Sharon Moser meets her Chalice-sponsored child and the child's mother.
A few years ago I heard about Chalice, a Canadian Catholic sponsorship Organization. What caught my attention was that Chalice had been recognized as the top charity in the International Aid and Development category and that 93 per cent of its money goes towards programming.
We have a family of four sons and so I decided to sponsor a girl. Three years ago, we chose Stephany from the profiles on the Chalice website, and I sent off a letter and some pictures of my husband and I and our family. Each year I receive letters, pictures and a report on her progress.
This January, I was on the website when I saw that a solidarity mission trip was planned for Champerico, Guatemala. I have wanted to do a mission trip for a number of years and thought this would be the opportunity. It was also where our sponsor child Stephany lives and the trip offered the possibility of meeting her.
I sent in my application and waited to find out if I was accepted. It was a happy day when I received my acceptance to go on the mission. I would not only be going on a mission but would also meet our sponsor child.
Once we arrived in Champerico, we were kept busy. One main objective of the trip was to help build a community kitchen and dining hall at the Andreas Giron site which is administered by the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family and Chalice staff.
This is an agricultural area and there is much poverty; many of the people work in the cane fields for meager wages.
Currently, the mothers cook outside over an open fire and feed about 70 children a nutritious lunch Monday to Friday funded by The Chalice Children's Program.
The school is next door and as lunch time approached, the children made their way with dish, cup and spoon in hand. They all washed up and sat down to a lunch of rice, beans and sausage.
Sharon spoons food into a hungry infant at the nutrition centre in Champerico, Guatemala
By the end of the week, the building was almost complete and we had a special Mass in the chapel next door and afterwards the kitchen and dining hall were blessed by Father Duncan who was on the mission trip with us.
We also helped at the nutrition centre in Champerico - this centre is a residential program run by the sisters. There are 24 children in the program, and they are recovering from malnutrition and neglect.
Our first tour of the centre brought many of us to tears; seeing a young girl we thought to be about five and was actually 11 years old, another little guy, who was four, looked like a one-year-old, not yet strong enough to pull himself up.
The children responded so well to our time and attention and we saw a noticeable difference in their abilities and sociability by the end of the week.
Another objective of the mission was to provide 50 new sponsorships in this area, I had five children to visit - Stephany, along with four newly sponsored children.
The children were as excited to meet us as we were to meet them.
Sponsorship provides educational support, proper nutrition, medical care and the knowledge that someone cares. The day finally arrived when Stephany and I were to meet.
Upon arrival at their home, Stephany and her mother were waiting for us and invited us into their one-room home.
I looked around and next to Stephany's bed was a picture of my husband and I. Tears came to my eyes at the thought of travelling 6,000 kms and finding our picture displayed there in their home.
They expressed their gratitude and, as we left, asked God to protect and bless us.
I felt humbled by their words and even though we live miles apart, we were all connected.
Stephany is a healthy 11-year-old and is doing well in school. She hopes to be a teacher one day.
Each day was full and rewarding. We hauled rocks and sand, fed the children, visited sponsor homes and prayed together in solidarity. It was an experience I will never forget and it has allowed me to grow in ways I could not imagine.
(Sharon Moser lives in Killam, Alta.)