What was the best gift you received?

By Jennifer Winnett Denniston
December 17, 2018

Although I’ve had my fair share of birthdays and holidays, there are definitely a few gifts over the years that stand out in my memories as especially meaningful. Some are material — like the year my husband took on odd jobs without telling me and secretly saved up the money to buy me a beautiful anniversary gift that would be a complete surprise.

Some of my very favorite gifts haven’t come in wrapping paper, though. Last year my family was able to spend Christmas Day at home for the very first time. We did open presents that day, but it was the time spent together that I cherished. The quiet, lazy day spent playing games, watching movies and being together was the real gift.

You gave some amazing gifts in 2018, and some of the best ones did not come in wrapping paper, either. Keep reading to see the stories of seven young people who have received their best gifts — from people like you!

Gloria, 17, Uganda

The best gift I received was … a sewing machine.

With the critical support of people like you, Gloria received a sewing machine she uses to make clothes to sell and support her family.

With the critical support of people like you, Gloria received a sewing machine that she uses to make clothes to sell and support her family. 

Gloria’s parents died when she was just 9 years old. Since her older brother was in school, she became the chief breadwinner for her brothers and sisters.

But, they struggled — until you sent a miracle. Because of your support, Plan International was able to offer a Child-Headed Household Project in her area, which trains orphans and vulnerable children with job skills so they can improve their economic situation.

Gloria joined the program, and took part in the tailoring training, where she received her very own sewing machine. Now, she creates different designs to sell to customers from her community.

“Without the intervention of this project, we would have lived our lives in poverty,” she says. “The training was a turning point in my life. We are all living a better life now.”

Thor, 17, Laos

The best gift I received was … a toilet.

Support from people like you changed Thor’s life by providing a water source in her community, allowing a functional latrine to be built!

Support from people like you changed Thor’s life by providing a water source in her community, allowing a functional latrine to be built! 

Women and girls living deep inside the mountainous areas of northern Laos are almost always solely responsible for housework like fetching water for the family. But with broken systems and dirty water, this chore was both dangerous and time-consuming.

With the help of people like you, in 2018, Plan and community members finished installing a new, safer water system, including a water tank, taps and a pipe system.

“I am so happy that I don’t need to fetch water from the well down the valley or from the creek nearby,” says Thor, a 17-year-old schoolgirl. “I have more time to learn and play with my friends. The most important thing is that I can use the latrine anytime — day or night at my convenience.”

Bladimir, 16, El Salvador

The best gift I received was … knowledge.

Because you supported projects like Champions of Change in El Salvador, young people like Bladimir went from hopelessness to confident change-makers.

Because you supported projects like Champions of Change in El Salvador, young people like Bladimir went from hopelessness to confident change-makers. 

Bladimir dropped out of school at 14. He struggled as a teenager, and didn’t see the point. He was living with his mother, young sister and grandfather. His mother is the sole provider for the family, cleaning houses during the week. It was hard for her to take care of her daughter, who has a physical disability, and Bladimir’s 83-year-old grandfather at the same time — but Bladimir didn’t help her. He figured that men don’t have to take care of anyone, prepare food or do housework; that’s a woman’s job.

“I was a problem child,” he says.

But recently, a friend told Bladimir about the Champions of Change project, and he decided to join. He learned about creating goals and valuing the work of both women and men. That got him thinking. And one day, he surprised his mother by telling her he wanted to go back to school.

Now, Bladimir is enrolled in seventh grade and is dedicated to his studies. At home, he takes care of his grandfather, prepares his food and does the cleaning and other household chores while his mom is at work.

“My son has changed,” his mother says. That change is the direct result of support from people like you!

Aura, 10, Indonesia

The best gift I received was … an education.

Your support helps Plan stay ready to respond when disaster strikes, so that children like Aura can stay safe.

Your support helps Plan stay ready to respond when disaster strikes, so that children like Aura can stay safe. 

Nearly two months after a powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated the provincial capital city of Palu in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi, children are starting to return to school.

Around 1.5 million people were affected, including hundreds and thousands of children. At least 1,200 schools were damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, affecting about 184,000 students, according to recent estimates. Many schools across the region are still closed.

Aura’s school was one of those hit.

“Our house was not destroyed, but our school was damaged,” she explains. “The chairs, tables and some rooms can’t be used … so tents have been built in the playground which we use as classrooms.”

The support of donors like you is the reason Aura can have a smile on her face now. After a disaster, she has a safe place to continue her education.

Bossin, 17, Central African Republic

The best gift I received was … finding my father.

Bossin and his sister Anastasie were reunited with their father after four years apart, thanks to your support!

Bossin and his sister Anastasie were reunited with their father after four years apart, thanks to support of people like you! 

The civil war in the Central African Republic has separated and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Four years ago, Bossin’s father, Jean de Paul, sent them to a different town to keep them safe from the violence. But not long after, their mother was hit by a bullet and died. Bossin and his sister Anastasie ended up with their grandparents, where they were living when Plan first contacted them.

“We gave them our father’s name and they said they would help us to find him,” Bossin said.

Through Plan’s reunification project in the area, staff was able to locate Jean de Paul, who had lost all hope of finding his family.

“I thought they were all dead, because I did not hear from them until the day Plan International contacted me,” Jean de Paul said. “I was very moved when the Plan team came to tell me with the news of my children and promised to bring them back to me. Imagine a father who thinks his children are dead — it was such a big day to be told that they are alive and will be coming home.”

The reunion was marked with tears of happiness.

“I am very happy to be reunited with my father today after four years of separation,” Bossin said, smiling. “Words fail to thank Plan for that.”

Ronald, 20, Bolivia

The best gift I received was … chickens.

Thanks to you, Ronald got the help he needed to earn his own income by selling eggs.

Thanks to people like you, Ronald got the help he needed to earn his own income by selling eggs. 

Ronald is a former sponsored child in Bolivia. Blind since birth, he was struggling at 20 years old to make a living. That’s when you stepped in to make a difference in his life. Because of support from people like you, Plan International’s Labor Opportunities Project selected Ronald to participate in a program that helps vulnerable young people implement successful business ventures.

Ronald decided to start a hen breeding project, since he’d looked after his own family’s chickens for years. So, the support of people like you helped to provide Ronald with 20 laying hens to start his business, as well as food, medicine and training to get his business off the ground. And so far, it’s working!

“We used the income from the sale of eggs to buy more egg-laying hens,” Ronald said. “We also bought some mud bricks to improve the hen house.”