Friday, February 8, 2013

The Depths of a Child's Heart

I know I gush a lot about the people who are coming forward to help Aria achieve her dream of helping the elephants but seriously it means the world to my daughter as well as to me and Aria's daddy.  For those of you located in the Pacific NW, Art ala Carte is hosting an art open house on March 16, from 5pm-8pm.  The cost is $9.00 per person (adult/child) and half of the proceeds will go to Aria's fundraiser!!  If that weren't enough, Aria from Art ala Carte is auctioning off a family year membership to her lovely art studio.  And I'm not done.  Le Cookie Monkey is donating three dozen elephant cookies for the art open house!  Seriously, I am just left speechless by the kindness of these amazing ladies.

Again for those of you located in the Pacific NW, please do stop by; Aria would love to meet her fellow elephant savers. I also encourage you to stop by and visit both Art ala Carte and Le Cookie Monkey.  Support these amazing businesses and the even more amazing people behind them!   :)
Lesley designed the flier.  Seriously, how cute is her artwork?!!
Alright, I know this will be shocking but I'm going to talk about something that has absolutely nothing to do with Aria's fundraiser.  Just a few days ago, I received a package in the mail that tugged at my heart strings.  I knew it was coming but had forgotten about it in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  You see, maybe a month back, I decided to sponsor a child in Zambia through Children International
Portland, Oregon, USA and Zambia are a long way from each other, separated by land and the Atlantic Ocean.
When I opened the thick envelope and found a picture of a 4 year old little girl staring at me and read her family information, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of her life situation.  She lives with her mother and father and two older siblings in a one room house with concrete floors and a corrugated metal roof. They do not have electricity or running water in their home and the entire family lives off of $40 a month.  I was also struck by the similarities between little Choolwe and my own daughter Aria.  I purposely asked for a girl roughly age 4 because I want our sponsorship experience to be meaningful to Aria.  I want Aria to get to know this child living on the other side of the world.  I handed Aria the photo and read from the same paper that Choolwe loves painting, singing, dancing, and playing with her dolls and friends.  Aria noticed right away that they had a lot in common and she clutched the picture while exclaiming, "Oh Momma, I wanted a new friend! How did you know?!"  I choked back tears.

Aria had a lot of questions and I'm not sure she understood the answers completely, but sponsoring Choolwe is already changing the way she and our entire family look at the world.  Sponsorship programs are clever non-profit marketing tools. People tend to respond better; to give more when a human face is attached to it.  The money we send to the program is actually pooled and then directed through an non-governmental organization in Zambia that determines the best use of that money to benefit a much wider pool of individuals than little Choolwe.  If the money we sent was spent exclusively on Choolwe, it would be a massively inefficient use of the money.  And the reality is that Choolwe's live can only improve when her entire community improves.  However, there is room to send direct packages to the children and some sponsors raise money for specific needs like a new roof for the family home, books for the local school, tutoring, and so on.  One of the reasons I signed up to sponsor a child was because I felt it was a way to truly connect Aria to the issue of global wealth disparities in a way that makes sense to her and is meaningful.  Every year we will receive 2 letters, a new picture, and an update on Choolwe's life.  In return we will send her 2 letters as well and yearly pictures of Aria and our family. Aria already knows that she would like to send a photo of herself, draw a little picture, and include some stickers. 

On Tuesday after school, Aria and I headed to Finnegan's, our local toystore.  Lesley's daughter Stella is having a fairy garden birthday party this weekend and Aria wanted some little fairy wings.  We thought it would be a good time to pick out some neat stickers to send to Choolwe. I thought Aria would insist on picking out her wings first but she surprised me by strolling into the store determined to find her new little friend the perfect stickers.  She was being especially reflective that afternoon. She would hold up a toy and ask me if it was something that Choolwe could get in Zambia and I would explain that it was unlikely.  Silently she would put the item back down and continue on her hunt for the perfect stickers.  She finally settled on some fancy scratch art stickers from Melissa & Doug.  She picked out two different packages, one with fantasy creatures and another set with bugs.  At first, I thought she wanted to get one for herself but I underestimated the depths of my own child's heart.  She simply wanted to send two packages to Choolwe.   
Aria picked these out especially for Choolwe.
Aria then looked at me and quietly said, "Momma, I want to send Choolwe this and this," pointing at a number of small toys on a nearby shelf.  All letters to and from go through Children International for translation purposes; they send the original as well as a translated copy onward.  They allow the inclusion of stickers, bookmarks, and photos but to keep costs down they do not send along packages.  I had to explain to Aria that we couldn't send her toys this round, but that we could talk about sending Choolwe a birthday package if she wanted.  (Sponsors can send packages but they have to secure the field agency's mailing address and incur the shipping cost themselves).  Aria has been strong willed since birth and she gave me her determined look before saying, "Yes, I want to come back and pick out her birthday presents....soon, Momma."  How could I refuse such a request? 
Aria and Choolwe are two girls.  They both love art, dancing, and singing.  They both enjoy playing with dolls and their friends.  They both have dreams and hopes and fears.  These two little girls live on different continents and are separated by the Atlantic ocean and life experiences, but they will trade pictures and letters on biannual basis and watch each other grow up.  If my daughter's concern and love for a little girl she has never met is any indication, I think it is likely that an ocean will not stop a friendship from forming.  The depths of a child's heart are limitless.  If we give them space and room, they can show us the way to true compassion.

<3 Robin


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