Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Magdalena - Sometimes We Forget

Magdalena is another one of "our" girls in the Dominican Republic.  Our family has sponsored Magdalena through Compassion International since she was 6 years old.  As of Feb. 28, 2008 she is 11. 

Magdalena lives with her mother, brother and sister.  Not long after we started sponsoring her, her mother and father separated.  Today, Magdalena says she thinks of me as her father. 

Magdalena is a shy, sweet girl who writes letters to us often.  Up until January 2008, she used to say that she can't wait to meet her "sisters."  In January, Magdalena met her sisters, when we went to the Dominican Republic on a Sponsor Tour with Compassion International.

Seeing Magdalena in person, it's easy to forget the poverty she lives with every day. In September of 2007, Magdalena nearly died of dengue fever.  Dengue fever is a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes.  It also goes by other another name, "break bone fever" because victims often have contortions due to the intense joint and muscle pain.

Had Magdalena not been in the Compassion International child sponsorship program, it's likely that her family would not have been able to get her the medical attention she needed.  Magdalena was admitted into the hospital for 9 days and received intravenous fluids, and medicines to help her recover.  Compassion provided both financial support, as well as social and spiritual support to Magdalena and her family.  This support was vital in her recovery.

Unfortunately many children around the world aren't as fortunate as Magdalena.  Here's a few statistics:

• 6.5 million children die every year of hunger related illnesses
   That's 12 children every minute

• The average life expectancy in developing countries is half that of developed countries

• According to the United Nations, poverty is defined as living on less than $1 per day

You can help a child like Magdalena for just $32 a month. To learn more, go to Compassion.com

Monday, February 4, 2008

Meeting Juan

On January 14, 2008 my family and I were in the Dominican Republic on a Compassion International Sponsor Tour. That evening we had the pleasure of meeting Juan David Dominguez.  Juan is a college student in Compassion's Leadership Development Program who is being sponsored by 12 firefighters from Valley Regional Fire Authority.

The Leadership Development Program is offered to students who have graduated from Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program.  Only the top academic students, who have demonstrated excellence in leadership in their schools, churches, and communities are eligible to be in the Leadership Development Program.

Juan entered Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program at the age of 6.  One year earlier his father had died in a construction accident.  Juan and his family were devestated.  Juan's mother worked very hard to keep the family together.  Having Juan in the Compassion development center meant that he received Christian mentoring, education, health care, food, and a safe environment.  After school 3 days a week, Juan received a meal at the development center, and often there was enough leftovers that he could bring food home for his family. This helped his mother maintain the family.

In 1998 Hurricane George struck the Dominican Republic and wiped out their family home.  They did not have much, but lost all of their belongings.  Through the help of Compassion, their house was restored. Juan's mother continued to work hard as a maid, and eventually she managed to save enough for concrete floors and electricity.

Juan's sponsors during these years were in Australia.  Though they were never able to visit him in person, they sent frequent letters of encouragement.  Juan tells me he looked forward to those letters and kept every one of them, reading them over and over.  Juan says without Compassion, his life would be "a disaster".

In October 2007 Juan graduated high school.  This is quite an accomplishment for a child living in extreme poverty.  Not only did he graduate, but he received his school's "Most Excellent Student" award.  After a series of interviews, Juan was accepted in Compassion's Leadership Development Program.  Juan's goal is to become a pediatrician.

Juan's sponsors in the LDP are twelve firefighters from Valley Regional Fire Authority in Washington state.  These sponsors have made a commitment to sponsor Juan for 6 years.  Some have already expressed an interest in attending Juan's graduation.

Juan will attend Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo. Established in 1538, it is the oldest university in the New World.  Juan dreams of becoming a pediatrician so he can care for children in the impoverished communities of his country.

You can read more about Juan at www.compassion.com.