One of the biggest investments I will make in my journey to make sure my daughter grows up completely bilingual and bicultural is to make sure we visit family in El Salvador and/or Mexico every single year. There’s nothing that gives me more joy than to see her play con sus primos or lay next to abuelita as she gives her nieta another masajito upon request.
So last week during my girl’s spring break, her and I headed down to El Salvador for a week of familia, playita, buena comida and a meeting with Brenda, the girl we sponsor through Save the Children.
In the interest of full disclosure and clarity, let me tell you that Save the Children had nothing to do with my trip to El Salvador. I was actually the one that brought the opportunity to them after I had already planned and purchased our trip.
You see, three months ago, during the Christmas break, I finally decided it was time we sponsored a girl. Out of all the options, I chose Save the Children partly because I had already met some of the people within the organization and partly because I like that they have no religious or political affiliations.
Camila and I sat in front of the computer to together choose who we would sponsor. Our criteria was:
1. Camila insisted she must be a girl
2. I wanted her to be from El Salvador in case one day we had the chance to meet her (I had no idea it would come so soon!) and so Camila could have one more connection to the country her mom’s heritage is from.
3. Preferably, she should be around Camila’s age so they could correspond on equal ground and grow *together*. Kinda like having a pen pal. (Yes, the children do read all the letters and respond themselves; I’ll share about that in another post this week.)
4. A picture can really speak a thousand words. We wanted to have that immediate connection to her through her picture.
And that’s how we chose 5 year-old Brenda from Ahuachapán in El Salvador.
Something about the look in her eyes and the smile that she hides behind her pursed lips just called out to both of us.
The process of selecting a child to sponsor and initiating the actual sponsorship through Save the Children was actually very easy to do. In no time, we were writing an email en español to our new friend Brenda. We really had no idea what to expect next, other than knowing that a set dollar amount would be withdrawn from my account every month.
A few weeks later we received our sponsorship package with a whole more information on Brenda, a picture and a postcard to start real correspondence with her. We do always have the email option, but real pen and paper is more personal and direct.
Of course, we procrastinated and never got around to sending more letters. What I did instead, was reach out to my contact at Save the Children and let her know I had started sponsoring a child and that we would love to meet her during our weeklong trip to El Salvador. I never imagined they would get as excited as they did and fully come onboard to coordinate our meeting with Brenda. Turns out that any sponsor can request a visit to meet their sponsored child and Save the Children will coordinate everything through their local office. They love sponsor visits!
My mom, niece, my daughter and I were picked up last Thursday morning in an official Save the Children pick up truck that took us to a small town in the department of Ahuachapan called San Antonio Arriba. The 2.5 hourlong bumpy journey ended in front of Brenda’s school.
There’s so much I want to share with all of you regarding everything I learned about Save the Children, the local volunteers we met and their amazing work in local communities like Brenda’s and how they are empowering them to be self-sustainable. This week I will put together a follow-up post just detailing that, as well as the truths I learned about where your sponsorship money goes and how it’s used.
But for now I just want to tell you more about Camila and Brenda’s meeting through these pictures that tell much of the story.
Camila and I getting briefed before we met Brenda. We had just arrived to the school and were waiting for Brenda’s mixed kinder class to be done for the day.
A view of Brenda’s school from the inside.
We snuck into Brenda’s classroom as we anxiously waited for her to come out.
Brenda and Camila finally meet! Camila had been telling everyone about Brenda and that she was so excited to meet her. It finally happened and both girls were visibly happy.
I stole a hug and a smile from her!
Brenda’s mom came to meet us too. This is a group hug with Brenda’s mom, her cousin and Camila’s cousin.
Camila giving Brenda the gifts we brought her. We were asked to keep them simple and give her things she could share with her friends and wouldn’t make her a target of envy. We chose coloring books, crayons, fairy bandaids, stickers, hair barrettes, and a cute summer outfit. While the girls went through the goodies, we learned they have more in common than just their age: they both love pink, princesses and to make art!
Brenda’s teacher leading the girls into a song and dance to break the ice. She told us Brenda is an excellent student that loves to learn and is doing so well.
The girls checking out the video I took of them singing and dancing!
The girls talking kindergarten stuff…comparing notes and all!
We were treated to a tasty lunch of gallina rostizada and rice at the house of one of the Save the Children local community volunteers.
And Camila got to run around and catch her first pollito! Ah … she was so happy.
Stay tuned because I have a lot more to share about this experience!
Are you sponsoring a child? Please let me know in the comments below how the experience has been for you and your family and if you’ve ever considered visiting him/her.