For more than 40 years, Michael Wright has been a sponsor for Plan International USA. Sponsoring children from South America to Africa, the Army veteran has dedicated his life to service and giving back. Here, he gives his own account of his time as a Plan sponsor:
It’s difficult to condense my journey with Plan into just a few paragraphs. What agony! But, because of space constraints, I will do my best.
My journey began in 1976 when I decided to sponsor a child. I wanted to find a way to give back, and to help children in a way that I knew worked. I knew that sponsoring a child was the right way to make a real difference in the world. As a 20-year-old airman stationed in Hawaii, I was barely over the age when sponsored children graduate from the program.
Katya, from Ecuador, was my first sponsored child. Her family seemed to work together as a unit and the children seemed to thrive. Coming from a fairly large family myself, I understood what they were going through. What really maintained my interest was (and still is) the progress reports I receive about the children. There’s no greater feeling than to know that when you help a child grow physically, cognitively, and emotionally over the years, and you say goodbye to them at 18, you have left a permanent impression with that young adult that will never be erased.
As I am multilingual, I try and sponsor children in countries where I can write them directly in their language, since communicating with them helps keep me sharp and appears to bring them joy as well. Through the decades, I have retained many of the letters my sponsored children have sent me.
My time as Katya’s sponsor flew by and I was informed that I would have to say goodbye to her when she graduated from the program at 18. Thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. She also conveyed to me her sadness and I perceived her tears through those tender lines of thanks she conveyed to me. God bless her wherever she may be today.
As Plan is always committed to moving forward, it wasn’t long before another child, Rosa from Bolivia, became my new sponsored child and the same pattern ensued, along with all the memories.
My greatest joy was sponsoring Joysie from the Philippines, who I actually got to meet. I was stationed in South Korea and flew to Batangas, Philippines, to see her. I even attended her high school graduation! I got to hand over her graduation gift personally, meet her mother and father, and maintain my communication with her many years after she aged out of the program. Today, she has two children, Joy and Daniel, who I am pleased to report are doing quite well.
My current sponsored child lives in Togo, Africa, and I take pleasure in writing to him in French, although that is not his native dialect. I am equally pleased to see him grow and hope someday I might be able to visit him, too.
I am eternally grateful for having had the opportunity to share these experiences, which Plan has facilitated over the years. As a retired military veteran, a licensed social worker, and an active Christian chaplain, I could not have asked for a better non-profit organization with which to have embarked on this journey. I look forward to many more years of sponsoring, and I thank all the people at Plan for this rare opportunity to share my journey.