Light the Spark in a Child's Eyes

I guess I really didn't know what to expect when we walked out of the airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In my mind I had prepared myself for a smog-filled haze blanketing the crowded city with a constant body odor smell. I was pleasantly surprised. I guess that's why one of the first things I saw was what my brain continued to fixate on during my whole trip and it's the one thing I will continue to remember long after I'm gone. What caught my eye was a young girl standing at a glass window looking excitedly into the arrivals with her big brother. I'm not sure who she was waiting for, but her eyes had this sparkle and I could tell she was anxiously anticipating someone special. That sparkle though. Man. 

That sparkle is what I'm still reflecting on a week after my trip with World Vision into the field to see how they are creating long lasting change in the lives of the most vulnerable children, families and communities.  I started to expect to see that sparkle in every child's eyes, but once a child hit school age, it wasn't always a given. The eyes started to dull and the realities of a life in extreme poverty wore down that light until sometimes you were looking into a dark expressionless void. Poor water and sanitation, the highest rate worldwide for early marriage, children entering the workforce before puberty, those are the realities that plague a child's future in Bangladesh and dull that sparkle. 
I sat next to a man on the long flight home who was coming from a wedding of some friends in India. Both of us sat quiet for hours until a conversation was started by my seat mate. We talked for quite some time about the similarities of the extreme poverty we saw in both countries. His trip was quite different though. He left with more questions and I left knowing that there was hope. 
One afternoon we gathered in the entryway alcove of a dark office building. Behind a small gate we stepped over the threshold to find a dozen kids sitting around a mat on the floor looking up at a teacher writing on a small office white board. Educational posters were tacked to the walls on top of an old restaurant billboard. 
The kids gathered were street children age 8-14. There were two boys but the rest of the children there were girls. They dropped out of school to work barely before their education even started because their families were desperate for money even if the children were earning only pennies. 
The children introduced themselves and told us what they did for work. I couldn't help but focus on a little girl with curly pig tails sitting in the back row. She didn't even bother to stifle her yawn, her eyes tired after a long days work. 
She's twelve. The same age as my youngest son and her job is to pick up rice that has fallen from bulk bins at the market grain by grain and take it home to her family. She receives her days wages for her work in food rather than in money.
While my kids are grumbling that they have to pick up their school bags and put away stacks of recently washed and folded clothes, some of these kids are house maids for several homes. The kids struggled to make eye contact as they went child by child to explain their jobs to us and tell us what they did all day for work dipping their heads down and feeling embarrassed. 
We heard the kids tell us about how they are all in special school program now from 3-5 pm everyday. They meet after they complete their jobs or between shifts, sometimes walking up to an hour to get to the center for the class. In just two years, the program funded by World Vision sponsorship programs will help the kids get back on track to re-enter formal education. During that time, their parents or caregivers will also receive training on income-generating activities that they can do to replace the children's lost wages the family has grown depend on. 

There is hope!

A few months ago, a World Vision staff member asked what the children would like to receive for Christmas. The kids in the program all responded that they would like to have new school notebooks. A notebook. That's it. 
We got the pleasure of handing those notebooks out to the children and the joy we witnessed from receiving a notebook was unimaginable. Those kids eyes that were dull of any expression lit up and a spark was ignited. Like any spark with the proper environment, it can reignite into a flame that shines bright or it can flicker out and extinguish. 

Hope can reignite that spark and World Vision brings that hope to the communities it works in. 

Want to light that spark? Consider sponsoring a child in one of nearly 100 countries that World Vision works in. These are real children, with real stories and you can make a real difference. 
Bring back the spark in a child's eyes and give a child hope for a future. Find a child to sponsor today

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tammilee said...

Thank you for sharing your journey! It touched my heart and makes me so happy we can support families through World Vision

Triệu Thuý An said...

It's so heart-warming reading through your story. Thanks for sharing!
An Trieu

rachelteodoro said...

Thanks Tammilee! Me too!

Leslie said...

Great pictures and a great story. Do you do a lot with World Vision?

rachelteodoro said...

Leslie, I'm grateful that such an amazing organization is headquartered practically in my backyard! I sponsor 3 beautiful children (2 in Uganda and 1 in Bangladesh) and have had the privilege of meeting 2 of them. I actually met the 3rd too but I didn't know it at the time! I love the organization so much that I spend whatever free time I have volunteering with them as a child ambassador connecting children with sponsors because I believe so much in the mission of community empowerment through child sponsorship. I've seen it in Zambia, Uganda and now Bangladesh and know it's changing lives!

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