by Ann Peachman Stewart

“Shayla lost her parents in a brutal car accident at a young age, and Paula was abandoned by both her parents by the time she was nine. With no education or finances to go through schooling, they did what they had to in order to survive; more often than not, those things weren’t good.”
It begins with a child.

A child like Jeison, who lives in Honduras. Two years ago he was a lethargic shadow, sitting on the sidelines while the other children played. He was listless and thin, attending school but not able to fully participate because he was malnourished, which affected his ability to concentrate. Recently, Schools of Hope through ChildCARE Plus began sponsoring children at his school, and Jeison was put at the top of the list. When a team from Bethel Pentecostal Church in Stratford, Ontario, visited the area and heard about Jeison, they asked to sponsor him. His eyes grew wide, and his face lit up with an enormous smile. Jeison knew sponsorship would change his life.

It begins with a child but it doesn’t stop there. Jeison’s parents, soft-spoken and hard-working, knew what this meant for their son. Jeison is fortunate to live in a house with only five people, as many homes in his community hold more than one family. He also has a father living with them, another rarity. His mother knew that sponsorship would make some of the dreams she had for her son a reality. “My husband and I never had the chance to go on and be somebody. But I want things to be different for my children. I want them to have the chance at an education, and for them to become someone.”

It begins with a child but touches the global workers. Randy and Judy Lundrigan tell the story of how they were drawn to work in Honduras. “I had taken an early retirement after a bout with a rare form of cancer, and Judy had also retired early due to a chronic illness. Somehow we ended up in Honduras, visiting friends and helping them during the winter of 2004. It was a difficult and challenging experience. We had never seen such poverty or experienced such dire need. When we returned to Canada, we could not get the Honduran kids out of our hearts, so we took a team from northern Ontario PAOC churches in the spring of 2005. The rest is history. We have served in Honduras full time since January 2006.”

It begins with a child, but sponsors—especially those who meet sponsored children—are changed. Tabitha Wells, a journalist from Orangeville, Ontario, travelled twice to Guatemala and was impacted by the effect of sponsorship on education. Without sponsorship, many children had no chance to receive an education or were limited to Grade 3. At that point, their parents need them at home to help make a living. Their chance to break from the cycle of poverty is limited without an education. Wells reflected on her own schooling. As a gifted child in the Canadian school system, she took it for granted and didn’t apply herself. “I figured I was learning it anyway, so trying didn’t really matter.” In Guatemala, she met children for whom sponsorship changed their lives.

Wells saw sponsorship from both sides. “I had an opportunity to meet and connect with young adults who had not been sponsored. During our recent visit, we spent time at a girls’ orphanage, which was like a group home. All the girls had been in trouble with the law and sentenced to spend time at the orphanage, where they spent most of their day locked behind the walls of the home. Two girls in particular connected with me immediately, and we spent time talking about their lives and their stories. Both came from poor backgrounds: Shayla lost her parents in a brutal car accident at a young age, and Paula was abandoned by both her parents by the time she was nine. With no education or finances to go through schooling, they did what they had to in order to survive; more often than not, those things weren’t good. Now, at the ages of 17 and 18, they want to clean up and live good lives, but their education is minimal.”

In contrast to this, Wells visited the William Cornelius Vocational Training Centre in Guatemala City, a ChildCARE Plus facility for students in high school. It is ranked as one of the top education and skills training centres in Guatemala. Built entirely by volunteers and volunteer funds, the young people who attend are delighted to be there and are aware that they are being given a chance at life through education.

It begins with a child, but that child must be matched with a sponsor. Nicole Carroll, bilingual ChildCARE Plus administrator, tells how her work with child sponsorship has touched her. “It’s incredible to see how thankful the children are for the help from their sponsors and how it truly changes the outcome of their lives. I had the privilege of speaking to one sponsor on the phone who actually used to be a sponsored child. Because of the help from her sponsor, she received an education and moved to Canada to find work. She is now living a comfortable life in Canada with her husband and family and sponsors two children herself.”

Becca Whittey, also a ChildCARE Plus administrator, sees the change in the children. “The biggest ‘win’ to me is when I’ve read a child’s story before sponsorship, which brings me to tears at times, and then see their pictures after sponsorship. There are times when it’s hard to recognize a child, based on their pre-sponsorship picture, because they were so malnourished before. When the sponsored child’s picture comes in, they have put on a healthy amount of weight, and their face is fuller. It’s a great sign that the child is benefiting from sponsorship.”

It begins with a child. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14, NIV).

It begins with you.

ERDO (Emergency Relief & Development Overseas) is the humanitarian agency of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. ERDO is involved in four key areas: Crisis Response, Food Relief, ChildCARE Plus (Child Sponsorship), and Community Development. David Adcock is the CEO. Visit www.erdo.ca.

Ann Peachman Stewart is a freelance author from Mississauga, ON, and a longtime ERDO supporter.

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