I went for several years with a stable list of Compassion sponsored children. I knew that Shallon (Uganda), the oldest of the group, would probably be the first to age out of the program, but I was not prepared for the abrupt departure when family financial problems forced her to leave the program and open her own hair styling business. I had written to her for several years and we had developed what seemed like a close relationship. She called me "mother" and at one point told me that after her own mother died, she never thought she would find another mother.
Compassion does an incredible job. They take care of thousands of kids all over the world and they deal with persnickety sponsors like me. They help pregnant women have healthy pregnancies and healthy births. When a child has a serious health problem, they raised the money to get them the care they need (I read recently about a young boy with a problem that could not be treated in his native African country and so Compassion funded his travel to India, where the problem was able to be treated and he returned home cured.)
They translate thousands of letters to and from sponsored children. And with the advent of an e-mail program and translation software, it has reduced the time between letters significantly (it used to take about four months from when I sent a letter before the child I was sending it to received it and answered it...sometimes it took six months. Now it can all be done in less than two months.
And so I hate to be critical, but I think the one area where they don't do a good job is with children who leave the program. Some age out, others leave the program for one reason or another--they move to a new area where there is no Compassion program or their parents, for one reason or another decide to pull them out of the program.
Compassion does inform the sponsor that their child has left the program, but often I first find out when I go to write a letter and discover that the child is no longer on my list of kids to whom I can write. When it is a child that I don't financially sponsor, but merely write to, I am not notified at all.
I think Fred was the first child I took on to write to, not to sponsor. He's in the Philippines and when I first took him he was little. I don't remember how little, but little. While Compassion staff generally are the translators for the letters kids write, Fred's mother spoke English and so she wrote the letters herself and I loved receiving her letters and felt a friendship developing.
When Fred got old enough to write his own letters, Compassion staff took over doing the translation and the personal aspect I had come to look forward to ended. The letters were once more the standard "I am fine, how are you, please pray for me" kind of letters. Now that he is older, his letters are becoming more personal. But when his financial sponsor decided not to continue his sponsorship, he just disappeared off of my list and I had no notification, despite the fact that I had asked Compassion (in anticipation that this might happen) to let me know if he lost his sponsor because I would take over his sponsorship. Thank goodness I was able to contact them in time to take him on as a sponsored child, because they had not read that note from me and I would have just lost him after many years of a close relationship.
I have now lost 14 children who have left the program for various reasons. With the one that I sponsor, I have the opportunity to write a final letter and, if I want, to send a financial gift as a goodbye. The problem with this is that there is no way to know if the letter and money are ever received. I sent Shallon $100 to help her start her business and Compassion was only able to tell me that if they could not find her to give her the money, it would go into the general operating fund. (I have not sent a goodbye gift since)
None of the children who have left the program have sent their own final letter. With many of them it's not a big deal. But for Anjali, my very first sponsored child (who was in India--and the government kicked all organizations like Compassion out of the country after a long time of fruitless negotiation). I sent her a final letter, but have no idea if it was ever received. That one hurts. I wrote to her for 7 years and she was one of my better letter writers. As she moves into young adulthood, I worry about her and wonder about her, and will never know what becomes of her.
Today it was Eunice from Tanzania. I had only been her sponsor for a couple of years, and as she is not a prolific letter writer, I think I only had two or three letters from her, so while her sudden departure was jarring, it didn't pull at the heart strings like some of the others have. I chose Eunice after another sponsor child left and I chose her because her middle name was "Gilbert." I mean, is that ready made for me or what?
All I know is that she has aged out of the program. What her plans are, I haven't the foggiest idea. I did send her a goodbye letter, but it will never be acknowledged.
So this leaves me with a "free space" where I can add another child. (Or I could not add another child and save the money!) When a child leaves the program, Compassion automatically sends the information on a new child to you, to either accept or reject.
They usually send the little, cute ones. And all of them are adorable, but I prefer to sponsor one of the older kids. For two reasons. The young ones won't be able to really write a letter for several years and so for several years you get form letters that all say the same. But the other reason is that the young ones ARE taken so much more frequently and I know it is difficult finding a sponsor for an older child.
With that in mind, I started looking for older kids.
But it seemed that every time I turned on the computer this picture popped up. His name is Estiben and he's 3 years old and lives in Guatemala. The first time I saw his picture I realized how adorable he was and I knew that someone would choose him immediately.
But a week and a half later, nobody had chosen him and I was starting to feel sad for him. I even posted a link to his picture on the Compassion Facebook page, and people who went to check him out, said that he had already been sponsored.
But when I checked his page, he was not sponsored. Then I saw that he was born on January 29, the birthday of our late son Paul. I supposed it was a sign that he was meant to be my next sponsored child.
I know I am in for five years of so of form letters and I can't include him in the letters I write to the other kids because he's younger than Lacie and wouldn't understand if I talked about the family and what we are doing. So it will be a new experience I've never had a kid this young before.
But you have to admit, he is pretty cute!
I am not getting "as" emotionally involved with the kids any more. I still write and I still love them, but that piece of my heart that I gave to Shallon and Anjali--and Fred--stays inside because I have learned that it can all end in an instant with no warning, no explanation, and no good bye.Kind of like Peggy...