— Hannah Otazu · Monday, February 13, 2023 —
What impact can a sponsor make in the life of a child? As Orphan Outreach’s Sponsorship Coordinator, Kate LeBlanc promptly answered saying, “sponsoring a child ensures they receive the physical, educational, emotional, and spiritual care they need to flourish.”
Last year, Kate was given her first opportunity to travel with Orphan Outreach, an experience that opened her eyes to a much deeper reality. Now, Kate believes the impact of sponsorship is immeasurably more than one might imagine. “I came to work at Orphan Outreach during the pandemic, so I had never been able to go on any trips but I begged to go all the time. Every meeting, every chance I got, I’d say, ‘Send me! I’ll go anywhere!’” Kate laughed.
Kate and her team traveled to Honduras to visit in country staff and their programs for the first time since COVID. Each day they visited a different site, listening as the staff recounted the challenges they faced during COVID and the incredible ways in which they have adapted to continue caring for their children. Kate was inspired by the passion and tenacity of the staff but the most impactful moment came when she visited the home of a family who attended the NiCo Program, an outreach center providing Christ-centered care to vulnerable children in the town of La Paz. “When I first heard we were going to visit a family’s home, I felt uncomfortable,” Kate admitted. “I didn’t want to intrude or be a bother. But when we arrived it was clear the family was excited and proud to host us. At one point, they asked what I did at Orphan Outreach, so I told the translator, ‘I’m the sponsorship coordinator, I work with the profiles and coordinate the letters...’ and as the translator was relaying this to them, the little girl grabbed my hand and led me over to one of the cinder block walls. It didn’t have anything on it except for a calendar, a few crafts they had made at NiCo, and a school photo of each of the children. But she pointed to two other pictures and the translator said, ‘she’s saying that’s her sponsor.’ It was such a neat moment because I realized she understood what my job was and was showing me, “Oh, this is what you sent; this is what you set up for me!’”
While Kate and the team visited with the children, the teachers took the opportunity to encourage the mom, praising her children, and sharing how much they've seen them grow. The staff later explained that in this community, children are usually very reserved. They aren't quick to talk to you or introduce themselves. But these kids were different. They looked Kate in the eye, shook her hand, showed her around, and answered every question clearly. These behaviors aren’t something they gleaned from their community. It was taught to them at NiCo, as a part of their education. “As I watched these kids, I realized that this is part of what we provide through sponsorship! Being a part of these programs creates almost an integrity or confidence in their character. It makes them more employable in the future. That’s something they wouldn't get without sponsorship,” Kate said.
The team’s next stop was a transitional home called Hope in Jesus. Hope in Jesus’ goal is to place children back into families, keeping them in an institution only as long as is absolutely necessary. While there, Kate and her team were able to witness a big moment for the children and staff at Hope in Jesus. “One of my favorite moments was getting to be a part of the reunification ceremony,” Kate recounted. “One of the boys was preparing to leave, to live with his older sister who had done everything required to get him back into her home. I can't describe how emotional it was. The staff prayed for him and encouraged him; he wrote a letter about how impactful his time at Hope in Jesus had been. It was really incredible to be a part of it all.”
But while the reunification ceremony was unfolding, Kate noticed something was happening with another one of the children. “There was a 17-year-old girl who had been at the home forever. We learned they had found her family, but the family had basically said, ‘We don’t want her back’. Here she was, at a reunification ceremony where this boy was getting to return to his family and she was just sobbing. Hope in Jesus has an on-staff psychologist who lives on the property and works with these kids every single day, and she is really, really close to all of them. So, when this girl started crying, the psychologist came up to her, took her aside, and started weeping with her. I could tell she wasn't just trying to placate her. She was sitting in it with her saying ‘This is terrible, I'm so sorry.’ Her heart was breaking for her. Again, it's so hard to describe moments like this to a sponsor. Yes, Hope in Jesus is providing these kids with food, shelter, and an opportunity to grow spiritually, but it's so much more than that! To have someone who knows you intimately and is just walking alongside you...it’s incredibly powerful,” Kate said.
She came home from her trip with a renewed sense of passion and purpose for her job. The trip was a fresh reminder that each profile that passed across her desk represented a child with his or her own unique story and struggles. It’s difficult to describe what you are giving a child when you sponsor them or support programs like Hope in Jesus. It’s a nutritious meal and an education-yes-but it’s also integrity and confidence. It’s a loving, understanding presence in the depths of their despair. This is what it means to go deep with a child. Not just to provide a meal or an education, or tell them about Jesus, but to look them in the eye, tell them they are worthy, play with them, talk with them, and weep with them. You too can be a part of restoring hope to these children. Would you consider becoming a sponsor, or travel to visit these sites in person with us? Contact us to learn about sponsorship opportunities and how together, we can restore hope.