Sponsorship and Education – Making a Dent: By Amy Wall Lerman, Editor-in-Chief, Baby Bloomer

When I made the final decision to have just one child it was almost as painful as wondering if I would ever have children at all.  Before I went in for my endometrial oblation at the age of 46, I told my husband that I needed to do one last thing to justify my decision – I wanted to sponsor a child. 

I wasn’t sure I could go through the potential agony of IVF and the thought of adoption comes with a bit of angst for me because of my parents’ experience with the process.  Besides, my clock was ticking. I felt so incredibly blessed to have been able to conceive my beautiful little boy – so why push my luck?

But I still had more to give.  I went online and did my research first.  I didn’t want my money to go to missionary work so I wanted to find the least religious organization possible. I also wanted to find an organization that gave more to their program than to the people running it.  Of course, everyone has to make a living, but I wanted to weigh the percentages from organization to organization.  In the end I chose Plan International and I’m now the proud sponsor mom of a little girl in Cambodia named Nisa. 

When I first decided to sponsor and looked through images of child after child, I felt hopeless. Why would it matter if I sponsored one child when there were so many out there in need? How could my little contribution mean anything in the grand scheme of things?

Then the letters started to come. Nisa and I write to each other a few times a year.  It takes a while for the correspondence to make it back and forth and the translation from Khmer to English is a little rough which makes me wish I could learn just a little of her language so I’d be able to read her words myself.  She must have had the same thought because in her last letter she wrote the letters of the English alphabet and told me about her English lessons.  Over these past two years I have come to love little Nisa and I so look forward to getting updates about her, her family, and her village.

GracedwithOrangeCover - WALL - JPEGIt is because of Nisa that I decided to learn more about Cambodia – not so much its history as about what it is like now – so I picked up a book called Graced With Orange.  It is written by a woman named Jamie Amelio, who, in conjunction with several friends, has opened 16 schools in Cambodia, allowing children to get a much needed education. 

The idea came to her when she was living in Singapore and took a vacation to Cambodia.  She was stuck by a little girl who asked her for five dollars so she could go to school.  She immediately handed $300 to her guide and asked that it be used to sponsor more children. 

Leaving her guide with a handful of money didn’t sit well with her because she knew it would barely make a dent.  Coming from some means she knew she could do more and recruited her friends to start a foundation called Caring for Cambodia (CFC) and began building schools as fast as the money came in.

What Ms. Amelio has done for a country still reeling from a war that happened 40 years ago is quite remarkable.  What started as a dent has turned into a gash and now there are hundreds of children going to school in clean and safe environments with caring teachers who want to make a difference.   

Reading this book reminded me that my sponsorship of Nisa is not just a dent because each time I get a letter from her and I see her handwriting develop a little bit more and I see her pictures come to life, I am reminded that I too am helping change a piece of the world that needs our help.  Education is the first measure of rehabilitation. It provides the stepping stones that will one day allow these children to change their own lives, and eventually their country, and maybe even the world, for the better.

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Jamie Amelio is the founder and CEO of Caring for Cambodia, a non-profit organization directed toward educating children and training teachers in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  A Texas-native, Jamie Amelio had expected to be wowed by the temples of Angkor Wat when she took a trip to Cambodia but instead, it was a 9-year-old girl panhandling for a few dollars who would change her life.  Caring for Cambodia now supports over 6,400 students in 21 schools in Siem Reap. It is run mostly by volunteers. With 4,000 supporters worldwide, CFC guarantees well-equipped classrooms, locally trained teachers, a meal for every student, uniforms, basic health and hygiene care — and often a bicycle. After living in Asia for ten years, Jamie, her husband Bill, and their six children now live in Austin, Texas.