Dr. Jedidiah Ballard is an emergency room physician and former Army Ranger Battalion Surgeon. After visiting his sponsored child, Solkely, in the Dominican Republic, he shares his thoughts on meeting his child and the value of giving back.
By U.S. standards, I didn’t grow up with a lot of material things. We basically lived in a barn through part of elementary school because it was much cheaper than a house. I had a great family and great parents, but I worked all through my childhood. Luckily, because I grew up in a place with a lot of opportunity, I was able to get an education.
Now, as a physician, I really like to get involved with organizations, such as Children International, that are making it possible for people to live safe, healthy lives as well as empowering young people with the educational opportunities and resources needed to break the poverty cycle.
I work as an emergency medicine doctor and I often see people who don’t know how to take care of their bodies. Sadly, I saw a lot of the same chronic problems in the Dominican Republic as I do in the U.S.: obesity, smoking and poor nutrition, often in young people. One aspect I really like about Children International is how they teach the kids about nutrition and work in essential medical and dental care. Meeting these basic needs sets the kids up for success to learn in school.
The most exciting thing about my visit was getting to meet my sponsored child, Solkely. She is very like girls her age in the US: intelligent, loves to read and write, hang out with her friends and helps around her single parent house. Looking around Santiago, though, it was immediately clear that she was growing up with far less chance of rising beyond work as a day laborer than a girl of equal aptitude in the U.S.
The most moving part about the visit was seeing the scope of the care that Children International provides. Children International is doing far more than just keeping kids safe and healthy. Meeting basic needs is obviously an essential start, but through extra programs — tutoring, music, community, athletics — they are really giving these kids a chance to express who they want to be and dream much bigger.
Solkely, age 16, has been sponsored since she was 3 years old.
One of the reasons I give back is that I feel a deep sense of gratitude for where I came from and where I am now. It gives me satisfaction to help others, regardless of where they are born. It is something very empowering and very special, to feel like you are making a difference in the long term, potentially even beyond your own lifetime.
Coming down here and getting a hands-on, eyes-on experience makes my donation experience a very real, very practical thing.