Editor’s Note: Thanks to Rachel Balducci for sharing the incredible experience she had on a recent trip to El Salvador. -SR
It was a moment of grace that brought me to El Salvador a few weeks ago. A moment of grace years ago when my husband and I were sitting in church and we had one of those guest speakers at the end. Typically I’m tempted to sneak out at just this moment, because having kids in church is hard enough without suffering through an additional seven minutes.
But this time, as the priest started sharing about his organization that helps children and elderly in third world countries, I didn’t leave. I sat and listened and with our four young sons seated between us I looked down the pew to Paul and whispered “we need to do this.”
That Sunday morning, years ago, we started sponsoring a young boy in India. We started sending $30 every month to help pay for education and clothing and any other need our new friend Lawrence might have. And in the years since, Lawrence has become part of our family, a little boy we’ve watched — in letters and photographs — become a young man, who has grown up right along with our boys.
A few months ago that same organization invited me to visit their program in Santa Ana, El Salvador, to witness sponsorship in action, to see what it means when a family in the First World sends $30 a month to someone living in poverty.
For one week, I traveled with a group of writers as we visited the homes of people sponsored through this program. I was able to see first-hand what it means for a young child to be supported through a small monthly donation. I was able to see what it has meant for Lawrence to be sponsored by us.
It means so much more than I ever realized.
When we made the decision to sponsor Lawrence — and to support Unbound, this program that was asking for our help — it was a moment of grace. I wanted to help a child in need, but more than that I wanted to feel connected to something bigger than myself. I was coming out of a haze of having a lot of little boys in a short period of time and that Sunday morning, I was just beginning to catch my breath. I had a moment of grace where I knew life would not always be about the practical survival mode of life with small children, and I wanted to participate in the outside world, even if in some small way.
During my time in El Salvador I saw just what it means for a person to have a sponsor, and I was moved to tears. Not just that we send this small amount of money halfway around the world — but that we offer hope. We really do help change lives.
One afternoon, I spent a few hours on the front porch of a mountaintop concrete home and listened to Irma, a woman who found her voice and got her life back through her child’s sponsorship. Because he is sponsored, Irma is part of a mother’s group that allows these women to determine where the sponsorship funds will go — how much she will need to clothe her child and educate him, and as she has learned to budget, the program allows her to use extra money to save up. She is currently setting aside money to put a new roof on her house.
Can you image? For $30 a month, Irma’s entire family is being transformed. A U.S. sponsor thousands of miles away has changed Irma’s life and through that, the life of her children. Irma’s son told me that before his mother got involved with the mother’s group — and made new friends — she was very sad. Now, she has hope and joy.
The hardest part of the trip was coming back and fighting the urge to sound like a commercial for this group. And the truth is there are wonderful charities doing good work all over the world.
I’m proud to be a part of Unbound — and I’m proud to know so many fellow citizens who use the abundance God has given us to so generously share with the less fiscally fortunate of the world.
Copyright 2014, Rachel Balducci
Rachel Balducci is married to Paul and they are the proud parents of five lively boys and one precious daughter.
Rachel is a newspaper columnist for the Southern Cross and writes online at her personal blog, Testosterhome.net, and is a co-host of The Gist, a talk show for women on Catholic TV. She is the author of How Do You Tuck In A Superhero and other delightful mysteries of raising boys.
In a former life, Rachel was a newspaper reporter, and she has a Masters in Journalism from the University of Georgia. These days she writes about the intersection of faith and family as she tries to figure out how keeping her bathroom clean will help make her a saint.