fbpx

Learning to Smile

Many of us have seen profile photos of children in sponsorship programs; they are often solemn, sad and sometimes down-right angry looking. I know I have thought at times, “Wow, that poor child must be so unhappy!” But then I come across a video from the same organization in which the children are playing and laughing, and I scratch my head wondering what the difference is.

I recently had the opportunity to visit our children’s sponsorship program in Vernet, Haiti. In advance of the trip, one of the tasks I was preparing to tackle was taking updated photos of the children. Because I had experienced this aforementioned phenomenon with our program kids, I was a little daunted by the thought, but also determined to get cheerful photos if I had to stand on my head (not really–but you get the point) to do it.

While pondering how to go about this, I remembered a conversation I had with a friend. I was remarking that even though we try to model smiling for the kids and say things like “show your teeth”, we often end up with toothy grimaces instead of genuine smiles. She then shared something I had never thought of: Many children don’t understand the concept of smiling (especially on cue) because they don’t know what that looks like on them. The next thing she said caused the light bulb to go on–”Children often don’t know what they look like because they have never even seen themselves in a mirror.” I knew then what I would do!

When I met our Haiti kids I was elated by how full of joy they seemed–and I was encouraged that I could capture that in my photos. Over the course of the next two days I started playing and making silly faces at and with them. I smiled A LOT, stuck out my tongue, rolled my eyes and invited them to do the same. We just had fun. Then I whipped out my cell phone and started taking photos and showing them what they looked like–they couldn’t get enough, and soon my phone was more popular than I was.

All of this was going to culminate in a lesson and activity I would lead the next day which I hoped would help my cause. The topic was being made in the image of God–and while it was a great biblical teaching in its own right, I had an underlying motive. During the course of the lesson we played the mirror game, I did a funny skit with a mirror, and we finished with a craft in which each child made a mirror of their own. We looked at ourselves, made funny faces, smiled big smiles and thanked God for making each of us unique and in His image.

Then, (wait for it…) it was picture time! I would love to say that after all that practice every child smiled, but some didn’t–at least not without a little cajoling. However, the majority of the kids smiled easily straight-away, and I was thrilled; I could see the image of God in each of their sweet faces.

This exercise was a good reminder to me that there is usually more behind what we see on the surface, and sometimes it takes looking from another’s perspective to discover the truth. The reality may often be more innocent than we judged it to be, and can be transformed by a little understanding and encouragement.

disaster recovery

Team Shows Love After Hurricane Harvey

Three Team Members, a piece of cake, and Miss Bonnie It had been three days, and none of us had met Miss Bonnie. “We could see this small shed on the property as we were working, but weren’t sure if someone was actually in there. And then we heard that

Go to Blog »
nicaragua

AIDS Orphan Dreams of Being a Doctor

Imagine a child, seven years old, living in a garbage dump and watching both her mother and father die slowly of AIDS-related illnesses. This was reality for Erminia before she joined Forward Edge’s program for at-risk girls in Nicaragua called Villa Esperanza (Hope Village). If Erminia had continued to grow

Go to Blog »
child sponsorship

How to Write a Letter to Your Sponsored Child

One of the greatest joys a child receives is a letter from his or her sponsor. Sponsored children usually save all of the letters they receive and read them over and over again, they are such a source of encouragement and love for them. Writing to your sponsored child is

Go to Blog »

Subscribe to receive all our new blogs straight to your inbox!

Transform a Child's Life Through Sponsorship

Habari (Hello), my name is Allan

  • location

    Uganda

  • 17 yrs. old

    05-15-2003

Entered the Program: March 2020

Allan lives with his parents and siblings in a small three-room house with no electricty or running water. For lighting the family uses a two bulb solar panel that is connected to the house, water is fetched from a borehole that is 2 kilometers away, and firewood is used to cook and boil drinking water. The children do odd jobs like fetching water, farming, and making bricks in the community so they can earn so money to assist with the family’s expenses. 

Sponsorship Level What's this?

Three $38 sponsorships are needed to cover the complete holistic care of one child. Cover one, two, or three sponsorships.