Monday, June 4, 2007

By Gary Duncan, Assistant Director of Marketing

Our third day in Fortaleza on the northeast coast of Brazil was beautiful; we went to a little ocean-side resort about an hour north of the city so our CCF sponsors could meet their sponsored children. I know it may sound corny and sentimental, but the day the sponsors meet their sponsored children for the first time is truly magical! It truly is a family reunion of people who have never met and yet consider themselves to be part of each others family. Some of our sponsors have been sponsoring children from various countries for over 25 years!

Upon our arrival at this beach side location, CCF sponsors hurry from the bus with arms full of gifts and goodies for their sponsored children and families. We make our way down a small sandy path lined with long-needle pine trees to a shelter area built on the beach that is facing the ocean. I try to look at all the different faces of our sponsors and read their thoughts and feelings.

Finally, we reach the shelter and the children (with their mom or dad) are lined up outside the building with large paper hearts displaying the name of the sponsor they are meeting that day. As we approach, the children loose all patience and start moving toward the CCF sponsors with large smiles on their faces. An array of hugs, kisses, smiles, laughter, and joyful commotion commences as these families finally meet for the first time. Although I have experienced these meeting many times in the last five years with sponsors, it never ceases to amaze me the almost mystical quality of these encounters. There are tears of joy not only shed by some sponsors, but also by the Brazilian CCF staff, the parents of these children and other Brazilians observing this scene. The CCF relationship between an individual sponsor and a child somewhere in the world is one of the most powerful bonds I have ever observed in my life. It truly demonstrates the commonality of us that bonds us into one big family.

Soon, sponsors and sponsored children are seated at tables with translators provided by the CCF regional office in Fortaleza. Photos from the US sponsors of their families, dogs, neighborhoods, and hometown monuments are soon being passed around the tables as sponsors and translators provide a symphony of Portuguese and English melodies. There is more laughter and hugs as the groups relax and realize that the magical moment of meeting one another has truly arrived!

Sponsors have brought small gifts for the children and families, and these presents are opened eagerly by the children and excitedly inspected by family, candy, binoculars, puzzles, toy cars, is Toys R
US on steroids!

I must insert a personal note since I was meeting my sponsored child from Ceara for the first time on this trip. He lives with his elderly grandparents in a small fishing village about an hour north of Fortaleza. Francisco, according to his grandmother, had awakened at 4 a.m. that morning ready to leave for our meeting, but was not scheduled to depart until almost 8 a.m. to go to the meeting place. He was accompanied by his elderly grandmother and a volunteer representative from his small village. Shy at first, he soon began to ask me questions about my life, my family, and where I lived. I had brought him a backpack of presents which he slowly and carefully opened each one as if it would disappear if he handled it too roughly. After all the presents were opened and he seemed very pleased with the gifts, my Portuguese translator asked him which present he liked the best and he replied with a tone of sincerity in his voice...”The best part of everything is getting to meet my sponsor today.” The translator was temporarily overcome with emotion and could not express to me what this youngster had said. I understood immediately and also felt a deep sense of appreciation that CCF had given me the opportunity to sponsor this child. He will always be part of my family despite the thousands of miles of separation, our different languages, and our daily circumstances.

After another bountiful lunch, sponsors went swimming with children, played games, and walked along the ocean; it was the first time that some of these children had ever seen the ocean! My colleagues, Scott, Kathi and I passed out some extra toys to the children we had brought to Brazil and then if was time for us all to say good-bye to the children and families. How do you say good-bye to your child? It isn´t easy! We board our buses back to the hotel in Fortaleza; there is an unusual quietness on our bus as sponsors shared stories about their child with their seat mate. Some sponsors wiped away tears and others sat quietly with their thoughts of the day. There is a general serenity among the group that from this day on, the lives of these sponsors will never be the same.

It is obvious to all of us as we ponder our thoughts today that CCF sponsorship is truly a life-changing event not only for the child, but also for the sponsor.

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