Albania–Meeting Our Sponsor Children

Working within my role at World Vision means that every day I get to hear uplifting stories about the relationships forged between sponsors and the children they sponsor. As a child sponsor myself, I feel a strong sense of camaraderie with other sponsors. We all have the same heart for vulnerable children. So, when I heard that there was a group sponsor visit to Albania planned, I signed up to go as one of the sponsors.

My husband I each sponsor a child in Albania.  As my husband couldn’t be there, I agreed to meet his child Mikeljan on his behalf. A lot of prayer and preparation went into our meeting. Before my trip, my husband told me everything he knew about Mikeljan and especially how much he loves football! Between the two of us, we did some shopping for gifts for Mikeljan and his family.  While in Albania, the wonderful World Vision team worked hard planning the sponsor visits and all the itinerary.

The night before I was due to meet him, I stayed in too reflect and pray about our time together.  I was nervous  about the meeting because Mikeljan is a teenager and I wasn’t sure of the welcome I would receive.  Would he think it was ‘uncool’ or ‘lame’ for instance.

We first met at the World Vision office where Mikeljan arrived accompanied by his mother. To my surprise, he spoke very good english! I had brought a letter for Mikeljan from my husband which a staff member translated on paper.  Another staff member translated the conversation between Mikeljan’s mother and I. I showed him photos of my husband Jim and talked about him.

We walked by a lake and later had lunch together. His mother spoke to me about her family and her concerns for Mikeljan. I noticed there was free wifi, so I video-phoned Jim so he could speak to Mikejan in person.  They each had the biggest grin on their faces as they chatted away about  Mikeljan’s biggest passion-football!

I was so impressed with both Mikeljan and his mother. They were such lovely people. Mikeljan is a bright, courageous, sociable and articulate boy.  His mother was lovely, warm and gracious. I felt like I had just met family.

The following day, it was time for me to meet my sponsor child Andrea. It was another wonderful meeting but with some differences.  Andrea is only 7.  He came with his mother, older brother and younger sister. He was very shy at first but soon warmed up.  Nobody in the family spoke english but luckily we had someone on hand to translate for us. Andrea thanked me for the hot wheels I sent to him in the post.  Unfortunately, he lost the green one which was his favourite.  Since I have been home, I have been looking at green hot wheels but they are all so different and I have no idea which one he lost!

I knew ahead of time that we would spend time at a beach. I brought lots of toys to play with. The most popular was a game of velcro mitts and a ball. When we had lunch, I brought out the Jenga which was a big hit as the whole family could play.

After only ever seeing some photos and a couple of videos of Andrea, it was nice to get to know more of his unique personality. He is such a fun, endearing child with a gorgeous, contagious smile. The family were sociable and sweet and we had a wonderful time together.

The trip gave me real insight into the culture and people of Albania. I feel an equal sense of compassion and hope for this country. I am so thankful for the opportunity that sponsorship has given my husband and I to help the communities where Mikeljan and Andrea live.

To sponsor a child through World Vision UK, please go to their website by clicking here.

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Story Of A Bear

It was worth a shot but it hadn’t worked.  We were very mistaken to think that the one she loved could be so easily replaced.

There he lied…on the floor… stubbornly ignored by the toddler who refused to acknowledge him after she threw him there.  Was it the fourth or fifth time now?

She stood there, refusing to look at it.  Her small body turned away with downcast eyes.  She didn’t want to look at us either.  She hadn’t thrown a tantrum.  She hadn’t cried.  Yet her communication was clear. ‘This is not my Teddy.’

For three nights, we had woken up to her heart-breaking sobs and her crying for Teddy.  She had lost it somewhere.  I had searched everywhere in the house but couldn’t find it.  Her real teddy was a tan colour, sort of like pine wood.  Most of its fur had been sucked off its nose. His foot had, ‘Baby’s first Teddy’ embroidered on it.

The one lying on the floor was not it.  I couldn’t find an exact replica.  I found another bear which I thought was at least equally cute.  I should have known it wasn’t about cuteness.  It was about attachment.

When we found her real Teddy bear about several days later in the church nursery, our daughter’s reaction was a bit strange.  She held it but didn’t react.  It was as if she had given up hope of ever having it again and now wasn’t sure if he was really there.  She didn’t throw it down on the floor but she didn’t smile either.  She seemed numb.  I realised that my poor sixteen-month old daughter had experienced her first form of emotional stress and shock.  She never lost him again.

Tara and Teddy

As for the replacement bear, we later gave him to my son. He was then passed down a few times till my fourth child had him.  We moved from the US to the UK with the bear. Then one day, it may have been a birthday or Father’s Day, my daughter gave him to my husband as a gift.  This bear is now nearly thirty years old.  He has never been truly loved – not in the sense of say, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ sort of way.  I suppose my husband and I have felt the closest to sympathy towards it.  Poor rejected bear.  I hadn’t realised Jim kept it all these years.

When World Vision said they needed 700 Teddy bears to be placed on the steps of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, Jim donated our sad bear towards it.  The 700 bears were used to raise awareness. They symbolise the 700 unaccompanied refugee children that are arriving each week in Uganda after fleeing their homes in South Sudan. The children had been separated from their family.  They have witnessed horrible atrocities.  Many have seen members of their own family killed.  This has left most of the children psychologically traumatised.  They arrive in Uganda terrified, hungry and exhausted.

Our Bear showing with the red circle around it. Photo Source: World Vision UK

Uganda have been exemplary when it comes to welcoming the refugees.  Hundreds of thousands have arrived and have been given sanctuary, compassion and a plot of land.  However, aid is still urgently needed to provide basic needs such as food, clean water and medical supplies.  Many of the children need psychological therapy for what they have suffered.  You can read more about World Vision’s campaign in the UK by clicking here.  To learn more about World Vision’s work in South Sudan, click here.

You may wonder what World Vision will be doing with those 700 teddy bears, once their Bears On Stairs campaign is over.  The answer is that every teddy bear is going to a child in one of the refugee camps in Uganda.  I am so happy to know that our poor rejected bear will finally go somewhere where he is loved.  In my heart, I am sending him off with a prayer that he will bring comfort to a child who needs it.

Namaste