Time, treasure, talent: Gil's ChildFund story

Home > Time, treasure, talent: Gil's ChildFund story
Posted on 06/13/2024
Longtime donor Gil L’Italien holds a painting of several of the children he’s supported through ChildFund sponsorship. “Many of these children have grown and are now teenagers. I was honored to be able to help them and their families.”


Epidemiologist Gil L’Italien was spending time in rural Oaxaca, Mexico, leading a public health project to treat local people for intestinal parasites, when he realized something he’ll never forget.

“It is the younger children who are most vulnerable to these types of infections,” he says. “Whatever one can do to change that through treatment, education and sanitation programs, you know they will lead healthier lives.”

Once his three children were grown, Gil devoted more of his time to directly helping others – both through ChildFund and as a hospice volunteer. His work supporting children is particularly important to him, “and ChildFund is a very impactful way to help children and their families,” he says.

Giving back to others

Gil’s journey with ChildFund began, as many do, as a child sponsor. He remembers that it was shortly after the tragedy of 9/11. “I thought that helping others was the best way to offset that evil, and sponsoring children through ChildFund seemed the best fit for me. I also wanted to devote my time to helping others, so I became a volunteer visiting hospice patients at Masonicare Home, Health and Hospice in Wallingford, Connecticut.

“After several weeks of training, I started going to visit people in nursing homes who were approaching the end of their lives,” Gil explains. “That has really been a profound experience. I’ve met and, through my visits, formed friendships with so many beautiful people. Hospice is less about the end of life than it is about the celebration of life, through conversation and spending quality time with these beautiful souls.

“I believe we have a moral responsibility to make use of our time, treasure and talent to helping others. The ChildFund sponsorship program seemed like the perfect way to help children, their families, and the communities in which they live.”

Gil remembers one of the first children he sponsored, Ahmad, who lived in Indonesia with his grandparents.

“We used to correspond quite a bit,” Gil says. “One of his first letters to me mentioned how he used my donation: ‘Thank you, sponsor Gil, for your contribution. I was able to buy a goat for my family.’

“I was saddened when he graduated and ChildFund let me know that we wouldn’t be sponsoring him any longer. I was able to send him one last letter and tell him he’d been like a son to me. He wrote back and said, ‘That means so much to me.’ It was very special.”

Today, Gil sponsors a dozen children in total. Each time a child graduates from the sponsorship program, he sponsors another. Although the selection process is seemingly random, there are times when the experience feels downright serendipitous – like the time he opened one of his sponsorship welcome packets to find a smiling photo of Yaretzy, one of the children he’d helped during his field trip to the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, 12 years earlier.

“It was truly by coincidence,” he says. “Obviously, she had grown, but I still recognized her face.” He was delighted to learn that ChildFund was now working in her village, providing programs and services for children he knew needed so much support. “The fact that you’re helping a child, but you’re also helping the community – that’s very rewarding,” he says.

It’s one of the biggest reasons why Gil decided to take his giving journey one step further – through personal projects.

Fueling ‘effective programs, with tangible results’

In the last two years, Gil has made contributions to support personal projects for ChildFund that he helped select by working with the ChildFund team, in two different vulnerable communities in very different parts of the world.

The first project was in India, where Gil funded a maternal-child health program that improved the health and well-being of thousands of young children and moms in the Bhabra District of Madhya Pradesh – an area where malnutrition is prevalent.

The project was enormously successful, focusing on boosting kids’ nutrition through preventive education and referring children to health services for malnutrition treatment. Well-attended nutrition sessions were held across 10 villages to help educate parents and caregivers on the importance of proper nutrition, plus thousands of home visits to help refer families to health resources. By the end of the project period, ChildFund had identified more than 150 children in need of nutritional assistance and distributed food support to help them get a base 800 nutrient-dense calories a day. The project also distributed vegetable seedlings to improve families’ nutrition.

Right now, Gil is working on another personal project to help improve nearly 600 children’s education in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, an area torn apart by civil war.

After being in survival mode for so long because of violent conflict, early childhood education was one of the last things on families’ minds. The funds from Gil are helping change that. In addition to rebuilding a preschool that was destroyed in the conflict, the project is providing trauma-informed care for hundreds of children affected by violence – training 20 local teachers, and hundreds of parents and caregivers, on how to provide psychosocial support to children.

“What I really love is the fact that these are effective programs, with tangible results,” Gil says. “ChildFund is very transparent about the funding, how the money is spent. We get reports on a regular basis. They keep the donors very well-informed.”

What’s next for Gil? He’s always on the lookout for potential projects to fund and other ways he can support children and their families. He encourages those he knows who have the resources to do the same.

“There are so many impactful charities in need of help. I believe that ChildFund is one of the best. Through sponsorship and by supporting personal projects, you can see how the funds are used to directly help children, their families and their communities. It makes me feel very proud and happy to be a longstanding supporter of ChildFund.”


If you are interested in funding a personal project with ChildFund, please connect with our Philanthropy team at philanthropy@childfund.org.