Nobody is more aware of the lasting impact a child sponsor can have on a child than Norma Anderson.
A retired school teacher, Norma knew Yubo Fernandez when she was 8 years old—not as a student in her class at the Wheeler School in Providence, RI, but as a sponsored child in the Dominican Republic.
Her middle school students sponsored Yubo together as a class, helping to build a small bridge between cultures in the U.S. and in the DR.
“They were involved in sending you some good wishes, and I’m so happy that these good wishes have come true for you, and that you have accomplished so much and have such a good life that you are sharing with others,” Norma told Yubo when the two sat down together at Norma’s old school, where Yubo recently went to visit. “We are very proud to see you and very happy to be with you today.”
For Yubo, now a successful actress, Norma and her middle school students changed her life.
Through the students’ sponsorship support, Plan was able to “give me clothes to go to school – a uniform – and [staff] visited my house every week to see how I was doing,” she said.
While child sponsorship gave her the extras she would need to succeed, the most important thing it did was make her feel special. Letters would often arrive at her doorstep in bulk. She knew an entire classroom in the U.S. was wishing her well.
“Every time they sent me a letter it was a bunch of letters – it wasn’t just one letter,” she said.” Even if it was just one letter, it was just one letter signed from different people.”
When Yubo’s sponsors made a trip to the Dominican Republic, she practiced her English – ready for whatever words the middle school students threw at her. When they arrived, she was suprised to learn that the students had been practicing their Spanish.
“They were very kind with me,” she said. “I wanted to talk to them in English and they wanted to talk to me in Spanish.”
Although Yubo’s sponsorship lasted just four years, Plan’s programs empowered her. She gained the ability and confidence to make it on her own and achieve much success. Today, her career has brought her all around the world, where she has won awards in acting and the film industry.
This month, she’ll appear on a panel in New York City on Latina Entrepreneurship Success, hosted by HOLA, Google’s Latina network. The panel theme is “How We Did It.”
When asked how she did it, Yubo says “I created my own opportunities, [but] if it weren’t for Plan, I wouldn’t be here.”
Now, she said, she can use her platform as an artist to help others – just as Norma and her class helped her. She helps young girls in the DR through acting classes and coaching. Currently, she is working on a film on her life and her time as a sponsored child.
“[Plan] had a great impact,” she said. “It showed me a lot about giving. It showed me a lot about being grateful and the power to help others.”