Children International in Columbia
In The Philippines
In, er... with Miss Universe 2010
Meivelyn Noemi Cacao Mendoza is a little six year old girl who lives in Guayaquil, Ecuador (Ecuador is represented on the map in the second picture above by the little shaded area. The third picture is of the city Guayaquil) The first picture above is of Meivelyn around two years ago, the seventh picture is of her one year ago, and the last was taken recently. I now sponsor Meivelyn through Children International.
I am told she is 3 feet and 7 inches tall, weighing a whopping 42 pounds. She has brown eyes and hair. She attends school and her favorite subject is art, accordingly she likes to draw. The fourth picture above is an example.* Meivelyn speaks Spanish. Many people in Ecuador do.
Her dad's name is Jose, and her mom's Cecilia. Jose works in construction while mom stays at home. They make approximately $240.00 a month American, just about the same amount one person would make on General Relief here in Los Angeles (plus food stamps).
Meivelyn has a little brother, Johan Jose, who is two years younger.
Meivelyn and her family live in a one multi use room home made out of split cane with a corrugated roof with a wooden floor. Just like me.
She sleeps each night on a wooden bed, and she is bright, beautiful and happy, and has one of the most wonderful smiles I've every seen.
This is what lovely Erin said about her when I showed her the first picture above: "She is the cutest little thing I have ever seen!" This is high praise from a person who doesn't like to be around kids.
Many of my other friends said things very similar.
Meivelyn lives in Ecuador as I've mentioned, which is, as Kurt Vonnegut pointed out in his novel "Galapagos," the only country in the world named after a map coordinate, specifically the equator. The word Ecuador actually means equator in Spanish. You see that horizontal line running through Ecuador in the map above... that's the equator. The equator separates the northern and southern hemispheres of the planet Earth.
I've crossed the equator exactly four times in my life. I hope to do so again sometime.
The first was when I was in the navy headed toward the Philippines on a ship. Being the happy go lucky folks that navel personnel are they had a big ceremony on board my ship just as we crossed. The fifth picture above is of just such a ceremony on board a U.S. Navel vessel. I would have been one of those in the pool. The ceremony also involved getting my face rubbed on the big fat belly of a Chief Petty Officer which was lavishly smeared with axle grease.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it?!
The sixth picture above is of the Chimborazo volcano as seen from Guayaquil, 87 miles to the northeast. It hasn't erupted for about 1,500 years and is believed to be extinct.
llamas live nearby.
If you are afraid of the dinosaurs that live at the center of the Earth, then standing at the very top of Chimborazo is the farthest you can get from them, without getting on a plane, hang glider, or helicopter. Although Chimborazo is not the tallest mountain on the Earth's surface as far as being above sea level is concerned (that would be Mt. Everest), because the Earth spins around it bulges in the middle, right where the equator is, making the summit of the Chimborazo volcano the farthest point from the center of our planet.
Ecuador is famous for owning the Galápagos Islands, which lie about 525 nautical miles west of the mainland, and where the English naturalist, Charles Darwin, found much evidence for his theory of Evolution, which is one of the greatest scientific discoveries ever. He found many different species of animals there and wondered how they came to be in such an isolated place. No one had wanted the islands before Ecuador annexed them in 1832, although the Spanish, English, and a whole bunch of whalers had visited them many times. The whalers liked to go there so they could steal the fat from Galápagos tortoises. The eighth picture above is of two Galápagos tortoises who wanted to keep their fat and are happy about it.
The ninth picture above is a reminder of why it's not good to go swimming in the ocean around Ecuador.
They use U.S. dollars in Ecuador, which is very convenient when Americans come to visit the Galápagos tortoises.
Because Ecuador lies on the equator the daylight and nighttime periods are always about 12 hours long throughout the entire year, and sunrise and sunset arrive every day at 6:00AM and 6:00PM respectively.
They like guinea pigs in Ecuador, which they call cuy. The tenth picture above is of a cute little guinea pig. The eleventh picture is of a guinea pig after Ecuadorians get a hold of it.
Miss Earth of 2011, Olga Mercedes Álava Vargas, is from Guayaquil (twelfth picture above). Isn't she pretty!
And there is a park in Guayaquil called Parque Seminario that you can go and feed mango oranges to iguanas, like in the thirteenth picture above. That iguana looks hungry!
There are several organizations that offer sponsorship services for children in the U.S. and other countries, like World Vision International, ChildFund, and Save the Children, among many others, and some of these organizations work in different ways (some provide services to the child's community rather than the individual child for instance).
Before choosing any charity organization I would suggest checking them out on the Internet Machine at charity review sites, such as CharityWatch:
to make sure they are legitimate and how they allocate their funds, like how much money is used for sponsorship services vs the organization's administrative expenses.
I have a long relationship with Children International, having sponsored two kids previously. I trust them and I've never been disappointed.
I sponsor Meivelyn for $25.00 a month. That money is placed into a pool with a certain amount of funds sent to the Children International field office where she receives services according their particular budget. There the money is allocated to the children and their families.
I'll let Children International speak for itself:
"As a nonprofit humanitarian organization, we strive to help children around the world overcome the burdens of poverty to become healthy, educated, self-sustaining and contributing members of society.
This goal is achieved primarily through child sponsorship, which unites children in need with individual sponsors who wish to address the children's immediate and basic needs, and gives them the tools and opportunities necessary for success.
In addition to sponsorship, we work to further improve the living conditions of children and families who live in poverty. Through projects such as latrine building, clean-water initiatives and income-generation programs, we help families live healthier and happier lives.
We continue to provide safe, sturdy homes for impoverished families who suffer in substandard housing. Through our housing program, we've built hundreds of new homes for victims of natural disasters, such as hurricanes and fires; and thousands of homes have been repaired and upgraded with sturdy roofs and concrete floors."
In addition Children International provides:
"Emergency Food as Needed
Medical and Dental Care
Clothes, Shoes and More!"
Special gifts can be made by sponsors that go directly to the sponsored child.
Critics (there's always critics) have argued that child sponsorship could alienate the relatively privileged sponsored children from other kids and may perpetuate harmful stereotypes about third-world citizens being helpless. They also claim that child sponsorship causes cultural confusion and unrealistic aspirations on the part of the recipient, and that child sponsorship is expensive to administer.
To these critics I say "Poo poo."
If Americans can withstand income inequality to the degree that we do without getting all hostile I suggest other cultures can as well, and I have a hard time believing children will begrudge other children new shoes. Also, I can't worry about the perpetuation of stereotypes. They'll exist no mater what we do. And I do not see cultural confusion and unrealistic aspirations on the part of the child a major problem if the charity does it's job well and does not promote these aspirations. Just the opposite actually. I would hope that the sponsors and charities encourage the children to grow and learn and achieve to the maximum of their abilities, and no more.
As far as cost, the charities themselves (monitored by organizations like CharityWatch) will provide information concerning the cost of their operations.
And to these critics I ask, what is your alternative? Do nothing? That doesn't seem very helpful.
One criticism I've received in the past by so-called America first assholes is that we should take care of our own children before anyone else's.
To them I also say "Poo poo."
By virtue of being born, or simply living in the United States kids are better off than 95% of children who live anywhere else. Kids here have access to free public education, programs for the poor, food assistance, medical care, etc., that are not available to most children in third world countries. (Besides, Children International offers sponsorship for children in the United States)
I'm an American, yes, and proud of it, and so very thankful to have been born here. But I am also a citizen of this planet, and I have compassion for all of us, not just a small portion. I'm thankful that by being an American, even though I am poor myself, I'm in a position to help others who need it, and by providing this assistance I may make a difference in the life of that pretty little girl in the pictures above.
And by doing this it helps me to feel a little better about myself, decreasing the severity of my self-loathing temporarily.
As a sponsor I get a new picture of Meivelyn each year, so I get to see her grow up. I also get two letters from her annually.
Sponsors can write to their sponsored children as well. Here's my first letter to her:
Hola Meivelyn Noemi Cacao Mendoza!
I hope you and your family are well and doing fine.
My name is Rick Joyce and it is my pleasure to be your sponsor through Children International.
I live in a city called Los Angeles, which is in the state of California, which is one of the states that makes up the United States of America, which is to the northwest of where you live in Ecuador. As a matter of fact we live about 5676 kilometers apart with a two hour time difference, which means that when it's twelve o'clock noon time where you live, it's ten in the morning where I live.
I'm exactly your age plus fifty years, which means I'm real old. Like you I like art and listening to music, so we have very much in common. But I'm sure you draw better than I do, because I'm not very good at that kind of art. Instead I write words out on the Internet each day, which keeps me pretty busy.
I like your pictures very much and have shown them to all of my friends and they all say you are a very pretty little girl with a lovely smile. It is my hope for you that you get the best education available which is very, very important, and to keep healthy. I will continue to help as best as I can for as long as you need, and I wish you and your family the very best!
I hope, dear readers, you consider becoming sponsors yourselves, and maybe help just a little bit, some of the children of this world of ours.
*(just kidding. That drawing is by some guy named Picasso)