Seeing Tote smile :)

September 19, 2012

This is my first time sharing on a public blog, so I’m a little nervous to get started. I want to share about my experiences with the sponsorship organization Compassion International, so here goes…

Tote and her father Keyal

Allow me to introduce Tote (pronounced toe-TAY), my 11-year-old sponsored child from Punjab, North India. We started sponsoring her when she was an extremely shy 4-year-old, and in February 2011 I was blessed to travel to India (a lifelong dream) to New Delhi to meet her. She had grown into a very shy and sweet 10 year old.

We’d been exchanging loving letters for years, but when we first met, Tote was so shy she hardly looked up at me. After some encouragement from her father Keyal, she came and gave me a hug. And then, for the first time, I saw what I’d been longing to see through years of timid photos – a beautiful full-on smile!

It got even better. Even though we had an interpreter, I had tried to learn some Punjabi (but I must admit that my accent is awful) and when I spoke to her, her big beautiful eyes got even bigger. After several shocked moments, my shy girl started to giggle. Later on, when we were working up the courage for her first escalator ride, she actually laughed.

This was Tote’s first trip further than 7 kilometers from her house. Her proud father was overjoyed that they were able to come to the capitol of his country (something we paid for). He had been to the capitol of his state, but never, he told me, had he had an opportunity like this! On this trip, Tote had her first train ride, her first ride in an elevator, and her first night at a hotel.

I had my first opportunity to simply talk face to face to the girl I had prayed for and thought about for so many years. It is always a joy to receive a letter, but I had longed to just be able to talk to her. She was too shy to answer some of my questions, but her father and project staff worker encouraged her gently. She shared about her best friend, Manjeet, who she sees at the Compassion center. They love to play hide and seek together and to sit together. Tote’s favorite color is now pink, but she isn’t sure what animal she likes best.

Her father also shared a lot about the family in answer to my questions, and I learned more about the project from the project staff worker Gavit.

Tote and her family (her parents, grandmother, and younger brother and sister) share a one-room house on rented land. They do not have a kitchen like most of the small houses we saw while in India, but do all of the cooking in that same one room. Before having Tote, her parents had lost two other children (a son and a daughter) who died as infants. Her father works as a daily laborer laying bricks. He has recently saved enough money to buy a young buffalo that will be able to give milk in about two years. He plans to use the milk to nourish his three children. In the past, Tote had received protein supplements from the center.

The Compassion center, in addition to providing the things I was already aware of (“Bible teaching, nutritious food, medical screening, hygiene supplies, field trips, special celebrations, tuition, vocational guidance and school uniforms”), also is teaching the children how to use computers and is providing counseling to the parents on the importance of education and other matters.

Tote brought me a gift that she had picked out herself. An ornate plastic photo frame that I now keep on my desk. She also brought me a picture to put in it – a picture I had sent her more than a year before of myself and my mom. It was gently bent in a few places, and by the way she was holding on to it I could see why. She clearly didn’t want to give it up, but at the same time she wanted me to have it and so she gave it to me. She was so relieved (and surprised) when I told her that I had a second one. She also brought me some very carefully drawn pictures that she had done for the occasion. And a smile. Of all the gifts I brought her, she gave me the best ones 🙂

Thank you for reading my story. Since today is my birthday, I thought I’d also include this:

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion
Sponsor a Child

Courtesy of Compassion International:


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September 16, 2012

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