on the needles

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Just a Quickie :)

Just a quick post to let everyone know that I have updated the sidebar section and added links to a bunch of new blogs. You can see them if you scroll all the way down....

In addition to the usual knitting blogs, I've added several sewing and quilting blogs that I think you will find inspiring as well - even if you don't sew or quilt. The colorful photos alone are worth a look!

Did you know that I also read History blogs? Perfume blogs? True crime blogs? Softie blogs? Even a parrot blog... There are also a few blogs that fit into what I would call the "domestic goddess or the art of living" category. The "blogs I read" section is like a little trip through my cluttered mind. :) But there are lots of blogs there that I think less eclectic people will really like as well.

And of course there are also some blogs written by my fellow CI sponsors.

Take a look. I'd love to know if any of you find anything new that you enjoy. Leave me a comment if you do!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lesly's Home Repair Project - Completed!!

I just received word from Aura's House that Lesly's Roof Project is complete!

Lesly is my daughter's sponsor child in Guatemala. They are nearly the same age and thick as thieves. :) Lesly's project was the first of my sponsor kids projects to be funded through Aura's House. My daughter helped out by donating her allowance and making and selling candies to raise extra money. But of course the support Lesly received from the donors at Aura's House was key to making this project possible. I can never thank them enough!!

Now the photos!!

Lesly with the supplies for her home repair.

Lesly's family received gravel and concrete to lay down a slab in the courtyard of their home. This will be a great help in keeping the home clean and dry since the courtyard got very muddy and stayed damp all through the rainy season. In the background of the photo you can see the tin sheets which were used to repair their leaky roof.

The new roof for Lelsy's house - keeping them dry!

Ta da! The new roof! Now the roof won't leak all through the rainy season. The family will be able to stay healthy and dry under their new roof.

Lesly stands on the new concrete floor which will help keep the dirt out of her home.

I love this photo of Lesly, proudly showing off the new floor. Lesly's father Hugo was able to do the repair work on his home since he works as a bricklayer. It must have been satisfying for him to finally be able to work to improve his own home! And I'm sure that Lesly's mother Aura especially appreciates the new floor since it will help keep the mud out of her home during the rainy season.

Lesly showing off her new propane stove.

How cute is Lesly in this photo?! I'm constantly amazed at what a sourpuss Lesly looked like in her first Children International photo. Despite that my daughter insisted that Lesly was the one for her. I guess my daughter knows that you can't judge a book by it's cover - Lesly hasn't stopped smiling since we sponsored her! Lesly's smile is so charming.

Aura probably really loves this new propane stove. I hope it has made cooking for the family easier for her. Previously the family cooked over an open fire. Anyone who has been camping and tried this knows how tough that can be. Try cooking like that everyday! So I'm sure this new stove is a huge blessing for Aura. The family also received some water containers to help keep their water fresh and clean. Their water comes from a community faucet so storage is always an issue in that situation.

Lesly with her new bed!

I love this photo too. It makes me think of Alice in Wonderland after she drank the bottle labeled "Drink Me" that made her shrink to "very small". Lesly looks like a little miniature person on that big bed! It's so nice to think of Lesly sleeping in a new bed and not getting dripped on by a leaky roof!

Lesly with her new bedding.

Lesly also got some new bedding. My daughter was really pleased with this because she thought it was "so beautiful".

My daughter wanted to pass her message along to all of the people at Aura's House who helped launch the project and all of the donors who helped make everything possible. She said:

"I felt very good seeing the photos of Lesly. Lesly is a very nice girl to know. I'm proud that I was able to help her. I feel really good about Lesly having a new bed. It means so much to me that you helped Lesly to get all of her new stuff. Thank you so much."

And on behalf of Lesly and her family I thank you too!

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Sponsoring Siblings

My Hubby and I recently made the decision to sponsor some siblings of some of our sponsor children. This was something I had been thinking about doing for awhile, but it was a hard decision for me to make.

On the one hand there are several families that I am very close to and I would like to offer them more help by sponsoring an additional child. Siblings are not necessarily automatically enrolled in the Children International program. I think each family is allowed either four or five children to be in the program at any one time but once two or three children from one family are enrolled and sponsored CI tends to concentrate on getting assistance to new families. So these siblings might never get the benefits of the CI program if I didn't request to sponsor them. Also, how crappy must it feel to be the only non-sponsored kid in a family where all of your other siblings are sponsored? Being left out while watching your siblings getting all the benefits from CI and letters and perhaps even gifts from their sponsors must really suck.

On the other hand I was very worried that if I shared my attention between two siblings I would make my original sponsor child feel less special to me. That's not something I want to do at all! I also thought it might create sibling rivalry (although I fully intend to do everything equally for each child - and actually there is probably more jealousy if one child is left out rather than if they share).

After thinking about it for a long time, and discussing it with my Hubby (he was for it) and with other sponsors (some mixed opinions), I finally made the decision to stop worrying about it and just do it.

So this feels like a grand experiment - we will see how it goes...

I don't have the children on my account yet because CI has to get the field office staff to go out and sign the kids up. It will probably be a month before all the paperwork is done, the first medical visit completed, pictures taken etc...And I guess there is always a chance that for some reason or another the families don't want to sign up another child. (Although I seriously doubt that.) So barring something going wrong, I will soon be sponsoring these three new kids:

Jerica Mae in 2008

Jerica Mae is Harry's youngest sibling. I think she turned five this year. She was the only eligible child left in Harry's family that wasn't sponsored. I don't think sponsoring her will upset Harry. He will probably be just fine with sharing. I think the fact that there is such a difference in their ages and they aren't the same gender will lessen any chance of there being a rivalry between them. Also, by sponsoring Jerica I will be able to keep in touch with Harry for a long time after he graduates from the CI program. So I think (I hope!) it will be a win/win for everybody. Plus, Jerica = Adorable!

Adriana in 2008

The second child I am adding is Ana's youngest sister Adriana. I think she is eight years old. She was also the only child who was not sponsored in the familiy. I am already in the process of setting up the family with an Income Generating Project through Aura's House. So until Ana graduates high school and is ready for further education, sponsoring her sister is the only other major way I could help the family right now. Adriana looked somewhat sad in the family photos I have. I hope she will feel happier now that she has sponsor too.

Dulce in 2009

Dulce is Hermelinda's younger sister. I think she is four years old. Since I am unable to do anything major to help the family with their houseing situation and they are unable to do an IGP at this time I think that sponsoring Dulce is the best way to releive some of their burdens. Besides - as if I could resist that little smiley face! From what I know of the sisters they seem to be almost opposites in personality. It will be interesting to get to know Dulce. I wrote to Hermelinda last week and told her that she was very special to me and that because I loved her so much I would like to help her family even more by sponsoring Dulce. I told her that maybe when she is old enough, she will help Dulce write her letters just like Hermelinda's brother helps her now.

So - I hope this is a decision that will work out for everyone. I'll be a little trepedatious until I hear from Ana, Harry and Hermelinda and hear what they have to say about it!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Alison's Blanket

I think we've all caught on to the fact that I like to make blankets. It's just about the most mindless, yarn eating but useful knitting or crocheting a crafter can do. Making a blanket isn't rocket science but it is relaxing and it's fulfilling to see my crafting being used and loved by everyone who ends up with a blanket I've made.

Perhaps my readers will recognize this one. I think I posted about it before...

Alison with mother Carina and her blankie.

I sent this one to Alison as a sort of way of saying hello and that I was happy to have become her sponsor.

I also sent a card and bunches of photos of my family. The sponsor kids are usually as eager to get photos of me as i am to get photos of them. I try to send a few batches a year. I'm not sure Alison was too impressed though. :) I don't think she is really old enough to understand the concept of having a sponsor yet.

So I made sure to include some pretty, colorful stickers and some Hello Kitty crayons. What little girl can resist stickers and Hello Kitty? (Not me. I love Hello Kitty.) I'm not above bribery to get on my sponsor kid's good side. :)

I haven't really seen a smile from Alison yet but I don't think it is because she is shy or sad. I think she just isn't used to the camera yet. I sent her a special needs gift for her birthday last month so maybe when I get the photos back from that I will see a little smile. I hope she will be able to get something super girly because I get the impression she is a girly girl. And I respect that. :) I was thinking that, since I know she loves to dress up, I might hit all the after Halloween sales this year and get her a bunch of princess costumes. I think she would like that.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Sharing a Family

My sister and I share a family. I mean in addition to the one we were born into. :)

We share a sponsorship family!

I started sponsoring through Children International in November 2007. It was something that I had thought of doing for a long time but had never found the right organization for me. Once I started sponsoring I discovered how great it made me feel to be getting to know my sponsor kids and making a difference in their lives. But I also discovered how skeptical and uninterested many people were in hearing about my sponsorship. The one person I could really talk to about it was my sister. I remembered she had sponsored a child for a few years through another organzation when we were teenagers.

My sister is a big softie just like me. She really liked hearing the letters I was getting from my sponsor children. I started encouraging her to sponsor a child of her own. I even sent her links to kids I knew she would think were cute. (My sister has a thing for kids with funny hair. I have a thing for kids with big pudgey cheeks.) She eventually sponsored five kids - two of them were ones that I "found" for her. :)

One of the kids she sponsored was Jhonathan:

My sister's sponsor child Jhonathan

Jhonathan is from Ecuador which is not one of the countries I initially sponsored in. But late last year the lady who babysat my daughter from the time she was born, died after a bout with cancer. She was a lovely person and was from Ecuador. I had heard all about how sweet Jhonathan was from my sister. In fact she really liked both of her Ecuadorian kids. They are very affectionate and their families are very nice.

Jhonathan with a backpack full of goodies my sister sent in 2008

I decided that I would sponsor some kids from Ecuador as a tribute to my good friend who had died. I initially sponsored Ana and Jhonny. A few months later my sister and I had a talk and we agreed that it would be great if we could team up to help out one of our sponsor families, so that is how I sponsored Alison, Jhonathan's little sister.

Alison in 2009 - the most adorable pokey little pigtails!

Alison is the youngest of all my sponsor children. She just turned three. She loves to dress up and her Auntie recently told me that Alison changes her dress many times a day and is very conceited. Lol! She plays with her little cousin, they fight, make up and play together again. She is lucky in that she is attending early childhood stimulation classes where she gets to color and is learning to use scissors. Alison's favorite color is red which is entirely appropriate for a little imp like her!

Alison and her mother Carina and brother Jhonathan in front of their home in 2008

When I started sponsoring Alison her mother Carina was a single mother. But shortly thereafter she married her boyfriend (who I think is Alison's father but not Jhonathan's father). At least I'm pretty sure they are married - it's sort of hard to tell exactly what is going on some times, that's the impression I got anyway. Carina recently had another baby - a boy, but frustratingly they didn't tell us his name!

Alison, Carina and Jhonathan in 2008

One of the immediate benefits of sponsoring Alison was that I get to hear about her in Jhonathan's letters to my sister. I also get double the photos of her since she is often included in photos of Jhonathan that my sister gets. She got these photos of their home in late 2008.

Alison, Carina and Jhonathan inside the kitchen area of their home in 2008

I hope the home isn't as dark and depressing as it seems from these photos but it probably is. From what I have been seeing from Steve's videos of his sponsor children this is a fairly typical home.

Alison, Carina and Jhonathan in the bedroom

The children share this bedroom with their parents. My sister bought the bunkbed that you can see in the corner. I thought that was a great idea. It greatly increased the sleeping space in the room and now at least each child has their own bed.

Carina, Alison and Jhonathan with the new bunkbed

I love the new bunkbed - and so does Jhonathan. He loves to make silly faces.

In addition to the bunkbeds, my sister bought the family some really nice furniture. (She had done the same for family in India - sadly all was destroyed in the recent flooding there.) :(

I love these pictures of the family. Little Alison is so cute standing on the chair.

Jhonathan, Carina and Alison with their new furniture

Jhonathan is really getting big fast. It's almost like you can actually see him grow up in these photos. My sister bought him the bicycle in the photo below. I think this is a great gift that the sponsor kids really love.

Jhonathan with a new bicycle and other special needs gifts.

What a nice family! Jhonathan's step-father Julio is a policeman. That's a great sign for the future of the family because it's considered a professional position. I hope that Carina and Julio will encourage the children to also aspire to a profession - it's the dream of many of the kids who live in poverty. The only problem is that Julio has to work in the city and can only get back home two days a month! My sister and I explored the idea of finding better housing for the family that would allow them to be together more but found that it was cost prohibitive. Unfortunately the same is true for the IGP plan that the family would like to do. Children International reccommended instead that we help with Jhonathan's schooling expenses so that he can go to a better school which is closer to home. I think that's a great idea and we intend to do that.

Sharing a sponsor family with my sister has been really great. We talk alot more in general and it has brought us even closer together. We really support eachother in our efforts as sponsors and it's great to have someone else who really understands how I feel about being a sponsor. I think it's going to be a rewarding journey watching "our" two kids grow up together and hopefully prosper in life. Taking that journey with my sister just makes it all the more rewarding.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

More Photos of Harry

Here's another set of pictures of Harry from around late October of last year. We sent him photos from our summer vacation as well as some little books about animals that we got on our trip. The Filipino kids can read English so it makes it easy to find books for them.

Harry with his summer package 2008

Harry specifically mentioned that he likes to read and some of his favorite subjects are animals, sea life, and the planets and stars. I'm always keeping an eye out for books for him. I specifically want to find him a good one about astronomy - easy to read but informative at an appropriate learning level for a fourteen year old and with good illustrations - and not too heavy! :) Anybody know a boy Harry's age who likes to study the stars and can give me advice on a good book to buy for him?

Harry 2008

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Harry's Birthday Gifts

This is another set of photos I've had for months and never got around to posting..

My dear precious friend Harry turned 14 (!!!) in December. As usual I sent him a special needs gift as a birthday present. I have about five sponsor children that have December birthdays so I've had to make sure not to choose any new children with December birthdays. December is a spendy month what with Christmas and gifts for the sponsor kids birthdays!

Harry got some Hot Wheels

I was pleased to see that Harry was able to spend a good bit of his money on clothing and even a new toy. As I said in my last post, my families in the Philippines have trouble even meeting their basic needs with their small monthly income. Harry's family gets by on only $30 a month! So, naturally when they get the chance they stock up on non-perishable food items.

Harry's new shirt

I'm thinking I might see that yellow shirt again in Harry's new yearly photo. My last yearly photo of Harry was in July 2008 so he's due for a new one here soon.... When I wrote back to him after I got these photos I told him I liked his hair longer like it is in these photos. It looks really cute on him. And doesn't he have the nicest smile? It really transforms his face. Harry is one of those people that really smile from the heart. I simply can not believe how much Harry has grown up in just the year that I have sponsored him.

Harry and birthday gifts 2008

And here we have the ubiquitous massive bag of rice! I don't think a special needs gift in the Philippines ever goes by without the purchase of a big bag of rice. It's such a staple for their diet.

The last letter I got from Harry was in May. He said he was spending his summer vacation with his Aunt and had been on a trip to go swimming in the ocean with some friends. He also described the Good Friday procession in his village/town that he had been to see. In general the kids in the Philippines are quite religious. They often mention such processions or other religious celebrations and holidays. Harry often ends his letters with God Bless! - which I think is so sweet. Even though I'm not religious I do appreciate the sincerity of Harry's belief and that he includes me in his prayers.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Flor's Birthday Gift

The search for my camera charger is "in progress", so who knows when I will get any photos of my knitting & other crafting...

So in the meantime I'll post - you guessed it! - more about my sponsor kids. :) I've actually got a back log of photos waiting for me to get a round to post them. That's one of the coolest things about Children International - you get tons of photos. I've got over 350 photos! That's a crazy good number when you consider you probably get one photo a year with other children's sponsorship organizations.

One of my little Honduran girls, Flor, turned eight this past December. That is such a cute age! And Flor wears it well. I love her clumpy, curly pigtails.

Flor with her birthday gifts - December 2008

With her birthday money Flor bought a set of drawers and some clothing. I think the drawers look like a good choice. They look sturdy and easy to clean. Flor's mother Marta told me the drawers are going to be used to keep their clothes in and will help to keep their clothing clean.

Often my sponsor kids and their families choose to buy a bed with the first special needs gift I send them (except for in the Philippines where they almost always have to spend most of the money on groceries). Flor's family information sheet says that there are four wooden beds in the home. So Flor probably shares a bed with her two sisters. There may not be room in the home for another bed - that's often a factor in their buying decisions as well.

Flor and her mother Marta in December 2008

When I was writing up this post I took a second look at the yellow shirt Flor's Mom is holding and I thought I recognized it from somewhere...

Flor - January 2009

Oh yes - Flor wore it for her yearly photo that I got in January! It's so sweet how the sponsor kids are so thoughtful like that. They almost always try to wear something that I sent them or something that they were able to buy with their special needs money. It's their way of saying thank you and showing that they are thinking of me. I really appreciate the gesture! Plus Flor looks really pretty in yellow. :)

I enjoy getting Flor's letters, which her mother usually writes for her. For her part, Flor often draws - appropriately enough - flowers for me. One of her last letters featured a drawing of a bunch tall reddish flowers with little clumpy leaves in a flower pot. Little birds were on either side holding more flowers in their beaks. I thought it was quite artistic.

Marta often tells me about the seasons in Honduras and what the landscape is like where they live. (Despite having sponsor children in countries all over the world I am always impressed with the concept that it is summer time for me and winter time for some of them. What can I say? I'm simple.) :) In the letter I received about a month ago, Honduras was entering winter time. Marta said the weather was cool and that there were many pretty flowers and trees where they live. I often think it is "easier" to be poor in a more rural setting like Flor has. At least Flor can enjoy the beauty of nature which I know she does because she often mentions such things. I feel sorry for my sponsor kids who are poor in a big city. At least in the countryside there is less crowding and some fresh air!

I hope that the recent political unrest that Honduras is experiencing has not affected my two girls there. I have no reason to think that it has but I do keep my eye on the news. It's sobering to think that poverty is sometimes not the biggest problem my kids face. Natural disasters and unstable governments contribute more than their fair share of difficulties to their lives - much much more so than anyone in the USA ever has to go through. Imagine things like Hurricane Katrina happening pretty much every year and that's closer to what it is like for my sponsor kids.

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