Child Sponsorship touches lives in Panama

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by Linda Gillies, Major – 

In the early ’90s, a U.S. Army soldier stationed in Panama was encouraged by a chaplain to see life beyond the base. Somehow, opportunities to connect with The Salvation Army Hogar Dr. Eno Children’s Home in the Canal Zone were made possible.

The soldier eventually took advantage of this opportunity and arranged with his dad to send gifts; dad did, and son was faced with the dilemma of how to deliver two huge boxes. The delivery created a moment of anxiety for the recipients: “Imagine the girls’ surprise to see a humvee pull off the main highway—mounted with a M-60 machine gun—and head right to their front door. With faces painted and weapons slung across our back, we opened the back of the truck, and delivered the gifts,” recalled the soldier.

“When the SA lieutenant realized that everything was all right she gave the girls the okay signal and they flooded out of the home, lavished us with hugs; and turned their attention to the gift boxes. It was awesome.”

This young military soldier was John R. Van Cleef, now Cascade Division’s youth & candidates’ secretary.

The children’s home, set on a hill off the main highway between the Atlantic and Pacific, was two stories of cinderblock with a dirt first floor and wooden second floor.

At the beginning of this year, the Western Territory’s Overseas Children’s Sponsorship program received a substantial monetary gift to be given to the same children’s home. A U.S. Army chaplain who was introduced to the home while posted in Panama gave the gift. You can feel the joy of Latin America North Chief Secretary Lt. Colonel Tito Paredes in his acknowledgment letter, “Thank you so much for such wonderful news.”

Opportunities to give

The children of Chilibre, Panama need your help. When the Panama Canal was nationalized and the Americans left, the majority of the people in this rural jungle community found themselves jobless. The Salvation Army Corps in Chilibre is important to these poor families as it gives their children something they can’t afford—a feeding center serving up to three meals a day. The center has become a haven for the children, not only for the food they receive, but also for the help with schooling, clothing and spiritual nourishment.

Currently the West’s Overseas Children’s Sponsorship program is sponsoring five children from Chilibre, Panama and six from Guatemala, and has sent additional funds to the Latin America North Territory to benefit the feeding center. There are 13 children in Panama waiting for sponsorship.

The Salvation Army maintains 224 children’s homes around the world, serving nearly 9,000 orphaned or abandoned children. The Western Territory has close to 300 sponsors assisting 400 children in 34 countries. Funds are also directed to 23 designated homes and programs.

Just like the sponsors of these children, like the young military soldier and the chaplain, YOU TOO CAN HELP! Twenty dollars a month is all it takes.

For information, contact The Salvation Army Overseas Children’s Sponsorship Office at P.O. Box 22646, Long Beach, CA 90801-8501 or call (562) 491-8301.

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