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Visiting Leela In India
Leela was just 12 when Beatriz began sponsoring her in 2005. Beatriz says she loved to receive the updates and would always send something special at Christmas, but she had a sense that she wanted to get closer.
So, back in 2008, Beatriz decided to include a visit to Leela in India as part of her annual holiday.
“It was very emotional,” Beatriz says, “and a real eye-opener. I had read all of the information, but meeting Leela and her family brought it all home. Yes they had a roof over their head and a small field with cows, but they had so little else. Her father was often ill and her mother was not always in good health and that makes you realise just how vulnerable children like Leela are. If I could have just put her on the plane and taken her home with me I would have done.”
Beatriz’s Child Sponsorship paid for Leela to go to school – something the family couldn’t afford without financial help. Beatriz was shown around the school by the ChildFund project leader in India, Sister Lucy. Beatriz says: “As well as the obvious advantage of learning, I could see that school gave Leela the chance to just be with other kids – to enjoy being a child. I realised that without my sponsorship, Leela would almost certainly have been working in the fields or doing housework instead of playing with friends.”
Sister Lucy explained that sponsor money goes to the community. In Leela’s case it was helping to support projects that were teaching basic health, hygiene and nutrition in villagers’ homes, giving even more children the chance to grow up stronger and healthier.
After the trip around the school, Sister Lucy asked Beatriz if she could talk to Leela about staying on at school as there was some concern she might be thinking about dropping out. “I spoke to Leela about the difference school can make. After my visit she stayed on at school for another three years. Out there in rural India many girls are married at 15 or 16, so I’m delighted she took my advice. That gave her time to learn more and to make her own decisions when she was old enough.”
Leela is now 21 years old and Beatriz has just visited for a second time. “She is a grown woman now and my sponsorship is coming to an end so I wanted to visit and say goodbye. It was a fabulous trip. They were so welcoming. I wasn’t a stranger. I felt part of the family.”
So what’s next for Beatriz? “I’m hoping I might be able to sponsor Leela’s cousin to keep the connection going. Whatever happens I can’t recommend ChildFund’s Child Sponsorship enough. With some charities you have to just hope that they are doing what they say they are. To be able to go and see the difference your money makes to real people, to communities. That’s incredible. I think anyone who sponsors a child should try and visit if they possibly can.”