Today is the International Day of Happiness (http://www.un.org/en/events/happinessday/). What does that mean, exactly? Well, this is the day to celebrate life. What gives you purpose? What makes your soul soar?
I can tell you what gives me absolute joy: remembering the big smiles on our sponsored children's faces when I visited our Jalisco, Mexico, community centers last fall. Despite living in extreme poverty, these kids were delighted and eager to show me and my colleagues around the centers and their homes. It was heart-warming, and I'll never forget that trip.
In the Creative Department at CI headquarters, we are privy to some of the most inspirational stories of our children, volunteers, sponsors and staff. And since we're in the business of telling stories, I want to share some of those with you now. I hope these 10 articles put a smile on your face. (I have to admit I got a little teary-eyed re-reading some of these pieces, because they perfectly encompass what we – and that includes you – are about!)
And if your favorite story isn't included in this list, share the link in the comments below. Have a happy day!
10. 2014 Inspire Award – Creating Community in Colombia
Children International relies on 8,000 volunteer men and women across the world to act as liaisons between families and services. So, each year, we celebrate the outstanding contributions of one special volunteer with the Inspire Award™. The 2014 award went to Miriam Castilla Lara from Barranquilla, Colombia (https://www.children.org/Articles/Article/11709), for her leadership in her community and in CI. Watch the video to hear her thoughts on volunteering and see how she helps the kids in her neighborhood.
9. A Dog Is a Community Center's Best Friend
We are animal lovers here at the CI headquarters, so Jimmy Mack's blog post about Fundación – the dog who lives at a Quito, Ecuador, community center (https://www.children.org/Blog?postId=2518d8b8-3903-6747-b8cb-ff0000a29117) – is obviously a favorite among staff members. When she showed up at the community center nine years ago, staff found a home for her 45 minutes away.
But, a few weeks later, the dog made her way back to the community center, and there she has stayed ever since. Fundación plays with and protects the kids in her community center, and it's obvious the children love her as much as she loves them.
8. Empowering Girls Through Sports
Edilma in Colombia is turning the phrase "You play like a girl" into a huge compliment! Watch to learn how she is challenging gender stereotypes and societal norms by playing soccer with the boys through our Sports for Development program (https://www.children.org/Sports-for-Development).
7. Special Kids With Special Needs
When Andrea Dunne-Sosa, CI program officer for health and nutrition, went to Guadalajara, Mexico, last fall, she met Jonathan, a disabled 13-year-old, and his caretaker aunt. Because he had outgrown his wheelchair, the two had been unable to get to the community center clinic to pick up medication. Find out how CI agency staff came to their rescue (https://www.children.org/blog/special-kids-with-special-needs).Jonathan, 13, lives with his aunt in Guadalajara, Mexico.
6. She Felt Alone and Invisible, Until …
Before becoming a sponsored child, Jean Rose dreaded school. Other, more privileged students looked down on her, she said in a letter to her sponsor, treating her like an "insignificant little creature." Discover how her sponsor and CI helped her realize that poverty doesn't define her (https://www.children.org/blog/she-felt-alone-and-invisible-until).Jean Rose says she is grateful for sponsorship because it has helped her make more friends.
5. A Changed Life
A trip to Quito, Ecuador, to meet her sponsored girls, Adriana and Domenica, delivered more than sponsor Lina Dickinson expected. Although she was excited for her trip, Lina didn't anticipate the truly life-changing experience she was in for.
4. The Most Impressive Person I've Ever Met Is a 15-Year-Old Teenager
On his first trip to the field, Jimmy Mack met a truly inspirational boy. Fifteen-year-old Paúl approached the team at a community center, offering to be their guide around Quito, Ecuador. Paúl revealed that he considers his sponsor like a father to him (https://www.children.org/blog/the-most-impressive-person-i-ve-ever-met-is-a-15-year-old-teenager). "I know he is not my father, but in my heart he is," Paúl told Jimmy. "I would like to know about everything in his life and whatever else he wants to tell me."Paúl lives with his grandmother in Quito, Ecuador, and says he dreams of getting a degree in teaching.
3. Jeavanie's Story: CYR Christmas Special
Jeavanie, 17, was so grateful for her sponsor's support that she broke out in song – literally. With the help of the Community Youth Reporters (https://www.children.org/youth-development) in Quezon City, Philippines, she recorded the song, "Over the Rainbow," both singing and playing guitar. (Fair warning: Her performance will bring on the water works!)
2. A Life Defined, but not by Dowry
In the Indian community where 27-year-old Shanaz grew up, girls are typically sold into marriage at a young age instead of finishing school. But Shanaz – and her father – had other ideas, thanks to the lessons and skills she learned through CI programs. Find out how Shanaz has challenged traditions and is empowering girls in her village (https://www.children.org/A-Life-Defined-but-Not-by-Dowry?lang=en-US).With her father's support, Shanaz, 27, graduated from college and now works in human resources at a steel manufacturing company.
1. 4-Year-Old Francilyn Sings "Let It Go" From Disney's Frozen
Any Frozen fans out there? Four-year-old Francilyn from the Philippines channeled her inner Elsa and sang "Let It Go" to her sponsor, CI President Susana Eshleman. It's pretty adorable. (I won't blame you if you watch it over and over. I have!)
Are there any other CI stories you find inspirational? Let me know in the comments!