Monday, February 11, 2008

In the Hope of Changing a Few More Lives - Part 1

I hope you enjoyed Erin Fitzgerald’s video, Children at Work, that’s currently featured on our website. (Haven’t seen it yet? Click here to check it out!)

Bennett Scher is a long-time Children International sponsor – to be exact, the sponsor of Ciro, the young man who is featured in the video. I was with Bennett a few months ago in the Dominican Republic, and he graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me. I thought I’d share them with you…

How long were you Ciro's sponsor? What led you to sponsor him in the first place?
About 7 years, and I can't remember if it was a TV ad, or an email, or some type of Internet ad. People always ask me this, and unfortunately, I can't recall. I do remember what led me to sponsor his sister, and that was simply when I met her, I knew within a few minutes that I wanted to sponsor her too.

What was your impression when you walked into Ciro's home for the first time?
It was similar to how I imagined it in its size and construction. A wood house with a metal roof. I wasn't surprised since I had done a lot of reading and was as prepared as I could have been. It was different in that I was impressed with how nicely they had it fixed up inside, with little decorations, furniture, a small TV, and a very homey feel. I was impressed with how little they had, yet how much pride they had in their home.

Did visiting Ciro's home make him more real and more human to you?
Yes, of course it did. I saw how he lived, how little he grew up with, and how grateful they are for so little. It was a wake-up call for me since we have so much here and always seem to focus on what we don't have. I got to look him in the face and hear him speak, and see how humble and shy he is, and see how hard it must be for him to relate to me and for him to comprehend how I would come all the way down there just to visit him.

What led you to start a project to buy Ciro a motorcycle, and how is the project coming along?
On the second visit in October of this year, I found out that Ciro had major transportation issues, with getting to and from his job. He had to ride a beat up bicycle (which he said was very difficult to pedal) to and from work, at least 45 minutes each way, before starting his long day on the banana farm. He said that some nights when he got home from work, he was so tired that he would just fall into bed without even eating dinner.

I was upset to hear this because I had thought that he had a little motorcycle which I had seen on the first visit, but apparently that was his dad’s and wasn’t always available. I immediately asked Franklin (a Children International employee) how much a decent used motorcycle would cost, and we eventually came up with a goal of $725. I mentioned that I wished I could buy it for him but it was a lot for me, in addition to my other contributions. He suggested that I try to raise the money, and I said “I don’t think I can.” But then he contributed $75 to get me started. I hadn’t thought of it like that…and I said, “Well, I can give $50.”

By the end of that day, back at my hotel in Santiago, I had raised almost $300. Some was from two strangers that I had just met, who thought it was a wonderful idea and offered to help without me even asking, as well as another sponsor, etc. Within a couple of weeks, when I was back home, I had met my goal thanks to the help of good friends here in the U.S.

When I returned to the Dominican Republic two weeks later, I was able to tell Ciro that he would be receiving a call from a C.I. representative shortly, to go out and buy him the transportation he so desperately needs!!! He will be able to get to and from jobs and school now more easily and with more self esteem, as well as be able to help his family with chores and also perhaps with getting other family members to work too!

This photo turned out a bit blurry, but it captures a once-in-a-lifetime moment...Bennett had just broken the news to Ciro that he would be getting a motorcycle -- and had given him a toy bike to represent what was coming!

Check back tomorrow for the rest of Bennett's observations on sponsorship and his visit to the Dominican Republic.

1 comment:

Heather M said...

Bennett is an inspiration to us all!! I think most of us are doing a lot, and we think just like he did, "I don't think I can". We feel like we are pushed to the limit doing all that we can to help our sponsored children. He found a way to provide, when he thought that he couldn't. Way to go!!!