guest post by Rachel Teodoro / submitted by Paula Hemphill
Two years ago, I wrote a post for the World Vision Blog about how a community was forever changed by water. I shared a picture in that post of a little boy named Stephen. I had no idea that people would react to him the way that they have.
Just a few months before that post went live, I had the opportunity to travel with our church on a vision trip to Buliisa, Uganda. Buliisa is an extremely rural community several hours outside of Kampala, the capital. Our church formed a partnership with World Vision after we spent several weeks as a congregation reading "The Hole in Our Gospel" by World Vision president Rich Stearns. I'm lucky enough to live a stones throw away from the World Vision headquarters, but as our pastor said, "we didn't partner with World Vision because it was convenient, we partnered with them because they are the best at what they do."
That picture of Stephen has been shared twice now on the World Vision USA Facebook page. There have been hundreds of thousands reached with his image, thousands of shares, tens of thousands of likes and hundreds of comments wondering how they can send Stephen a real tie or if Stephen is available for sponsorship. What was it about this little boy and his paper tie that resonated with readers? What made people want to take action? As child ambassadors, we're always looking for that story or that image that strikes a chord and stirs a heart.
Our church took ownership of this community in Buliisa and wanted to provide access to clean water. For the past seven years, we've been hosting an annual walk for water to raise money for WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) projects. Every year since we started, our small but mighty church has been able to fully fund a well (we funded two wells this year!) and in the summer of 2014 we sent a team to dedicate one of those first wells in our ADP. At this afternoon well dedication I met Stephen.
In a sea of children singing and dancing, I noticed his paper tie immediately. It was made out of notebook paper and a small hole was cut so that it would fit into the top button of his shirt. After the presentation as the large group gathered to walk towards the borehole that was being dedicated, I took that little boy aside. I told him how much I liked his tie and asked him about it. He told me that an occasion as special as this made him want to look his best. Stephen was 12 years old, the same age as my daughter, so I knew how very special it was that he casually took my hand on that walk and held it tight chatting away the whole time.
He was curious about my camera so I showed him how he could take a picture. He snapped this image of me.
Stephen wasn't the only boy that day wearing a paper tie. There was another young man dressed up for the occasion. Stephen's paper tie has touched many people because he seems to be the face behind so many children who know a life without clean water. They know sickness and disease and have seen loved ones die from preventable causes like diarrhea simply because they don't have access to clean water.
Stephen knew how important it was that we had gathered in that small rural village. He knew that his life would be forever changed because of clean water. As a child ambassador it's important to know how a sponsor that you are connecting with a child is changing lives and how these children don't take that lightly. Stephen has clean water now, but there are many children who don't.
Maybe you have your own story to share. I share Stephen's. I think I might make my own paper tie and wear it around and see if anyone will ask me about it. I certainly asked Stephen about his.
To read more of Rachel's work, check out her blog at www.rachelteodoro.com/. You can read many more stories of the people she's met through her work with World Vision by clicking on the Real People tab.
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.