Supporters Like You

Photo by Luis Cocón for ChildFund International.

Jonathan and Angela Roberts

When Jonathan and Angela Roberts first decided to become sponsors in the early ’90s – fresh out of college, newly engaged and just beginning to build their life together – they never dreamed they’d go on to support the transformation of an entire community in Kenya.

Continue reading Jonathan and Angela's story

It all started with Phillip, a little boy who lived in rural Wamunyu, about 45 minutes outside of Nairobi. The Pennsylvania couple committed to give a modest monthly donation to support him. “Going over our finances, we were able to make that dollar amount and put it in the budget. That’s what drew us to ChildFund,” Angela says. “It wasn’t much, but we said, ‘We’re going to do it. We’re going to stick with it.’”

With each passing year, they challenged themselves to take their giving to the next level — and then the next. “We’re very goal-oriented,” Angela laughs. As their own financial resources grew, the couple gradually took on four, then eight, then 10 total sponsorships, all in Wamunyu.

They donated livestock and tackled projects that would benefit the entire community, like building a water well and supporting an early childhood development center with toys and supplies.

“People don’t get to choose where they’re born or who they’re born to. But we’ve all been blessed,” Jonathan says.

“We’ve all got different amounts of time, talent and treasure, and we have a responsibility to try to leave the planet a better place.

”Sometimes, he says, meeting that responsibility requires taking a leap of faith — like the time when they were about to make an offer on a new house just before ChildFund called to request funding for critical renovations to Wamunyu’s elementary schools.

Spoiler alert: 2,000 children in rural Kenya will soon be learning in classrooms with real windows and roofs that don’t leak.

What motivates the Robertses to make ChildFund such a big part of their lives? Angela says they both have a sincere love for children. “Children remind you that the gift of life is just that: a gift.”

Amy Bell

Philanthropy was a touchstone for Amy Bell, a young Texan who loved horses and travel and children. In her late 20s, she began sponsoring 5-year-old Emmanuel, who lives in Zambia, and the two began a lively exchange of photos and letters. Five years later, in 2014, Amy suddenly died at 33 from a pulmonary embolism. But their connection lived on.

Continue reading Amy's story

Amy had left instructions for Emmanuel’s continuing support; and her parents, Larry and Ellen Bell, immediately took up the sponsorship.

The Bell family’s generosity soon grew to encompass Emmanuel’s entire community. In 2015 their donation of $100,000 added two new classrooms to Emmanuel’s school (where students used to pack in 80 to a classroom), three new boreholes to improve access to clean water (replacing a single hand-dug well that often ran dry), and a communal washing facility with eight sinks. Nearly 800 community members, including the 407 students at Nyashishi School, now benefit from these gifts. The Bells later donated 50 desks and other learning supplies for the school.

In June of 2016, Larry and Ellen traveled to Zambia to meet Emmanuel in person. When they arrived at his home, Emmanuel ran to give them a hug before their vehicle had come to a complete stop. The Bells made a follow-up visit in May, 2017, to reaffirm their commitment to Emmanuel, his four siblings that they now support, and the entire ChildFund Zambia community.

During their first visit the couple and Emmanuel stood before the community at the dedication ceremony for the classrooms and water points. “My daughter loved this young man,” Larry told the hundreds who had gathered. “My daughter loved these children, and my daughter loved this community.”

Amy’s and her family’s deeds affirm those words.

Judy and Gary Lohmeyer

Judy and Gary Lohmeyer have been a part of ChildFund for more than 25 years, sponsoring children and making gifts. “I saw a child on TV,” says Judy, “and that’s where it started.”

Continue reading Judy and Gary's story

Judy and Gary have had long relationships with two of their sponsored children—Israel in Guatemala and now Bryan in Ecuador. Judy felt the hand of God was at work early on in their relationship with Israel. One day, Judy was calling her daughter but misdialed by one digit. She unexpectedly reached a friend from church. As they were catching up, this friend revealed that her daughters were going to Guatemala. Judy mentioned her sponsored child in Guatemala. As it turned out, the daughters were going to be very close to where Israel lived and agreed to visit him. Judy and Gary bought gifts to send to Israel and his family, and the daughters brought back some placemats from Israel’s family that Judy still treasures. “This was a tangible connection, and I really believe that God was at work,” says Judy.

“We’ve sponsored Bryan since he was a baby, and he is 18 now,” shares Judy. They have been exchanging letters for years, and Bryan told her in one letter that his mother learned to read and write so she could help him correspond with them. “I was so excited to get a letter this week, and he told me that he is graduating next year and plans to go on to college,” Judy says. “What a tribute to the ChildFund organization!”

In addition to sponsoring children, the Lohmeyers in recent years began donating stock. “I researched and discovered that a stock transfer was a good way to make a gift,” Judy explains. “We get tax advantages, and it makes us feel good that our entire donation can be used for the mission and not end up in the government’s pocket.”

Judy was a practicing nurse for 40 years, working in hospitals, nursing homes, teaching, and finally hospice and home care. She also helped Gary on the family farm when she wasn’t rearing children and nursing. Even after 40 years of dairy farming, Gary continues to work a part-time job at the YMCA.

They see their strong work ethic reflected in the efforts of ChildFund, and they believe that ChildFund is a trustworthy steward of their gifts. “Your money doesn’t end up in a big black hole,” says Judy. “Your money is helping an individual family. You can find out about them and their life through letters and pictures. You sponsor someone you can meet and talk with. We have gained so much personally from the sponsorship relationships. ChildFund has been an extraordinary organization to be involved with.”

Eleanor

There’s something about seeing the impact of your giving firsthand that can transform your perspective on life. That’s what happened to Eleanor when she visited our programs in Uganda for the first time.

Continue reading Eleanor's story

There she was thrilled to meet so many “beautiful, proud, thankful people who greeted us with open arms and wanted to share their success, not just their needs.” During a visit to a school refurbished by ChildFund, Eleanor noticed a little girl playing outside. The two exchanged shy smiles. When Eleanor went to leave, the girl reached out to clasp her hand.

“I didn’t get the chance to find out more about her, but I couldn’t get her off my mind,” says Eleanor. So she asked the ChildFund Uganda office to find out if she needed a sponsor. “Long story short,” says Eleanor, “her name is Patience. She just turned 10, and she loves jumping rope. She is my family’s sponsored child now. We are all involved in making her life better in any way we can.”

Because Patience is one of nine children—and her family earns a meager income through small-scale farming—she faces many hurdles to her development, including the risk of dropping out of school. Eleanor hopes her support will keep Patience in school and encourage her to stay positive. Her chances of graduating are much better because of ChildFund’s work at her school, which now has sturdy desks, quality instructional materials, a library, private latrines, and more.

For Eleanor, the Uganda trip—and sponsorship itself—has been “an overwhelming journey of learning how love and hope can carry you through adversity.” Your gift supports powerful one-to-one connections just like these that improve the lives of children around the world.

Melissa Huston

Dillanos Coffee Roasters, based in Sumner, Washington, has an unusual routine for onboarding new hires. Along with the typical benefits, each employee is assigned a child sponsored through ChildFund.

Continue reading Melissa's story

Dillanos is used to people being shocked by the depth of their partnership with ChildFund. “It just floors people,” says Melissa Huston, of Dillanos’ Culture & Community Relations department, adding that the team gets excited about helping a child and exchanging letters. “We’re a tight-knit group of people. I consider us a family. We have people who send family pictures back and forth to their sponsored children.”

Dillanos started sponsoring a child for each employee in 1999. The number of children currently sponsored, at last count, was 68.

Recently, Huston had the opportunity to visit several villages in Guatemala with a group of ChildFund staff members. The company already had a connection to the Huehuetenango municipality; a coffee farmer in this community grows beans that Dillanos purchases and roasts for their Rio Azul coffee.

In one of the trip’s most meaningful moments, Huston met a mother and her three small children who are enrolled in ChildFund’s programs. They live in a mountain village in Chimaltenango. It’s only a short drive from Guatemala City and Antigua, but is quite different in terms of wealth and modern conveniences. Few families in Chimaltenango’s villages own cars or trucks, which isolates children and adults from many educational and job opportunities available in the larger cities. Water and electricity are available only intermittently in the highlands, and many families live in tiny homes with dirt floors, carved into the mountainside.

“After a brief hike to a family house,” Huston says, “Angelina welcomed us into her home and showed us all of the amazing things that she has learned from ChildFund: proper nutrition, water-boiling techniques and how to interact with your children so they grow up in a positive environment. She began to cry and hugged me, thanking me and the ChildFund employees. She said that without us, she was uncertain about how life would be for her and her children.”

Indeed, Angelina’s life has changed since becoming involved with ChildFund, and the whole family has participated in our activities since 2014. Angelina holds Early Childhood Development meetings in her home and is currently training to become a guide mother — a local volunteer who works with other mothers, teaching them about nutrition and other healthy parenting practices.

Five-year-old Elsa is sponsored and attends preschool. Her brothers, 4-year-old Yovani and 18-month-old Alexander, are both enrolled in ChildFund’s activities for young children. Their father, José, a farmer, supports the family’s involvement by helping the children get ready for their programs.

The benefits are evident. Angelina says that her daughter Elsa is one of the top students in her preschool class, and attributes her performance in part to the healthy foods she has been able to prepare in their home, says Nicole Duciaume, ChildFund’s Americas region sponsorship manager, who also went on the visit. Angelina demonstrated her skills by cooking an herb and vegetable omelet for her guests — all while she carried Alexander on her back, and Yovani and Elsa played with pots and pans.

“I really never fully understood sponsorship worked,” Huston says, but after seeing it in action, “I came back and refocused my life. These interactions with the children and parents helped me truly understand where our money is going, as well as the impact ChildFund is making. In fact, I was so thrilled about the work and dedication that is happening in Guatemala, we decided to sponsor nine more children this year.”

Her visit to Guatemala has also excited other Dillanos employees, who hope to see ChildFund’s programs, too.

“We hope to invest in communities,” Huston says. “It was just amazing. People care so much about children — the teachers, the technicians, everyone. Often, you hear from people that a trip changed their life. For me, this February, my trip to Guatemala did just that.”

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