Guest post by Shanxi Omoniyi, web editor and writer for Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA).
One of my sweetest childhood memories is writing letters to my family's sponsored child.
My parents have a long history of child sponsorship, and they encouraged us to write to their sponsored children. We were maybe 8 or 9 at the time.
I remember looking at the children's pictures, reading their letters and wondering what their lives were like.
Brenda, CFCA sponsored child in El Salvador.
Today I work as web editor and writer for Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. CFCA is a lay Catholic sponsorship organization serving more than 300,000 children, youth and aging persons around the world.
CFCA's Hope for a Family sponsorship program provides personal attention and direct benefits to children, youth and elderly and their families so they may live with dignity, achieve their potential and participate fully in society.
From my experience, I highly recommend sponsorship for several reasons. It's a practical way to put your faith in action and answer the Gospel call to serve the poor by helping someone in need. (Mt. 25:31-46)
From left are Rosa and Victoria, two elderly women served through CFCA's sponsorship program in Chile. CFCA is the only major U.S.-based sponsorship organization to sponsor the elderly as well as children.
It's also a wonderful opportunity for your whole family to meet another person across geographic, cultural and economic divides.
Tanzania, Uganda, Honduras, Nicaragua – all these countries were labels on a map when I was a child.
When you sponsor someone in another country, though, you make an instant connection to their world. That includes the place where they live.
"I keep a map near my desk with the geographic locations of our family's two sponsored children in Guatemala marked," said CFCA sponsor Paula Kiger. "It has helped me be a lot more aware of how things may impact them (like weather, tropical storms, etc.) and just helps me have a more literal 'grip' on the truth of their existence."
Letters are the primary window you'll have into your sponsored friend's life.
Through correspondence I've learned about sponsored children's families, favorite foods, hobbies, holiday traditions and so much more.
We pray for each other. They become our "family" from another country.
CFCA sponsor Kim Hope and her sponsored child, Nayeli, from the Dominican Republic.
CFCA also offers the opportunity to visit your sponsored friend through mission awareness trips.
These trips are in-depth immersion experiences that introduce sponsors to their friends and families, while also seeing the countries where they live.
"We are so grateful to have been able to go on two trips to Guatemala and to have spent time with our sponsored children, some members of their wonderful family, and dozens of other sponsored children and aged," said CFCA sponsor Elysa Koss. "We hope to go again sometime in the future. It will be like returning to family members."
More than a handout
Recently my newest sponsored child, Victor, sent me a letter from Kenya. The delight of opening and reading it has never grown old.
Recent letter from Victor, my sponsored child in Kenya! His mother wrote while he drew the pictures.
Victor lives in a house built of wooden walls, an iron sheet roof and cement floors. His mother is a widow and had trouble making ends meet before sponsorship. She works as a casual laborer, washing clothes for others to earn a living.
Through my monthly sponsorship contribution, Victor's able to go to school and have enough to eat. He even gets a birthday and Christmas present through CFCA.
Beyond the physical benefits, I hear through his letters about the encouragement sponsorship provides. Victor's grades have been consistently improving, and his mother belongs to a CFCA mothers group where she can meet other mothers of sponsored children for community support.
CFCA mothers groups and parent groups in communities around the world also offer support through livelihood initiatives that help empower parents in their efforts to earn additional income and build a path out of poverty for their families.
One of my favorite quotes is from Mother Teresa: "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."
To me sponsorship is a small thing that shows great love. It provides hope not only to Victor and his family, but also to me. While I can't change the world, I can help change Victor's world. That makes all the difference.
Try it and see. You'll be amazed at the difference sponsorship can make – not only in the life of a child or elderly friend, but in yours and your family's as well!