Original for a Marylhurst University Public Presentation Class – Fall 2011
Three years ago, I met a Children International spokesperson in downtown Portland. I learned about the advocacy organization and outreach program. I liked what I heard in that as a sponsor your monthly donation helps to provide health care, education, food and clothing. Then I asked a few questions:
- Is Children International in Mexico?
- Can I have a choice in the gender?
- Can I visit the child I decide to sponsor?
Why my interest in Mexico? An early fascination with the country of Mexico began with a fourth grade class project studying the history of the Aztecs and the arrival of Cortez and the Conquistadors. The Aztecs were considered an advanced society who ruled by intimidation and sacrificed war prisoners to give thanks to their nature gods, as a tribute to their reign of power and in anticipation of bountiful harvests. The Spaniards are known by some to be European Imperialists and their advantage to conquering the Aztecs is that they had guns and horses. The Aztec population was estimated at 150,000 at its peak, but many died from small pox. In a few years the indigenous people and their gold were under the control of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabel of Spain who wanted to convert the Indians to Catholicism but also knew of the value of gold.
A few years after that class project, my parents took the family on a vacation from California to Texas to visit relatives there. On the way we saw the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, and then went out of the country crossing over the border from El Paso to Juarez, Mexico. Mexico is known to be a country of extremes, which I saw for myself the first time I visited there. Homelessness at the time in that country was unbelievable. People were living in the streets in lean-to shelters and the holes in salvaged pieces of plywood were patched with lids from food cans and nailed in place. We drove farther into better neighborhoods where the large-scale houses were surrounded by concrete and stone walls. The top of the high walls contained broken pieces of glass. This was achieved by placing bottles in wet cement and when it dried breaking off the necks leaving jagged edges. There are still areas of Mexico that are not much changed from that first scenario in regard to the level of simple existence for many people.
Diva Livingston, photographer/ Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, 2009
How this affected me and how I viewed life from that first imprinting was multi-layered. I felt sadness for those people who seemed to have no alternatives and wondered why the people in the big houses didn’t help them. As I grew older and became an adventurous young adult, I went to Mexico often for the weekend as I lived in Southern California. It took only about 2-3 hours to cross the border and go to Ensenada for a good time. From the perspective of an adventurous twenties something surrounded by Americans, it was not the same impression as that of a child all those years ago. Later I went to Cabo for the first time in my late twenties before it was discovered and developed as it is today. I went again years later and it was still a great place to vacation but quite different than before. I learned photography and can create new images and perspectives.
Diva Livingston, photographer/ Cabo, Baja California Sur, 2009
The reason for becoming a sponsor was self-focused in the beginning. I determined I could do a good turn by helping someone in need and be able to take a vacation in Mexico and visit the sponsored child. Naturally the focus shifted when I got a picture of my sponsored child, named Escarlet, who was 10 years old and simply a delight to me. I read her first letter that was written in Spanish and then translated to English by a person who worked in that CI agency location. The packet I received also contained a fact sheet about Escarlet’s family. The long ago memory of the Mexican people having a tough time came flooding back to me. I was glad I had taken the time to become a sponsor and make a real difference.
Letters from a sponsor are written in the Children International web site and translated for the sponsored child. It is suggested that sponsors write appropriate to the child’s age and engage him or her about school, family and general topics that are relevant to their culture. The letters form a bond and a sponsor receives at least two letters a year. The letters have a drawing outline of a butterfly or flower that the child colors. It is always a special experience when I get a letter in the mail from my sponsored child and sets a happy mood for the day. In addition to writing letters and the monthly contribution, you can donate an amount to celebrate the child’s birthday, Christmas and other occasions that are a part of the Children International outreach program. Children in any country love getting gifts and so everybody benefits from the charitable experience.
For more information: https://www.children.org/