One thing Heather knew for sure was that she wanted to bring about change in the world. “I've been looking for ways to have a meaningful impact on global poverty, and had heard good things about the work that Plan [International USA] is doing,” she said. “I really liked that donations to Plan are used for projects that are truly community-run, based on needs expressed by the community.”
Plan’s sustainable, child-centered community development approach seemed like the perfect fit. Knowing that not all children are born with the advantages that she and her 5-year-old daughter, Kaia, were privileged to have, Heather wanted to show Kaia that it is possible to provide a child, and a community, with the tools they need to succeed.
“I was also looking for ways to get my daughter involved,” she said. “I thought that sponsoring a child would be a meaningful way for her to learn about contributing because she can relate to the experiences of children her own age even if they live far away.”
Heather began sponsoring a young girl from Nicaragua named Monica last December. And, before long, she was planning a visit to the field. She knew that seeing Plan’s programs in action would make her truly appreciate the impact she was making.
She was struck by the warm welcome she received from Monica’s entire village.
“I didn't expect that we would get so much information about what was going on in the community,” Malin said. “And the presentations from the kids were wonderful. Some girls did a traditional dance, a boy showed off his reading skills, and a group of older kids demonstrated an anti-bullying project they have been doing. We got to participate in the anti-bullying activity and really get a sense of what they were working on.”
Additionally, Kaia had the opportunity to get to know Monica and Monica’s cousin.
The experience was eye-opening for the 5-year-old.
“She got to see that the kids enjoyed the same activities and things that she did. They spent some time coloring together,” said Heather. “But, at the same time, she noticed many things that were unusual to her, like the way that Monica's father prepared the fish for dinner.”
Heather hopes Kaia’s visit to Nicaragua opened her eyes to the knowledge that there are a slew of different cultures around the world. And that in the end, we’re not all that different.
“I hope she learned that there are children all over the world just like her, with similar interests, ideas, and goals, but living in very different circumstances,” she said. “I hope she learned that homes and towns and communities are different around the world. I hope she learned that despite differences, you can still find ways to connect and play and laugh with people who live in very different places.”
For Heather, providing those children with the ability to play and laugh has been incredibly rewarding. Plan’s approach to sustainability was evident when speaking to members of the village and when seeing all of the programs.
Members of Monica’s community took ownership of the community’s positive developments.
“I think the thing that struck me most was how Plan projects were really used as seeds for ongoing community development that people in the community planned and implemented,” she said. “I was very impressed by the ownership that they expressed for the work that was going on in [their community].”
Heather would definitely encourage other sponsors and donors to plan a trip to the field as well.
“I'm glad to have the opportunity to contribute through a program as well run as Plan is, but being able to visit Monica, her family, and her community makes for a much stronger connection to the work that is being carried out with the money,” she said. “It makes such a difference to meet people, both the families benefiting from the donations, and the staff who are in the country running the program. I left feeling really good about donating to Plan.”