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How Sponsoring a Child Taught Me That Giving is Receiving

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Johnson & Johnson is a proud corporate partner of Save the Children, an independent organization creating lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world.

When we heard mom blogger Ana Flores had just returned from a trip to El Salvador to visit the child she sponsors through Save the Children, we asked her to share a little bit about her trip and specifically why she chose this organization to partner with.

Growing up in El Salvador as part of the privileged bucket of society, I was used to living among the contrasts of social and economic classes. The divisions were so awkwardly deep and intrinsically connected that the block I grew up on had a row of elite houses with a staff of servants on one side and faced the other side of the street with adobe and tin roof shacks that dangerously laid on the edges of a precipice.

I was only allowed to enter the foreign-to-me world that existed on the other side of the street if I was going to the little store, called a tiendita, to buy tortillas with our maid. Other than out of sheer need, the two worlds did not mix or mess with each other.

The avoidance of facing the reality and keeping our little fortunate bubble intact resulted in my family never actively teaching me about the joys of giving and charity. My mom has always been in and of herself a very giving woman, but the giving happened in her day-to-day life because there were so many people around her that she consciously supported with money, work or other needs. I did learn from her by example and I’ve always been giving myself, but I never learned to set aside money specifically for charity or to get involved in supporting a mission or a cause.

I must admit it’s been a slow learning process for me and that the notion of giving to any charitable cause has always been tinged with a bit of cynicism as to what really happens to that money. I also wanted to know that my money was making a direct impact on someone. I understand that the organizations and not-for-profits that work so hard to give aid, support and training to those in need have their own administrative costs to make it all happen, but even so I just needed to know that a piece of my donation affected someone’s life for real.

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Some years ago I started becoming interested in learning more about sponsoring a child. The motivation grew deeper as my own daughter, a single child, grew older and I realized that her life in Los Angeles, so far away from her family, was becoming even a bigger bubble than the one I grew up in. Children like the ones that lived in the slums across the street where I grew up are not part of her reality at all and she was desensitized from it completely. I needed to find that connection for her while at the same time teach her –and myself – the values of contributing consistently to a cause.

That’s when I started researching about the different child sponsorship programs and, through my life as a professional blogger, I got to meet people from Save the Children. Once I allowed myself to learn more about how they operate, and especially the facts that they are not affiliated with any religion and are non-partisan, the defensive walls of cynicism started breaking down and I jumped into sponsoring a child.

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I had one thing very clear – I wanted a girl in El Salvador that would be the same age as my little girl and that one day we could potentially meet her. Not only do we want our donations to help her community through her as an ambassador, but I want our sponsored child to be an unknowing teacher to my own daughter. She has no idea she’s giving more to us than we are to her. And, in the end, the ultimate goal of giving is also learning to receive.

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We are now into our 5th month of sponsorship through Save the Children and we’ve already been able to visit Brenda, the 5-year-old girl from Ahuachapán, El Salvador that we sponsor. Thanks to Save the Children and the work they do with the communities to empower them to be self-sustainable for their children’s well-being, I’ve been able to finally cross to the other side of the street in full humility and with no shame. My daughter got to meet her new friend Brenda in real life and realize that the gap that exists between them is much smaller than what unites them as little girls that love the color pink, princesses, to create art and run around in the dirt chasing baby chicks.

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The hope is that our contributions to Save the Children just keep expanding because we’ve been able to see first-hand the impact they have in local communities like Brenda’s. I now know how my money is being used and that the little girl behind that picture we chose and the letters that are sent has a life full of potential that we can also help nurture each other’s lives.

For more information about sponsoring a child, please visit the Save the Children website. And if you’re looking for other ways to support the organization, we encourage you to consider a different kind of Mother’s Day this year with the Save the Children Gifts of Joy Spring Catalog.

Ana L. Flores is co-founder of SpanglishBaby, the blog and online community for parents raising bilingual and bicultural kids, and the founder of Latina Bloggers Connect. In 2010 Ana co-authored the book “Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America.”

All photos courtesy of Ana Flores

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