Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Fighting Chance

Does the name “Marcia Brady” ring a bell in your mind? You might be interested to know that the woman millions of people remember as Marcia Brady of “The Brady Bunch” fame traveled to Africa recently on behalf of Children International.

CI team members Gretchen Dellett, Scott Cotter and I were in Africa with “Marcia” (Maureen McCormick) and her husband, Michael. They were gracious traveling companions who truly connected with the needy children of Lusaka, Zambia. In this piece, Gretchen reflects on Maureen’s visit.


A Fighting Chance
Posted on behalf of Gretchen Dellett

“I think about that hug every day.”

You can hear the emotion in Maureen McCormick’s voice as she recalls an emotional embrace with Mary, a 14-year-old orphan she met on her recent trip to Zambia, Africa. It’s evident as you speak to her that the journey – and the people she met – profoundly impacted her life.

The well-known actress and television personality spent ten days in Zambia on behalf of the nonprofit humanitarian organization Children International.

Maureen visits with Mary (left) and her sister, Manase.

Maureen met many children during her visit, but Mary, in particular, touched her heart. Although Mary is only 14, she has known a lifetime’s worth of pain and loss. Three years ago, Mary’s parents died of AIDS, leaving her in charge of her four younger siblings.

Each day, Mary wanders the nearby neighborhoods, looking for household work that may bring a little money for food. Her siblings also seek work. When that fails, as it often does, they beg on the streets. There are days when they eat nothing.

As Maureen took a tour of Mary’s barren home, she could hardly believe what she was seeing. The five children live in a cramped room with only a tattered, foam mattress and dirty blankets to sleep on. “Wow,” she said. “They could really, really benefit from Children International.”

Through an interpreter, Mary told Maureen of the difficulties they face. “I feel more like a mother than a sister,” she admits. “It’s been really difficult. I can’t afford food for them, or to send them to school.”

As she listened, Maureen shook her head in disbelief. “I have a daughter, and I just can’t even imagine her, you know, at this age, doing what Mary’s doing,” she said. Impulsively, she reached out to Mary and hugged her. Mary’s eyes filled with tears as she felt what had been missing in her life for three long years: a mother’s touch. “It was a moment I’ll never forget,” Maureen said.

When Maureen departed Zambia, she left Mary with far more than just a warm embrace: she and her husband, Michael, gave Mary the gift of their sponsorship.

Sponsors have also been found for Mary’s siblings. Now, as sponsored children, all five have access to Children International’s nearby community center, where they can receive medical and dental care, educational assistance, emergency food, vocational assistance and perhaps most importantly for these young orphans… attention and support from caring adults.

Maureen and Michael have already helped put new beds in Mary’s household, and they look forward to being a part of her life – and giving her a fighting chance to rise above the poverty and sorrow that has marked her young, difficult life.

If you’d like to discuss this post with other Children International sponsors, why not join the Children International Google Group?

Read more about Maureen McCormick and Children International.


Dana said...

i am a sponsor of the youngest child in this family, and I am so happy to hear that they have beds! I donated money for food and clothing as well. Hopefully we can all eventually make a real difference.

Heather M said...

Thank you so much for your post about my child's family! I haven't yet received my first letter from Mary's brother Mwanza, so it is good to get an update. Would you send me the pictures of her visit when you gat a chance?
Now we know who one of the other sponsors of the family are. :0)

Kelly said...

I had the privilege of meeting these children...and I can tell you that what you and others have done for them is nothing short of a miracle. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

What a nice story! I really respect celebs like Maureen who are willing to step outside their own lives this way and help a good cause. Would love to eventually hear another follow-up story about this family to find out over time how CI has changed their lives. Also congrats to the CI Blog members, Heather & Dana, who also sponsored this family!