“I really wanted to see the projects firsthand, to encourage and to support the local staff in their work, and I was particularly excited about meeting our two sponsored children who live there,” says Nina. “We were ushered up to a place of honor at the front of the school as the children continued to perform for us. For some reason I looked over to my right and my heart stopped.”
Nina Gustin has sponsored impoverished children overseas ever since she was a child. Like many women, she volunteers her time at several organizations including her elementary school PTA and a local transitional housing program. Her desire to do more “hands-on” volunteer work led her to Women of Vision Fairfield County (WOVC), a volunteer ministry of World Vision, the largest Christian relief and development organization in the world. WOVFC was launched in 2001 and is one of 13 chapters in the United States and Bermuda. Since its inception, WOVC has been involved in World Vision projects in Tanzania, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Cambodia. Current projects include the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Program in Nyamagabe, Rwanda as well as a project to combat child labor in Cambodia. WOVC has also set up an Art and Reading program at St. Luke’s Lifeworks in Stamford, CT.
My husband and I began sponsoring children 14 years ago after the birth of our first child. My father had sponsored children for us when we were growing up and I really wanted this experience for my new family. I have always dreamed about getting to meet some of the children that we support, so when I learned that there was an opportunity to go to Rwanda with World Vision, I was in.
My biggest issue was that I had never left my own children, aged 8, 9 and 12, for a 10-day period
I had been home with my children for many years—my choice, happily—and I was up for an adventure. By that time I had been co-chair of our group’s Child Sponsorship Team for two years and I knew that this trip would help me to encourage others to participate in this wonderful program. When a group of women go on a Vision trip their hearts are opened and often broken by what they see and experience. When they return, they can speak in a new way about the programs and get more people involved in the projects.
Part 1: Preparing for the trip
Before we left, the World Vision Staff in the U.S. met with us many times, providing us with materials on Rwanda and helping us to prepare ourselves emotionally and spiritually for our trip. I knew several people who had been to Rwanda and I was very confident that I would be safe there. I knew that the local World Vision staff would take care of us while we were there. In addition, we would be travelling with our World Vision representative from Fairfield County.
My biggest issue was that I had never left my own children, aged 8, 9 and 12, for a 10-day period before. My husband was able to clear his calendar to be in town for the duration of my trip and my dear babysitter, who has been with our family for eight years, agreed to come and stay with the kids while I was gone. I knew that they would be well cared for, and I think that it is important for kids to see their parents doing things that they love. My kids knew how much this trip meant to me, and it meant something to them too. They are all very involved with child sponsorship—writing letters, sending packages and helping me at different events.