One Sunday in CEFC church, we listened to Bill & Marsha Myers talk about the VivaKids program to help children in the Dominican Republic with their basic needs while attending school.  My wife, Lorrie and I already sponsored a girl from Congo through World Vision for several years, but we wanted more actual involvement with the children.  We searched through the pictures of the children that were on display in the foyer and decided to sponsor Justo Brito in May of 2017. Because we had his date of birth, we were able to send Justo a birthday present as well as at Christmas time.  We were excited to provide financial help to his parents to help the entire family.  This really made us feel good about the VivaKids program

I wanted to join the 2018 mission trip in March, but I was not able to make arrangements in time for that year.  However, I was able to go on the trip in 2019.  During the first evening, (which was Sunday), our entire group did a walking tour through the borough.  Dr Enerio’s wife, Leopoldina stopped me to tell me we were right in front of Justo’s home.  She called for the parents to come out and she introduced me and they allowed me into their home.  I was taken back and embarrassed at the time.  They introduced me to Justo’s older and younger brother and the parents thanked me for the support from Lorrie and me.  As we continued our walk, I admit that I had to hold back tears as we saw many of the homes.  The children were happy and they were so glad to see us.  But the condition of their homes and neighborhood was difficult for me to view and not cry.

On Monday, the first day of school, the pace was hectic and fast!  All I can remember hearing was the word “Americano” and all I can remember seeing were happy children.  We had to be quick and able to stay up with them!  After chasing Justo around for 15 minutes, I was exhausted and I had to sit.  Several young girls (from Kindergarten) actually grabbed my hand and took me into their playground for the younger children.  I was able to stay up with them only for a short while, and we became friends right away.  One girl in particular would not let me go.  Someone took a picture of her giving me such a big hug.  When I spoke to Lorrie about her that night AND sent her the picture, she suggested that we sponsor her as well. (Note: this was my game plan anyway  ).  I inquired about her name the next day and we became the sponsors of Ashlis Marte.  (Since a sponsorship represents one-third of the child’s cost, some may have more than one sponsor.  We would later find out the Ryan and Alicia Keeler and their two boys also sponsored Ashlis which is really neat).

In 2020, I again signed up for the trip.  I wanted to use my office personnel at Hydro Extrusion to help me some with fundraising.   Over six weeks, we were able to sell $240 of the Uglies kettle chips provided by Dieffenbach’s.  I also thought about some of the shoes that some children wore the previous year and how they were worn and in poor condition.  I saw one girl running out of her shoes due to broken straps and shoes that really had holes in the sole.  So, I placed a large box in the foyer at work with a sign “shoes for kids” and asked anyone with young children that had shoes worn but in decent condition to be placed in the box.  Lorrie also went shopping for new shoes and sneakers that were on sale.  We collected a total of fifty pairs of shoes, seventeen of which were brand new!  In addition, several coworkers donated $100 to help the VivaKids program in general.

In addition, one of my coworkers inquired about sponsoring a child.  I showed her how to get into the system to view the children and get some basic data.  As a result, Carlos Alburquerqe now has a sponsor.  With the help of the program director,  I was able to determine that Ashlis has a younger brother while Carlos has an older sister and an older brother.  With the shopping skills of Lorrie, we were able to take down gifts for Justo, Ashlis and all their siblings when I went down in March.  My coworker was able to do the same for Carlos and his two siblings.  Although we did not get to spend as much time with the children this year due to the Coronavirus, the highlight was our ability to provide for both the sponsor children and their brothers and sisters. We felt lead to see that ALL of the children of the family have something to enjoy.  This was the highlight of my 2020 trip.  I would encourage all of you reading this to consider partnering with VivaKids as a sponsor or signing up for one of their upcoming trips.