Friday, May 25, 2007

Note from Editor: Gary Duncan, Assistant Director of Marketing is in charge of traveling with and leading sponsors on Study Tours to unite sponsored children with their sponsors for a brief but wonderfully emotional encounter. Gary is traveling to Brazil with 25 sponsors.

My emotional anticipation and anxiety was increasing by the hour as I waited for 30 CCF sponsors to arrive at the Miami International Airport. People of different ages (19 to 76 years old,) from multiple states throughout the US, new sponsors and people who have sponsored children for over 25 year are all going to be on this year’s Brazil Study Tour. What a variety of people!

Despite having traveled with CCF sponsors for almost five years to over 14 foreign countries, you never know what shape the group will take; what the individual demands will be, who will need extra support, how to respond to the difficult personality and how to keep them safe and interested throughout our trip. The Study Tour this year to Brazil is especially challenging since we will travel over 22,000 miles in 12 days visiting CCF projects throughout this immense and diverse country. The first few days will be especially challenging since we will fly directly to Manaus in the heart of the Amazon. The days will be hot, humid, and full of activities for the participants.

As I stand near the TAM International Airline ticket counter, the first few participants start to arrive and take their place in the long line of passengers. I recognize many of them from their passport photos or from the Brazil/USA friendship lapel pin they are wearing (Editor’s Note: Each study tour participant is given a pin with the flag of the country they are traveling to along with the American flag to help Gary and participants identify each other in the airport). All of them have the expression of a child just before Christmas morning barely able to contain their excitement and anticipation to finally meet their sponsored child in Brazil!

It is only an hour away from flight time and I am still missing a few of our participants. They have not checked in at the ticket counter nor have they called my cell phone. It’s rumored around the airport that the LA airport is closed and there are bad storms delaying all flights from Texas. I go to get a very hot cup of coffee and a pastry that tastes like the paper it was wrapped in... where are those missing sponsors?

Finally, we are boarding the plane and everyone is now here. I feel an irrational sense of relief since I know the next 12 days will be full of challenges and surprises. A decent dinner is served to us a few hours after we leave Miami and this group of CCF strangers is suddenly becoming a CCF family sharing personal stories and family photos as we fly south to the middle of the Brazilian jungle. At 1:30 am Saturday, we arrive at the international airport in Manaus and are processed through customs in remarkably fast time. Our guide, Walter, awaits us in the terminal’s lobby area. Walter was born and educated in the Amazon and speaks excellent English. He relates that his mom made him learn English so he could find decent employment in this remote part of the world-- I only wish I could speak Portuguese as well as he speaks English.

Now, it is a short walk to our bus- yes! The weather is hot and humid. We head to our hotel for the night. Dalton, a Brazilian CCF worker from the state of Minas Gerais joins us as we register for our rooms. It will be good to sleep tonight! I can’t believe the energy of our sponsors and their positive spirits so early this morning, some have traveled for 12 hours before reaching Miami. It’s going to be a good group and we are going to have fun on this trip, I think. Time will tell who these people really are and why they sponsor children through CCF. The answers may surprise us all… it usually surprises me.

1 comment:

Kenhi said...

Well, someone has to be first on the blog so it might as well be me.

I hope that your sponsors’ tour to Brazil goes well and that the sponsors come away with vivid memories of the kids, their parents, the schools and the villages. As I read your opening piece it sure brought back memories of waiting to meet with you and the other sponsors at the Miami airport for the Honduras 04 trip. The opportunity to meet with the sponsored children is something I would highly recommend. I am so glad that my wife and daughter convinced me to go. Seeing a sponsored child for the first time is an experience of a lifetime, and not one that is easily forgotten. It means so much to the children to know that someone who writes them and helps so much to improve their lives is a real live person. The appreciation and gratitude shown by the parents for the sponsors is overwhelming.

I look forward to reading the reports of the Brazil 07 sponsor trip reports.

Tenga un bien viaje amigo! Kenhi