Liz Petty, her husband and daughter smile. A hiking trail is in the background.

Liz Petty and her family have been supporting child sponsorship since 2016. 

A headshot of Helio, a sponsored child from Mozambique.

Helio participates in Save the Children's sponsorship programs in Mozambique. 

A Different Kind of Valentine –  Three Generations of Child Sponsorship 

Written by Liz Petty, Child Sponsor since 2016    

Early on in our relationship, when my husband and I celebrated Valentine's Day, we had virtually no extra funds. We sat at our secondhand kitchen table and made cards for each other and our daughter from construction paper we already had on hand.  We love our card making tradition and our daughter still continues it to this day.  

Over time our circumstances changed. Our daughter started pre-school and I started working outside the home. The focus at her school during Valentine's Week was other cultures and loving people who come from all walks of life. We wanted to reinforce those concepts to the best of our ability but we didn't know how best to accomplish that.

A few days before Valentine's Day, my husband and I were talking about how we wanted to celebrate. Did we want to give each other gifts? There was nothing we really needed. Did we want to go out to dinner?  At the time, there wasn't a place we really both truly enjoyed.  Neither one of us are candy or flowers type of people but we didn't want to completely ignore the day altogether. "What about a charitable contribution," he asked? But to what charity?

"Have you heard of Save the Children?" I asked my husband. "When I was younger my mom sponsored two different children through their organization. We wrote them letters and they wrote us letters. I still remember their names. It was really cool." My husband's response gave me goosebumps! "My mom did that for us as well. I think it was the same organization!" Excitedly, we went to Google and found out that Save the Children was still around!

We decided we definitely wanted to sponsor a child from overseas. We had great memories from our childhood of receiving our letters with colorful stamps from around the world. One little boy from Mozambique caught our attention. He was 6, the only one with a little mischievous smile and his birthday was the same month as our daughter's. We asked her what she thought and she was as excited as we were! Together we looked up where Mozambique was on the map and did some reading on Wikipedia about it. We have learned there are more than 25 million people who live there, 90 out of 1000 children die before their 5th birthday, the average girl stays in school only until she's 9, and a parent earns an average of just $1 a day.

We immediately went to Shutterfly and ordered a handful of family pictures we thought he might find interesting. We went to the post office and bought pre-paid International stamps so we can send him mail whenever we choose to, we can even email him. It's so easy! On March 7th, 2016 our first letter came. Helio has the help of a translator to write us and he drew us a picture of a bike. Our daughter eyed the stamp and envelope and unique writing with curiosity. The next day she went to her pre-school and told them all about her "adopted" brother from Mozambique. We certainly had a funny conversation with her teacher that night trying to explain!  

Of all the letters, one stood out the most. Helio wrote and told us that someday he wishes he could ride in a car. It was an eye-opening moment for our daughter. She began to truly understand how different people have different circumstances and how important our contribution is. She began to have a little more gratitude and because her perspective has slightly changed, she helps us see things differently as well. Our moms love that we have carried on this tradition and maybe ever our daughter will be a third-generation sponsor someday.      

When we made the commitment to sponsor, we also made the commitment to never stop, no matter how our finances changed. We consider our contribution as non-negotiable as the electric bill. It costs us no more than a few cups of fancy coffee each month. Because of our contribution, Helio and others have access to things like cleaner water and a better education, hope and a chance.  What better way to show our love than through our actions to another human being, especially now during a pandemic? While we are unable to write Helio at this time for safety reasons, we look forward to a time when we can soon!  In the meantime, we know our contribution continues to make a difference.

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