By Veronica Lay, CFCA sponsor outreach specialist
I arrived at the Kansas City airport Jan. 21 to embark on a CFCA awareness trip to South India, unaware that I would soon be forever changed.
I work in Sponsor Services at the CFCA headquarters in Kansas City, which means if you call our toll-free number, there is a good chance I’ll be on the other end of the line.
Most of my work involves helping sponsors with any questions and helping make the sponsorship experience a positive, rewarding one.
I enjoy speaking with our sponsors and was looking forward to meeting many of them face to face. Although I was looking forward to this trip, I was also experiencing a surge of anxiety and panic.
I, like many Americans, have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and experience panic attacks on a regular basis.
Anxiety and panic come from a fear of the unknown, and traveling halfway around the world to another country was the ultimate unknown for a normal, routine girl like me.
My doctor suggested that this trip would be a good opportunity for me to learn more about myself and of what I was capable. So I packed my bags and headed to the airport, prepared for the worst.
The first few days in India were a culture shock. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw, and what I was feeling.
Trash littered the streets, and I had never witnessed poverty to such a degree. However, despite all of the hardships the people experience, they were so joyful and full of life.
We visited a family in their home, and I was truly humbled by what I saw. We removed our shoes before we stepped into the small area. This house was one room and was around 7 feet by 7 feet, in which four people lived.
The same day, we visited another home where one sponsor was able to meet her sponsored friend for the first time.
We were greeted by the family, and they showed us the pictures and letters that Aneta, her sponsor, had sent to her sponsored friend. The young girl and her mother were very proud and happy to see their sponsor.
As they were happily talking, a staff member pulled me aside and explained to me that the child’s mother was too sick to work because she had ovarian cancer.
It felt like a ton of bricks hit me in the face. I looked at the child and her mother, and everyone looked so happy together.
It was then that my years of anxiety and fear melted away. I realized that all my fears and worries were so trivial and meaningless.
I thought about all the times I complained and how I worried about things that didn’t really matter. I have plenty of food. I have clean water. I have a safe home. I have clean clothes.
I knew I was growing and developing a new understanding of the world around me, and I was so grateful for everything I was experiencing.
I remember leaving India thinking about what others at work had said about their awareness trip, that “it is a life-changing experience.”
Before I left, I didn’t think that would actually happen to me. But after experiencing India, I realized the trip did change my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.
I took many photos while in India, and I printed and framed some of these photos. I placed these photos of the landscape, the children sponsored through CFCA and their mothers, right beside my front door.
Now, every day I can remind myself of the positive effects that CFCA and our sponsors are having in the lives of others and how grateful I am for everything I have.