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Jhon opens a backpack of gifts from his sponsor.
​Jhon opens a backpack of gifts from his sponsor.

Carmen embraces Jhon during her visit.
​Carmen embraces Jhon during her visit.

Carmen Denby talks up sponsorship at home and abroad

This past April, Carmen Denby travelled many hours along narrow, uneven dirt tracks that twist up the steep mountains in Peru to the community of Alto Chicama. She was there to visit a boy on behalf of a Canadian family.

A kids’ ambassador

Volunteering as a child sponsorship ambassador for World Vision, Carmen, 47, spreads the word about sponsorship and child advocacy programs. The former high school teacher and mother of two is passionate about social justice and holds fundraisers in her community. She and her husband sponsor four children. Carmen became a child sponsorship ambassador after a World Vision-organized trip to Rwanda in 2010.

“I feel like I’m a voice for these kids,” she says. Carmen has gotten 25 children sponsored through her own circle of friends and family. This includes a 12-year-old Peruvian boy named Jhon, sponsored by the Uzelmans, a family of four from her home city of Kelowna, B.C. Joseph Uzelman recently decided that instead of birthday gifts, he wanted his friends to help sponsor a boy his age.

A poignant meeting in Peru

In a meeting hall in Otuzco’s main square, Carmen spotted Jhon. He was waiting with his family, his eyes searching the room in anticipation. Surrounded by his family, Jhon sat across from Carmen, and through an interpreter, she told him about the Uzelmans. Jhon listened, tugging at his sleeve, his expression thoughtful.

“They’re supporting you because they want you to have a good life ... and they want you to be able to live your dreams,” she told him. “What are your hopes and dreams?”

He said he wanted to be a business manager. The moment the words were translated, he began to cry. Carmen slipped from her chair and took Jhon into her arms. As he wept against her shoulder, she told him that this was a happy day.

She then encouraged him to open a backpack of gifts—a soccer ball, a pump, clothing, a headlamp and puzzles—from Joseph’s family and friends. “They’re just things, but it means that someone else cares for him and is thinking of him from a land so far away,” Carmen says.

She showed Jhon photos of the Uzelmans. Afterwards, he pressed the album to his chest, overcome with emotion.

“I said, ‘You’re lucky you found each other,’” she says. “[The Uzelmans] are lucky they’ve got Jhon because I could see what a great child he was and he’s going to be lucky because not only will they financially support him through sponsorship, but they’ll make a real effort to have a more meaningful relationship through that time that they sponsor him.”


This article appears in the Winter 2014/2015 issue of Childview.




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