For 12 years, David and Stacie Levis of Citrus Heights, Calif., have sponsored children across the world through ChildFund International. Their sponsorship helps provide the children with basic necessities, clean water, educational opportunities and job training.
The couple, who have three children of their own, consider their 14 sponsored children part of their extended family, always looking forward to updates, letters and photos. But it was a Facebook promotion last summer that would forever change their relationship with their sponsored children.
Hundreds of people entered ChildFund’s “Experience of a Lifetime” promotion online. Finalists were asked to write short statements about why they should win, and the organization’s Facebook fans voted for their favorite. David Levis won after receiving the most votes.
His prize was an all-expense-paid, five-day trip to Uganda to meet five of his sponsored children – Dixon, age 9; Margaret, age 14; Sarah, age 13; Robinah, age 11; and Shafik, age 6.
“It’s ChildFund sponsors like David and his wife who really represent what our organization is about,” said Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund, which serves more than 13.5 million children and their family members in 31 countries. “It’s exciting to provide him the opportunity to meet his sponsored children and see what his support has done through the years.”
In addition to meeting his sponsored children, Levis was able to get a first-hand look at the impact ChildFund programs make in Uganda’s communities. He met with community members, toured villages and visited schools where he engaged students as they asked him a range of questions about life in the U.S.
“I teach public school, and I have about 35 students in each of my classes,” Levis said. “I’ve been in classrooms in Uganda that have over 100 students. To be able to see smiles on the children’s faces, to hear their music and their voices – it’s been overwhelming.”
To document his trip and share this “life-changing” experience with his family and other ChildFund sponsors, Levis utilized Skype, blogging and Facebook, creating photo albums, sharing status updates and filming videos that he posted online.
“My only hope is that by documenting my journey and providing a glimpse into what it’s like to visit a sponsored child, others will be able to see the difference they can make,” Levis said. “By sponsoring a child, you’re not just helping one individual. Your sponsorship is combined with others to support an entire community. The multiplication effect is huge.”