One day, about seven years ago, I was in a mall and came across a World Vision kiosk. Normally I'd just pass it by, but this time something, or should I say someone, jumped out at me. I saw a picture of the cutest little boy that instantly made me stop. Right then and there I started sponsoring Ruben in the Dominican Republic. He was three years-old at the time.
Over the next seven years we exchanged letters. I enjoyed this and always loved getting my annual report that included a picture of Ruben. Watching him grow up was something special.
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In August 2012, my Mum and I were deciding where to go for Christmas holidays. We tossed around a few ideas but something was calling me to the Dominican. I didn't even really know that meeting Ruben was an option but I found myself on the World Vision site to see if I could do it. To my surprise, it was really easy to request a visit. So, for the next couple months Mum and I started collecting items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, colouring books and pencil crayons, a soccer ball with a pump, etc.) for Ruben and his family.
All ready for gift giving.
The Big Day
Finally the day had come to meet Ruben. It took about an hour and a half to get to the World Vision office from our resort. It was our first time seeing the real Dominican and it was a little shocking. We met up with our translator and a World Vision representative and were told Ruben would be coming soon. We were asked if we wanted to see some World Vision projects and saw a nearby community centre, preschool/daycare and a farm. I was very impressed and can say with 100 per cent confidence that sponsorship money is being well spent and really does go a long way.
As we headed back to the World Vision office I was really nervous to meet Ruben. We walked in and I saw this little boy (well he’s 10 now) sitting there and instantly I knew it was him. We were introduced by a translator and taken into a room so we could have a chat and he could open his gifts. I brought the very first picture I had of Ruben (the one from the mall) and then the latest picture I had to show him ... this broke the ice a bit. We had fun opening his gifts. His 18 year-old sister, Luisa, was there and we had some gifts for the family that she opened as well.
Ruben was the one who initiated the first hug as he said “thank you” after opening his gifts. It seriously melted my heart and I could feel a connection between us. We then headed off for lunch.
About half way through lunch we were told that this was Ruben's first time in a restaurant and only Luisa's second time. This is where things really started to be put in perspective for me. Ruben ate about half of his meal and then packed up the rest for his family.
Once we were given the ok we asked if we could take Ruben and Luisa grocery shopping. When we first arrived at the store both of them were so shy and timid. We had to encourage them to fill up that cart and get whatever they wanted. At this point we found out they had no electricity or running water at home. The realities of their world were starting to become very real.
They mostly filled up on staples that would last them a long time. Ruben's only request was hotdogs! As we were heading to checkout, I noticed Ruben's shoes were pretty worn out and didn’t fit. I asked if I could buy him a new pair, and his eyes lit up.
As we began our drive to Ruben’s home, I knew the day was about to come to an end and I started to feel sad. In this short amount of time I started to fall in love with this little boy. We arrived at Ruben's house where I had the privilege to meet his Mum and two of his brothers and another sister.
Meeting Ruben's family.
It's been a few months since my visit and I can't stop thinking about Ruben and his family. It's so easy to feel overwhelmed when we don't know what to do to help others in need. But sponsoring does help and does make a big difference. It has left me wanting to do more and I hope to get more involved with World Vision.
Please consider sponsoring a child. Your support will make a big difference in the life of a child and his or her community.
Contributor: Kelly Strongitharm visited her sponsored child in the Dominican.