippines – because of a government-certified sewing program, older students are learning tailoring techniques. And this year they made the uniforms for children in the Happy Horizons Academy.

They created the design and were taught to measure and cut pieces, not using a pattern to ensure the uniforms fit their fellow customers. They are paid per piece, a portion of which is put into their own savings account so when they graduate the program, they have funds set aside to help them on their way.

They also make all the bedding including sheets and pillow cases. They sew curtains for the buildings, make the physical education uniforms, costumes for plays, and nurses uniforms.

Because the program is government-certified, this invaluable experience can help the students get employment at factories or small shops – some are already dreaming of starting their own business!

We’ll share more about other countries and the vocational programs they’ve developed for the older children. We praise God for how he is building the confidence of students in these programs – something especially critical in impoverished areas where educational opportunities are minimal, and vocational options even less.

What do you think of this program? Can you see the pride they students take in their products?

Letters From All Over!

Have you sent in your letter yet? We’ve been thrilled with your response as the letters have poured in from all over the country!

We've got so many bins, filled with your heartfelt messages and fun school memories. Going through them has been so enjoyable!

If you haven’t sent your letter in, take heart and take a moment to fill out the letter for your child. Perhaps your own children are getting ready to start school – maybe you can take a photo of them with their backpacks, ready for their first day!

Schooling is such a huge part of your sponsored child's life. Thanks for carving some time out of your own day to share memories and advice from your own school days!

And tell us -- what was your favorite part of the letter to do?

A Colorful Guide To What We Provide

Sponsorship is a unique gift for a child. Your support opens doors, builds up confidence, and encourages your child’s heart.

Because we often emphasize the importance educational support plays in your child’s life, it’s natural for many sponsors to assume that all of our programs are schools.

Although the roots of our ministry trace back to schools in India, less than half of our programs are schools in the formal sense. Roughly 55% of our programs are child development centers (CDCs), and children attend on certain afternoons or Saturdays for fun activities that help them learn and grow.

Do schools and child development centers differ much in what they provide for children?

Yes and no – because both ministry settings are designed toward meeting the holistic needs of the children, there is some overlap. If something will help a child reach their God-given potential, we want to provide it.

Each project and program is designed to meet the needs of children in a particular region, yet those needs may vary greatly. Some services are provided by the government, as well. Does it help to see the common elements for our ministries in 15 countries around the world?

Sponsorship Impact: Redefining "Smart"

 The question was simple, yet the young boy’s answer shocked us.

“I’m not smart,” he said.

The Medical Mercy volunteer had asked Melvin if he felt okay, if he had anything wrong with him – a common question for older children to help the teams identify potential issues during checkups. Most kids reveal stomach aches or coughs. Not Melvin.

We wondered if we heard him correctly but when asked again, Melvin repeated his answer.

“I’m not smart.”

Melvin is 10 years old and lives with his mother and two younger sisters in a simple home near the project. His father had abandoned the family years ago.

Dee and I had sponsored Melvin for several months before I went down to the Dominican Republic. Our staff brought him from his project to the Mission Valiente Child Development Center (also known as The Baseball Project) so we could meet him. The baseball field was a flurry of activity, and Melvin and I were both hanging back, so I gestured toward the basketball court.

We connected that day as I taught him to dribble and pass, and sports became our language. First basketball, then soccer. His face lit up as he picked up new skills.

I kept hearing his response in my head. “I’m not smart.” We had consulted with the school counselor, and she relayed that one of his sisters is two years younger, but she and Melvin are in the same grade. “Melvin struggles in his studies,” she said, “but everything seems to come easily for his sister.”

Knowing more of Melvin's story helped me realize that I had a unique opportunity to speak into his life that day, as a sponsor and a father figure. I knew God was prompting me to reframe Melvin’s idea of himself.

Dee and I sat with the project director and Melvin’s mother as I revealed all I had learned from him that day. You ARE smart, I said again and again, reminding him how quickly he picked up new skills on the court and on the field. That's not easy to do. It takes real intelligence, and he had it.

I tried to encourage him to ask for help in school, and reiterated how important he was to God and to Dee and me. The project director and I discussed the tutoring options available for Melvin, and we made sure he could get the help he needed to grow in confidence.

It would take practice and determination for Melvin to succeed, but we needed him to know that we believed in him and would pray for him.

Sometimes all it takes is encouragement from somebody on the outside to let a child know that they are okay, that they are greatly loved, and that they can do it. By the end of that day, we had a special bond.

Soon it was time to say goodbye. Melvin and his mother were walking away when suddenly Melvin turned back and ran to me, throwing his arms around me in a long hug.

Once again I was shocked – in the best way – and so glad. I can only pray Melvin is learning as much as I have learned from him.

The Essential Third Question

As we shared yesterday, receiving a letter can be a great encouragement – and a wonderful educational opportunity for your sponsored child.

Of all the questions we included on the “When I Was In School” letter, we agreed that one of the most significant answers your sponsored child will read is the third one:

I had a difficult time learning about _______________________.

Why did we include this question? We want our letters to be uplifting and inspiring, so how can listing our academic struggles encourage a child?

Do you remember your most difficult subject in school? I had several – mostly in math and science. I was a voracious reader, and I relished my history and English classes. Yet one particular teacher shook my confidence in math in late elementary school… and it seems like (looking at my grades after that point) I never quite recovered.

The further I went in school, the more complex the classes became, and the more my misery grew. It was so hard to ask for help, but I had many resources at my disposal -- friends who were more than happy to sit with me as I pushed through, teachers to meet with after school, and most importantly parents who supported me and made sure I could get the help I needed.

Now put yourself in your sponsored child’s shoes. Perhaps they are the first in their family to go to school – maybe their parents aren’t literate and can’t offer help. Many teachers in the developing world work second or third jobs and aren’t available to help. Classrooms are crowded and competitive.

A child’s academic confidence – even in the best of environments – is fragile. Education isn’t an expectation or a right for a child in poverty, and small struggles may quickly build into seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Your sponsorship provides incredible educational support – and we will share more about that in coming weeks. Before we get there, however, I really want you to focus on that third question. Imagine learning that your sponsor – the person you so admire, the person you know prays for
you – also struggled with a subject in school.

Maybe you can share with your child how you were able to overcome it, or what you learned from those struggles. The best metaphor I’ve seen yet is from a sponsor who knew her sponsored boy loved soccer, and shared how practicing math problems helped her strengthen her skills. She compared it to the need to learn to juggle a ball with your weak foot to make sure you could be a strong, well-rounded soccer player. What a powerful way to share some helpful hints!

That’s why the second side of the letter has space for a message for your sponsored child – consider it an opportunity to share encouragement from your own seasons of struggle.

We’d love to hear from you – how did you answer the third question, and what advice would you have for your sponsored child?

Kate is a regular writer for the One Child Matters blog, and continues to be amazed that God saw fit to find a position that uses her passion for writing and general geopolitical nerdness to help others see how sponsorship furthers His kingdom!

The Lesson Of A Letter

Each summer, we send you a special mailing to help you bless your sponsored child. When we first did this in 2010, you sent postcards that said You Are Loved! In 2011, you wrote out prayers for your child’s well-being and future. Last year, you focused your prayers on your child’s health.

We have been so encouraged by your heartfelt messages and prayers, and we know the sponsored children in our programs are even more blessed by it!

With that in mind, we are asking you to write another letter – this time focused on your own education along with a special message for your child. Why are we focusing on education?

Education is so vitally important to breaking the cycle of poverty that we try and make every activity an opportunity to learn and grow.

Did you know that receiving a letter from you helps your sponsored child learn?

We've written before that a letter from you is a tangible reminder that they are loved. The encouragement they receive cannot be underestimated.

Yet letters can be more than that! Reading a letter is an interactive literacy lesson, and one loaded with joy and delight because each note is a gift, something wholly devoted to them.

Receiving a letter is also a chance to exercise reasoning. As they read through what you wrote, your child can connect the dots from previous questions they may have asked and formulate new ones. They get to practice their penmanship, too!

All of these are new skills rarely if ever taught (let alone practiced) in a traditional classroom in their country, yet each is an incredibly valuable skill to have later in life.

And what if your child is young and doesn’t know how to read yet? Can you imagine how much more eager to learn so they can read your letters again and again? Just look at how Miguel responded to a letter:

“Miguel says hello. Child is 7 years old now. He also says he likes school. He also says he wants to learn writing for writing his letters by himself. – Miguel, Dominican Republic

Tomorrow we’ll share why it’s important to share about your own school experience. In the meantime, take a moment to read over these snippets from other child letters.

"Thank you for loving me so much and sent me a nice message, and soon learn it by heart and use it in my life. I love you very much." – Damarais, Dominican Republic

“I have received your sweet letter thank you so much for the lovely letter. I can feel your love through every line of your letter that you loves me so much. Now I am in class III and I am doing hard work in my study. My favorite subject is Bengali. I do pray to my Lord Jesus Christ for your wellbeing. I am fine here. Please take my love." – Your sponsored child Pratik, India

“I forgive you for take so long to reply to my lovely letter. I know education is very important because will save me all the rest of my life. I like you so much. My God bless you garden and the vegetables. Did you enjoy soccer? I enjoy it.” – Tebesutfu, Swaziland

"Your letter is in my hand, I have read it so many times. I like to read it again and again, thank you so much for your nice letter and help. You have written that God is wonderful and he forgives us again and again, but I want to know is it necessary to ask forgiveness if we say lies for something good? Thank you for praying for me to be a doctor." – Sangeeta, India

“Thank you for spending your time to wrote me a letter. Even if it’s just a letter it was valuable because it shows your love and care for me. I am so lucky that God loves and cares for us. And I also have you as my sponsor. You know what I feel when you sent me a letter? I am so happy that I almost reach the stars in the sky… – Ivan, the Philippines

How has your sponsored child expressed their thanks for your letters?

The Power Of Education: More To Come!