Visiting my Sponsored Child with Plan

Visiting my Sponsored Child with Plan

It's been a while since I wrote a post - however, this has been up and coming for some time.

I'm in a process with not only my artistic practice, but also how I want to use my voice. So in this, I'm inviting you readers into it, and I hope it's clear that this is very infinite and very open to wherever it will lead. But let's go back in time a little.

I don't remember when I first became acquainted with Plan. Perhaps it has been some TV commercials or through social media. I had known about the organization for a long time - and like so many other charities it was clear that there was someone here who was passionate about the cause.

Since I came of age I have donated to various charities. It has varied from time to time, and when the economy has been tight, I have had to withdraw. I think we can all relate.

When I was 22, something happened in my own life that made me reconsider many values. Perhaps it was around the same time I made an agreement with myself to contribute to maximum two organizations at a time - and when I had withdrawn from other things, I went to the Planbørnefonden's website out of curiosity. I honestly don't think I read very much about their specific work. I just read that you could sign up as a Plan sponsor, and if you had to stop your contributions for some reason, it was possible. It did not oblige as such. I signed up.

When I received the information about my sponsored child - let's call her C, to honor anonymity - something in me made a commitment anyway. I suddenly felt some sort of responsibility for C and all that she could have through mine and many others' contributions through Plan. We started writing together - through her parents of course, she was just a little kid - a few times a year. Over the years I got updates from both the parents and Plan. C was now so and so old, she had now started school, she had become fond of sports, she had siblings - and so on. During my time as a sponsor, I got to know not only her but also the family a little. Sometimes over the years I found myself with a very tight budget. But I never saw it as an opportunity to withdraw from my donations for C and her community. And a few hundred kroner a month is not much, when you think about it. I know many people who happily pay more to watch movies and TV through various streaming channels.

The years have passed when I have had my thoughts in all sorts of other places. But at the end of 2022, the opportunity arose to finally visit C, when I had to go to Guatemala, where she lives. I wrote to Plan a few months before my arrival, that I would like to meet her and the family, if they were up for it.

The response was amazing. Plan was ready immediately and implemented a very detailed plan for the visit so that it was the best possible for all parties. They made sure to inform the family so they too could prepare. The dates and the journey to and from the village with Plan's own staff were decided months before the visit. I didn't think much more about it until I met with the contact person in Guatemala City.

I was picked up by the contact person from Plan and Plan's own driver, after which we set off on a very long and very winding drive towards the village. On the way, the contact person informed me about the visit, what I could expect, how I could contribute and so on. When we finally arrived after 9 hours - the poor driver must have been tired! - we made a stop at Plan's office, where several employees welcomed me and introduced me to Plan's work in Guatemala. I was amazed at the many projects we as sponsors contribute to. Until then I had only dealt with C and her life events. I had no idea that my small contribution would go as far as contributing to local entrepreneurial projects or education about women's rights, which is a very important cause for me. It was fantastic to experience the work so close.

After the presentation of Plan's work, the contact person and I stopped by the local supermarket to fill a bag with groceries for C's mother and a soccer ball for C. The day ended quietly in a small hotel in the middle of the jungle to the sweet trickle of the rain outside, and I got a long rest before finally meeting C.

In the morning we drove as far as the car allowed. After this there was a 20 minute walk through forest and across a river, before we reached the village. The man who met us outside the school turned out to be C's father. I immediately wanted to give him a hug, but respecting local etiquette, I leaned on the contact person to figure out how to behave. I shook his hand and he directed us to the school, which was beautifully decorated for my visit. The school was well attended by children and young people, some mothers and a few men. We entered the classroom, and since a local language was spoken and not Spanish, it took me a while to figure out which of the kids was C. I had seen a lot of pictures of her, but it was something completely different to meet her in reality. The contact person pointed to C, and I looked at her smiling. The feeling cannot be described, but it was definitely loving. C is a beautiful little girl with a big smile. The contact person asked if I could have a hug, and a little shy, she came over and gave me one. It was great to finally be able to hug the girl I've been following on the sidelines for the past six years!

We all went outside on the small terrace, where some of the young people had prepared the most beautiful local dance. Afterwards we talked a bit with the family. C's father spoke Spanish, so I could talk to him and hear how it was going for the family and community - especially after the pandemic, from which they had all come through safe and sound and now had work again. C and her mother and sister sat next to me the whole time. C gave me a drawing with a letter she had made, and her mother had woven the most beautiful bag for me using the local weaving technique. I was amazed to say the least, how she had found time for that, but it was so beautiful to exchange hugs and gifts. I gave the family the bag of food, which is Plan's recommendation to give when you come as a sponsor. Then I gave C the soccer ball, and we invited the other children out for a game.

I have never been a soccer fanatic, but always enjoyed playing. After this visit I understand why. It’s a sport that make bonds. We played for a long time, and there was so much laughter and great sports spirit - although we had to be careful not to kick the ball too far, so that it either went into the river or to the bull behind the improvised soccer field behind the school. After the match, we played some different games, and after a few hours in total we ended the visit. We hugged goodbyek, and I slowly walked with the Plan staff back across the river and through the jungle.

I was so overwhelmed with impressions. I've known who the family was for the past six years, but that day I got to know them and they got to know me. I saw C with my own eyes and expanded my horizons enormously. This is so much more than a monthly contribution, and of course it has always been the right thing to do.

It's impossible to fully convey those feelings in words, but like so much else that feels right in life, being a sponsor is one of those things for me. That was really emphasized during the visit.

On the very long journey back to Guatemala City, I began to think about my own privileges and my work with new perspective. I grew up with knowledge freely available to all genders, and I have benefited from that. But it is not given everywhere in the world, and I will contribute to improving that. Plan puts enormous effort into educating girls and young women about their rights and opportunities, even in cases where schooling is not an option.

I have long worked with feministic art, but also long thought about how I can use my channels more broadly around equality.

It starts here with a call to contribute. I think it is clear that I recommend becoming a sponsor. But there are so many ways to find information about the world's equality issues and how we solve them. I will start writing more about that, as well as what is being done in advance and how to help (like Plan).

I don't know yet how the take of my articles will be - but I think it’s important to also to shed more light on what is being done, so that we understand the problems from a more solution-oriented perspective, rather than simply articulating the problems and the structures that creates them.

Lot Winther Plan

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