How I Built a Relationship with My Sponsored Child

03/26/13

Each child sponsorship relationship is unique, as every sponsor and child are different. This is the story of how Isaura and I built our relationship through Children of the Nations (COTN) sponsorship.

 
Laura and her sponsored child, Isaura.
                                                            Laura and her sponsored child, Isaura.
 
Isaura grew up in the Dominican community of Algodon. I had spent two months in the Dominican Republic during the summer of 2009, as a Venture Intern leader for COTN. That summer, I spent a few afternoons every week in Algodon for English classes, Bible studies, and child sponsorship projects. Isaura spent that summer with relatives, working in the capital city of Santo Domingo. Even though I was frequently in Isaura's hometown, we never met that summer.
 
I began sponsoring Isaura when I returned from the Dominican Republic, after a COTN meal packaging event with my church. She was an 18-year-old ninth-grader (before they are sponsored, a child's education in the Dominican Republic is often sporadic and interrupted), and I was 23 at the time. As a ninth-grade teacher, I felt a special connection to her, even though we had not met during my time in the Dominican Republic. We wrote a few letters back and forth, and prayed for one another regularly. Isaura continued to pass her tests each year, moving ever closer to her goal of becoming a nurse. Each year, the COTN staff would send an updated school picture of Isaura which went straight to my living room mantle. In true Dominican fashion, Isaura never smiled.
 
I had told Isaura about the times I had visited her community, so she often told me I should visit. The opportunity came for me in November 2011, as a Venture participant on a communications team to the Dominican Republic and Haiti. I purposely had not told Isaura I was coming, in case our team schedule needed to change.
 
Laura with children at COTN's school during her trip in 2011.
                                          Laura with children at COTN's school during her trip in 2011.
 
On the second to last day of my trip, I finally returned to Algodon. Isaura was still at her high school, in a neighboring town, so I waited in the courtyard of the COTN primary school with the COTN child sponsorship director. One of the women cooking school lunches (like the ones I packaged at the event in 2010) heard that I was Isaura's sponsor and became very excited.
 
"Here, let me take you to Isaura," she told me in Spanish. I was shy with my Spanish, so I asked an interpreter to come along, too. The three of us walked to a two-room house that I had visited before. I immediately recognized a young man that I had met on my last trip, Isaura's older brother. 
 
The translator asked Isaura if she knew me. She shook her head. (I realized then why it's a good idea to send a picture of yourself to your sponsored child!) My translator told Isaura, "I would like you to meet your madrina [sponsor]." I think Isaura was expecting someone a little ... older. The few years between us did not seem like very much!
 
We walked back to the school together and had an awkward first conversation through our translator. Then, we prayed together in our own languages. Her mother joined us, as we prayed again for each other's families. Emboldened in my language skills, we talked awhile longer in Spanish. Isaura told me about her church, and the way she actively shares God's hope with the members of her community. "I talk with people of my community and tell them about God," she told me.  
 
After the visit, I mailed Isaura a copy of our photo together. Her letters became much longer during her final year of high school, with more specific prayer requests and constant reminders that she was praying for my family, too. In her final school picture, Isaura is smiling a beautiful smile. 
 
Isaura cracking a smile in 2012
 
Isaura is now the age I was when our sponsorship relationship began. She is no longer a child, but she is transforming her nation. Isaura still hopes to be a nurse someday soon, and is waiting to enter university in Barahona. I can't wait to see how our relationship will continue to develop—now as adults! 
 
You can develop a relationship that will change a child’s life—and yours—forever. Sponsor a child in Africa or the Caribbean today!