For those who have met Anthony Clarke, one of our Child Sponsorship students living at the campus, you will love this article. If you haven’t met Anthony, go to our website at www.acexperience.org and check out the short video clip of Anthony’s story.
Anthony went from being a lower level student academically to now a precept in his school and promoted to a higher level in learning. As a reward, his sponsors – the Hoff family – decided to bring him to Colorado for his Christmas break! We asked his sponsors to send us an article of Anthony’s holiday experiences to put in our newsletter.
As you read his adventures, please know that Anthony is the first student to ever have sponsors so generous as to treat their child to an American holiday! Thank you, Hoff family! For all of you who sponsor a student, we are certainly grateful that you keep our kids learning and attending school. You make their lives better simply by being in it, with your love and contributions! A trip is not required or expected, of course, but if it works out, what a wonderful experience for both child and sponsor!
Hosting for the Holidays
Our family had a memorable and rewarding Christmas this year, hosting one of our sponsored children, Anthony, who is 17. We started sponsoring him two and a half years ago and became acquainted with him via letters, phone calls and when we visited him in Jamaica for a week over our Thanksgiving holiday.
He stayed with us for almost two weeks, so he got to enjoy Christmas and New Year’s celebrations with us and our extended families. Anthony experienced a lot of firsts while here: his first trip on an airplane, an escalator, seeing a movie in a theater, trying many foods like blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, and Mexican food. He also saw snow for the first time and went sledding in the mountains.
Our cultures are a bit different, so it was a learning experience for him and us. For example, he was surprised that when we drive down the road, you don’t see a lot of people walking along the street. Americans also drive on the right side of the road and the drivers sit on the opposite side of the car as they do in Jamaica. Also, he commented that Americans don’t season their food as much as Jamaicans do. He had a hard time adjusting to the cold weather during his visit. He was surprised we didn’t take our dog with us everywhere we went. Jamaicans don’t walk around and browse in stores so that was unusual to him when we shopped. There is much greater safety in the US than in Jamaica, so it was hard for him to believe we were safe while we were out, which caused him a little anxiety.
There were so many blessings in this experience for our family! Our two sons, ages 11 and 13, loved having an extra playmate on hand who was always up for a game. It was also fun for them to be part of the new things he experienced, and they loved explaining things to him like how our traffic rules work. Anthony also enjoyed the benefits of family life, getting to play with the boys, helping prepare for and clean up after meals, as well as being included in family devotionals and our gratitude journals every night. He jumped right in and asked to be part of the rotation to lead prayer. He also took the initiative and helped clean whenever he saw anything that needed to be done.
Anthony got to go to work with Dana and see how he reads blueprints to put together a bid for a job. They also visited a few job sites to see the construction process. This was a blessing to him to see real life (not just the fun shows and experiences) and how Dana makes a living to provide for our family.
I recommend this experience to those families who are deeply invested in their sponsored children and have gotten a chance to know them. It is a bit of a financial investment as we paid for his airfare and Marla’s since she had to accompany him on the flights, per his visa requirement being a minor, as well as all the food, activity experiences and providing him with winter clothes, etc. It took a good deal of courage for him to make the trip here – especially for a two-week visit – but previously visiting him in Jamaica was an important step in establishing trust.
One thing to keep in mind is that hosting your sponsored child is more like being a foster family than entertaining an out-of-town guest – they are still children and it takes commitment, time and energy to discipline, guide, care for and teach them. One example is that he was expected to keep a journal while he was here and he needed some help with his English and grammar.
It’s also advisable to keep an open mind since the things you predict they may enjoy may not be what they enjoy. For example, Anthony really liked playing Monopoly and playing soccer outside. We expected he might be more interested in seeing the sights and doing some interactive experiences at the museum, but that wasn’t interesting to him. He was interested in seeing all the different types of cars on the road. He enjoyed going to church with us and especially the candlelight service on Christmas Eve. He noted that our church services are a lot shorter (church goes for three hours in Jamaica).
It’s a rewarding feeling to make special memories and give your sponsored child an experience they will never forget and one they may not otherwise have had! We are so grateful to our gracious Lord who made this possible.
The Hoff Family