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Facebook Promotion Winner Meets Sponsored Children

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Jake Lyell Photography

Experience of a Lifetime

View a short video of David Levis’ trip across Uganda.

View a short video of David Levis’ trip across Uganda.
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When David Levis, a ChildFund sponsor from Citrus Heights, Calif., entered the crowded, dimly lighted Primary 7 classroom at Buyengo School in Uganda’s Busia district, it was not totally familiar, but he felt right at home.

Before long, he had chalk in hand and was sketching quick maps of the U.S. and Uganda to illustrate just how far he had traveled. It definitely was not spring break as usual for Levis, a public school teacher. “It was way better,” he says.

As the grand prize winner of ChildFund’s Facebook promotion, Experience of a Lifetime, Levis spent five days in Uganda, touring schools, water projects, and Early Childhood Development centers and visiting five of the 14 children his family sponsors.

The visit to Buyengo School brought Levis face to face with students he and his Sacramento middle-schoolers had been corresponding with for weeks before the trip. “Using Google Docs, my students and I made connections with the teachers and students, exchanging questions and group photos,” he says. “It was so amazing to meet everyone in person.”

Seeing sparsely equipped classrooms with as many as 70 or 80 students crammed among rough-hewn desks gave Levis perspective on the challenges Ugandan teachers face, including a lack of much-needed teaching tools and supplies. “I was at once taken back and impressed by the ease with which the teachers seemed to orchestrate their day,” he says, “and the positive energy from both students and faculty was very moving, especially in the face of so many obstacles.”

“One thing I’ve learned on this trip is you can’t serve the children well without serving the whole community,” Levis says. “I’ve been impressed by ChildFund’s holistic approach.”

And yet it was the opportunity for a one-to-one connection with children that initially drew Levis and his wife, Stacie, to ChildFund in 1999, when they began sponsoring a child in Guatemala. Through the years, they’ve gradually embraced more children and now sponsor 14 girls and boys around the world, including the five whom Levis met in Uganda.

His cross-country trip, facilitated by ChildFund Uganda’s staff, took Levis from Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, to the Lira municipality for a joint meeting with Sarah, 13, and Robinah, 11, who joined classmates in welcoming Levis with songs and poems. The journey continued to Akani district for a visit with Margaret, 14, whose entire family turned out to welcome their honored guest and give him a VIP tour of the community.

Crossing the Nile River, the ChildFund contingent traveled on to Jinja, where Levis met 9-year-old Dixon and his grandmother. It was an emotional moment. Dixon, who suffers from sickle-cell anemia, was released from the hospital just in time to enjoy the long-awaited visit by his sponsor. Back in Kampala for the final day of the trip, Levis traveled outside the city a short distance to meet Shafik, 6, and his family, who live in a dense urban environment where ChildFund programs are at work to provide children and youth with more opportunities.

At some point during every child visit, Levis managed to reach his wife by mobile phone or Skype. Although it was usually the middle of the night in California, Stacie was thrilled to be briefly included in the conversation and to “meet” each of the children she writes often.

At some point during every child visit, Levis managed to reach his wife by mobile phone or Skype. Although it was usually the middle of the night in California, Stacie was thrilled to be briefly included in the conversation and to “meet” each of the children she writes often.

“To say that my trip was life changing would be too simplistic,” he adds. “Our entire family is passionate about the children we sponsor.”

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