As a mom committed to raising a bilingual and bicultural child, I’m always looking for ways to open up my girl’s mind and perceptions beyond what she’s exposed to in her privileged (by many standards and depending on your perspective) life as a single child in Los Angeles. She goes to a dual language immersion school where she learns mostly in Spanish, but is exposed to the three other languages taught in her school. We also travel every year to El Salvador and Mexico to visit family and be immersed in the cultures my husband and I grew up in. We make sure we surround our home with elements of our heritage and Spanish is spoken and lived here all the time. But I still felt she needed a deeper connection to understand that not everyone in the world has all the things she’s lucky enough to have — including a set of loving parents, health, instant access to food and transportation, books, and so much more things we see as “basics” in our lives.
For years I had been considering sponsoring a child through one of the many non-profits that make it possible, but one day last December I finally opened my laptop to get it done. I realized that now that my daughter was 5 years old — learning to read and write and asking important questions about life itself — it was the ideal time to invest in this sponsorship that would support a child in need as much as it would create a necessary bond for my girl to have with another girl living an alternate experience, yet sharing so much in common.
My girl and I logged on to Save the Children’s sponsorship page and very easily were able to select a child based on what we knew we wanted:
1. Our sponsored child must be a girl. This was my daughter’s implicit request.
2. She must be 5 years old, just like my daughter. We figured it would be beautiful to have them grow up “together” and share in common what girls at that age love, and also realize their differences.
3. She must live in El Salvador. This is the country where I grew up and most of my family still lives in. I wanted her to learn more about a girl living there in underprivileged conditions. I also hoped that one day we could visit her.
Save the Children lets you select based on location, gender and age. We entered our preferences and that’s exactly how we found Brenda — a 5-year-old girl from a town in Ahuachapán, El Salvador. We immediately started our sponsorship (the minimum is $28 per month!) and sent Brenda our first email via our sponsor’s page. I truly had no idea if she would receive it or not.
A couple of months had passed and we decided to spend my girl’s Spring break in El Salvador visiting family. It occurred to me that while we were there we could pay a visit to Brenda. I had no idea if Save the Children did this or not, but I contacted them anyway. They were thrilled and eager to help me coordinate everything through the local office to facilitate our meeting.
To read the story about the actual visit and my daughter’s reaction to meeting Brenda for the first time, go here.
What I want to share now are the things I learned about sponsoring a child that I was totally naive about before this trip. I feel it’s super important to share this because I hesitated for years to sponsor a child out of sheer ignorance of how much my monthly donations could actually impact a child and her community. The impact is real and palpable.
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