Starting with little things: Ben and L.T.'s sponsorship story

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Posted on 03/15/2024

Two women, one older and one younger, hold up photos of their sponsored children, smiling at the camera.Ben* (right) and her mom, L.T., hold up photos of their many sponsored children.

When we spoke to Ben, a freelance writer based in Switzerland, she was in the middle of a hectic move. She propped herself up on a pillow against a white wall in her bare apartment, apologizing for the chaos.

“Unfortunately, when you have those moments in your life – like, for example, a stupid move – and you are completely exhausted, sometimes you have to postpone your letters for a little while,” Ben explained. “You can’t manage to do everything at the same time. But they understand. You just tell them, hey, I’m in this situation right now, but you catch up later.”

The people she’s referring to are her 10 sponsored children, who span the globe and represent the full spectrum of childhood, from toddlers to teenagers.

Over the 12 years that Ben and her mother, who goes by L.T., have been involved with ChildFund, they have sponsored more than 20 children. That’s just how they do it: Ben managing some of the sponsorships, L.T. managing the others. When a child graduates from the program, they sponsor a younger child to continue the cycle. “It’s a pretty important part of my life,” Ben says.

The journey of sponsoring a child

You might wonder how Ben and L.T. came to the decision to support so many people they’ve never met.

“Every kid we have sponsored has come into our lives in their own peculiar way, by catching my attention on the website and by causing me to feel that I really had a duty to step in and help that specific child,” Ben says. “People might say, ‘Okay, but you’re not helping very much. You are focusing on just one person.’ But that is where it will start.

“Unfortunately, inequality is as old as the world itself. I do believe in starting with little things. You need to have an impact on individuals if you want to change a society or a situation.”

Their journey began when Ben started sponsoring children in 2012, most of them in the United States.

“Back then, you had no electronic correspondence. Everything was still snail mail. So we were used to waiting for letters. Now, of course, it’s very quick. I feel old!” she laughs.

Today, many of those first few children are full-grown adults with their own lives, families and careers. One sponsored child from Mexico just turned 18 and started studying to be a veterinarian. Another, from Brazil, just enrolled in college to study psychology.

“We’re super proud of him. He has always been a wonderful young man – very focused, very studious – and now, he’s not a kid anymore.

“This has probably been the pinnacle of our experience as sponsors,” she says – especially since they’ve developed such a close bond with the children and their families.

“I have always been extremely interested in getting to know the kids and their family, so really inquiring, asking questions … being annoying,” Ben laughs. “I want to learn things from them as well.”

But it’s not always a smooth ride supporting a child through all their life stages. In fact, Ben says, some situations can be quite challenging. For example, one of her sponsored children in Ecuador has a severe disability. His mother can’t work because she has to take care of him.

“She is completely by herself,” Ben shares. “Sometimes, you can feel the anguish. You can feel that they are worried about things, worried about what’s going to happen.

“Another one of our sponsored children in Mexico had some medical needs, and we were able to save up some extra gifts to pay for her appointments with the nutritionist. Sometimes, when you see that the situation is very tough, you try to give some extra help if possible.”

Of all the moments they’ll never forget during their time as sponsors, however, one of the most prominent memories is how they began sponsoring Jessy.

Ben was checking her ChildFund account several years ago when she happened to see Jessy’s picture on the page of children waiting to be sponsored. She learned that Jessy was born in Honduras with cerebral palsy and that her parents were no longer in the picture, so she was being raised by relatives.

Ben felt that old, familiar tug on her heart – a special calling to help – but she knew she was already sponsoring so many other children, and that finances were tight.

More than a year after that, Ben again found herself scrolling the website. She was shocked to see that Jessy’s picture was still there.

“I really found her again by sheer luck, as if fate really did play a role in the whole thing. And I said, ‘We can’t postpone this any longer.’” Ben and L.T. decided to sponsor Jessy that same day – which also happened to be Jessy’s birthday.

Why it’s so important to sponsor a child

Today, Jessy is a teenager. “It’s been pretty amazing to get to know her,” Ben says. “She has an extremely loving family. When I think about unconditional love, I think about their family. They really consider her a gift” – just as Ben and L.T. do.

“It can be difficult sometimes. We’re not by any means well-off,” Ben says. “But even if it’s a bit complicated, it’s still important to us. It's not just the economic factor that counts, it’s also just knowing that somebody cares.

“That’s why we write the letters. You need to also do something on the emotional level in order for people to grow up with a sense of self. That’s why ChildFund has the programs that they have with the local partner organizations, teaching children about their rights, that their opinions matter.”

After all, at the end of the day, as Ben says, “it’s not an easy thing to have a good childhood.

“It’s extremely difficult even in the most favorable of circumstances. But, when you are very young, you don’t have all the barriers in your mind that you later develop as an adult. Childhood is the moment when you try to establish a relationship with yourself and with the world, so it’s extremely important to protect this period of somebody’s life. Yeah, the world can be a terrible place. But if you have an impact on somebody’s life, it’s something huge in the end.”

*Full names in this story have been withheld for privacy reasons.