Anastasia Yecke isn’t shy about striking up conversations with people she meets around the world. An avid traveler and backpacker who visited 46 different countries during her stint as a flight attendant, she makes friends far and wide – including the children she’s sponsored and visited over the past 10 years.
Ana has also made many important connections as a founding member of Aura’s House, an online crowdsourcing project her friend Kristen Palana created to fund housing, health, income generation and education projects through Children International. Volunteering for Aura’s House is a great way to keep the momentum of sponsorship moving forward, she says. And it was one more way to pay forward the help she’d received in her moments of need.
Recently, Ana traveled to Guatemala with members of her church to help a team of doctors provide medical care to impoverished children in Guatemala City and at a nearby orphanage. She arrived a few days early to drop in on Aura, the former sponsored child who inspired Aura’s House. Aura, now 20, is a full-time elementary school teacher who attends college on the weekends, thanks to the ongoing educational support provided by Ana, Kristen and other supporters of Aura’s House.
Reconnecting with Aura wasn’t the only surprise of her trip, though. During a bus ride to the colonial town of Antigua, Ana met a congenial young man and his nephew. It turns out her fellow travelers had something very special in common. Ana shares the details in her story below…
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I was taking a bus back to Antigua when I met a very nice young man, Jonathan, traveling with his 6-year-old nephew, Daniel. We began talking and I learned that Daniel was sponsored by “Cheel-dren.” “Children International?” I asked with excitement. “Sí!” they both replied.Kristen Palana (Aura’s sponsor), Aura and Anastasia posed outside Aura’s then-new home in 2006 after Kristen and Anastasia raised the funds needed to build the house for the girl’s family.
It turns out that not only Daniel but also Jonathan’s younger brother (age 16) was sponsored.
It was fascinating to talk with Jonathan about his family’s experience with CI. Through the years I have had the privilege of meeting a total of four sponsored children in their respective countries of the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Guatemala. Each time, I have been very impressed by the community centers and, of course, the children themselves. But each time I was always accompanied by a CI rep...so I was very curious to hear what Jonathan’s “unfiltered” experience with them was. I was not disappointed.Daniel was all smiles when he learned that Anastasia was a sponsor with Children International.
“Cheel-dren has been a huge benefit to our family,” he said. “Just 15 days ago, Daniel received a new pair of shoes. They have provided him with school uniforms, clothing, vitamins, and medicine when he is sick. It is a big relief knowing he can get treatment when he needs it.” Of his 16-year-old brother who is also sponsored, Jonathan said: “He is currently in training [at the CI community center] to be a machinist. This would not have been possible without Cheel-dren.” Jonathan also told me that Daniel's sponsor is a lady in Spain with whom they communicate frequently. “We always look forward to her letters,” he added.
As if this experience wasn't amazing enough, Jonathan and Daniel were kind enough to accompany me from the bus stop (on the outskirts of the city and not in the best part of town) almost to my hotel, to make sure I didn't get lost - even though it was not on their way home. I was very grateful for their help, especially because it was nighttime when we arrived.
As we parted, they both hugged me and said it was so nice to meet another sponsor. But the pleasure truly was all mine!