Where it all began
Updated: Feb 27, 2018
Ward and I were making dinner one night in 2004 and had the tv on in the background when one of those commercials came on. You know the ones: lots of footage of sad looking kids, and an impassioned plea to give up something small so you could help change a child's life.
I'm a sucker for those kinds of things. (Really - I think every charity we've ever donated to on a recurring basis has gotten me with one of those commercials. Or mailers. Or internet ads.)
So we started sponsoring Cecil, pictured above at age 6. We chose her partly because she was the same age as our niece, and partly because she's cute. She's from the Bicol region of the Philippines. Her chores at home included washing dishes and sweeping, and she enjoyed drawing. She lived with her father, a laborer, and her mother, a laundry worker. She lived in a home described as consisting of one multi-purpose room. The family slept on the floor and got their water from a community well.
For most of the time that we sponsored Cecil, we weren't very active sponsors. We put our monthly contribution on autopay, read the two letters a year she was required to write us, and enjoyed seeing her updated picture each year.
Then one day, many years later, I finally decided that I should probably write back to her. I didn't really know what to say, but I reasoned that she probably hadn't known what to say to me, either, all of the times she had been required by CI to write to me. So I took the plunge and wrote a letter. The letter I got back changed my whole outlook on sponsorship. She wrote:
"Dear Ms. Crockett,
Before anything else, I want to greet you a pleasant hello! I want you to know that I'm okay. I really felt very much happy when I received your letter. I always wish to have one from you. Thank you for the effort. Before, I envy those sponsored youth who receive letter from their sponsors. But now I am really proud. You really made me feel happy.
Thanks for almost ten years of support from you. In return, I promise to add more effort in my studies. I want to be professional like you so that I can help my family and to invest for the future. I will enroll for this coming school year. I'll be taking up criminology. You and my family inspires me a lot. Thank you again. I pray to God for your safety and good health together with your husband, loved ones and your pets.
God bless you more!!
Your sponsored child,
I had no idea much a letter from me, a stranger halfway around the world, would mean to a child I had never met, but it turned out that just letting her know I cared about her had a big impact. From then on, Cecil and I wrote to each other on a more regular basis, with letters going in both directions. By the time she turned 19 and graduated from the program, we had formed a much stronger relationship, and I'm so proud to have been her sponsor.
When Cecil left the program at age 19, it sounded like she was still living in the same house. Her mother had passed away, and Cecil was unfortunately no longer able to afford to attend school. She still enjoyed drawing, and was doing everything she could to help support her family.
We may not have made as much of an impact with Cecil as we strive to have today in our sponsored kids' lives, but at least we were able to provide encouragement and moral support for her. In closing, here is what she wrote in her final letter to me:
"Dear Jessica Crockett,
Time flies really fast. This time I have to write you my final thank you letter. I guess I don't have to be sad. Although I have to bid goodbye to you, I want you to know that our friendship from then until now will never fade.
Thank you for having me as your sponsored child. Helping me through the years in my studies, providing me clothings and making sure that I'll grow up healthy is too much blessing. You've helped my parents a lot.
May you continue to share your blessings to others. I hope you won't stop helping Children International. Sharing and giving is a manifestation that you have the spirit of God's love. Good luck to you and to all the people who inspires you every day.
I will miss you all.
Your sponsored child,
This was Cecil's final photo before graduating from CI. For more pictures of Cecil, check out the gallery!