Full circle: Former sponsored child Roberto’s journey with Plan
Life is full of shifts, and at some point we could all use a little help. At times, we may find we’re in a position to lend a helping hand; we might even have the opportunity to return to the very source of our support and aid others just as we had been assisted. On other occasions, we may find we’re the one in need of assistance.
Meet Roberto: Former sponsored child and current member of the Plan Haiti team.
Roberto has experienced each of these scenarios in Haiti, and now he’s paying it forward and giving back. Here’s his story of coming full circle with Plan.
Plan has been working in Haiti since 1973, and when Roberto was just a child, Plan staff initiated projects in his community.
“The biggest challenge before Plan started working in my community was lack of education because parents could not afford their children’s schooling. Children were staying home and were vulnerable to be exploited in gangs or in the industry of violence that exists,” he explains.
But soon Roberto saw Plan’s influence take effect: “Plan built a school that improved school attendance in the community and the school fees were provided, facilitating many children to attend.”
At the age of 7, Roberto became a Plan-sponsored child and he and his family benefitted from improved access to resources like education and training on important issues.
“Because of my sponsorship, my mother, who was a single mother and struggling alone to take care of her 3 children, was able to send me to school. I also have special memories about my participation in Plan’s meetings with my mother … I am so grateful to her.”
He is also grateful for the support he received from Plan staff, and – of course – his sponsor, all of whom helped him reach where he is today.
“Thanks to your support to my education, I am able to work with Plan now.”
Roberto has been working with Plan Haiti for 5 years. Before joining the organization, he had worked with a major institution for over 15 years, but he longed to work more closely with community members, at a grassroots level.
“I wanted to change and start a new experience so that my work could become more meaningful and rewarding.”
A large-scale shift
On January 12, 2010, a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, causing widespread devastation across the country, including Roberto’s community. He recalls witnessing grave scenes of "complete desolation, destroyed houses, hopelessness" and much death in the disaster's wake.
Yet, Roberto also remembers how Plan took action to aid and protect the most vulnerable children and families, throughout the emergency and the cholera outbreak that followed. These efforts included mobile clinics and the construction of temporary and permanent schools, which directly aided remote communities and marginalized groups like children with disabilities – many of whom had previously lacked modern educational structures and resources, explains Roberto.
“Plan also trained populations on how to react in earthquake situations so more lives can be saved” he adds, emphasizing the importance of preparedness in emergencies.
Today, Roberto provides transportation services for Plan.
Not only did Roberto witness this emergency response work, he also participated in Plan's long-term reconstruction efforts – crucial for supporting the full rehabilitation of individuals and helping rebuild communities in a sustainable way. He began working as Plan's heavyweight truck driver, transporting emergency supplies, such as hygiene kits and construction materials, in the months following the disaster.
“I was so happy when I found this opportunity with Plan after the earthquake … I felt so useful," he said, describing late nights of commuting across rubble-strewn roads and participating in hygiene promotion sessions. He looks back on this work as some of his “most rewarding experiences,” stating: “I felt that my work was helping to save lives.”
Coming full circle in the cycle of progress
Today, over 35 years after Roberto first became a Plan-sponsored child, he still cherishes the experience and the opportunities it made possible. If he had the chance to speak with his sponsor, he says he’d want to share his appreciation for helping him build the life he has today.
“Thank you for your support,” he shares. “I am married and can take care of my household, my wife and my 9 year-old-girl, who is the most important thing that happened in my life.”
And now, after having been empowered to break the cycle of poverty, Roberto is eager to continue creating a brighter future for himself, his family and his country through his work with Plan. Understanding the value of an education first-hand, he now aims to help ensure the same opportunity is available to his daughter, as well as other children within the community.
“My dream is that she continues progressing in school and has a profession later. I would like her to have the best opportunities in life. I would like to continue working with Plan and help my daughter fulfill her dreams,” he says.
Roberto perfectly exemplifies all that is possible when you invest in a child. By sponsoring a child, you provide them and all the children in their community with access to invaluable resources like schooling – helping them gain new confidence and life skills to secure employment and reach their full potential. But the impact of Child Sponsorship doesn’t stop there: invest in just one child and – like Roberto – they’ll uplift their families and entire communities, touching many more lives and creating real change.