Apr 2 2008


Sponsor a child I sponsor a child in Haiti named Youvens. In the seven years I’ve sponsored him, I’ve never, ever seen him smile.

Even when I visited Haiti and brought him a soccer ball. No smile. He played soccer with me, ate lunch with me and never let go of the ball. But he never smiled.

It’s understandable. He lives in one of the most poverty-stricken places on earth. I’ve seen the devastation in that country, and I can’t imagine what he’s been through in his short life.

As I’m sure you can see, Youvens is a very sad, serious child.

This past January my friend Mark was going to Haiti and so I asked him to take a birthday present to Youvens.

A couple weeks later I got this photo.

That smile is all the proof I need that my sponsorship makes a difference.

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39 Comments Add a Comment
  1. Apr 2, 2008
    at 7:22 am

    Wow this brings a tear to my eye, great pictures.

  2. Apr 2, 2008
    at 9:49 am

    Wow. Now that’s a testimony of God’s grace and love.

  3. Apr 2, 2008
    at 10:31 am

    I actually cried when I got that last picture, Laurel.

  4. Apr 2, 2008
    at 10:55 am

    Man-oh-man. You brought a tear to my. Thanx for sharing the story and photo.


  5. Apr 2, 2008
    at 10:56 am


  6. Apr 2, 2008
    at 3:25 pm

    The first two pictures that I got of my first girl in DR also were very serious. Then I met her…and a happier, more expressive child I had never seen! She smiled in nearly all of the pic’s I took of her, and in the recent photo I got, her smile is nothing short of dazzling. Now, I’m praying that God will protect her AND grab her heart, which I’m not at all sure He’s done, yet.

    And I’m really happy for you, that you get to see that change in Youven!

  7. Apr 2, 2008
    at 9:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing Becky! I have had the exact same experience with my Selamawit from Ethiopia. When a picture comes that finally shows a beautiful smile on your sponsored child’s face you know it is the illumination of love! Nothing tops that!

  8. Jaime Quillin
    Apr 26, 2008
    at 11:20 am

    He makes the impossible possible! Let Youvens know that his smile is infectious and it is spreading all over America and the rest of the world. I caught it just now and I plan to pass it on!

  9. julie & jerry bertone
    Apr 26, 2008
    at 6:37 pm

    Thank you-What a heartwarming

  10. Dave Pentecost
    Apr 26, 2008
    at 7:36 pm

    I have a little girl from Bolivia that I have been sponsoring for 3 years and I STILL have not seen her smile. You have given me hope, and also blessed me.

  11. Carla T
    Apr 26, 2008
    at 9:31 pm

    Thank you for your note. I also sponsor a child from Haiti and I so want to go visit her but it is too dangerous to go right now. I hope to meet her face to face and give her one of my smiles!

  12. Jill Geswein
    Apr 27, 2008
    at 7:19 pm

    What a great smile! We really need to pray for the unrest in Haiti and for the government there. Hopefully one day, we will be able to visit our children in Haiti somewhat safely… we have four children in different parts of Haiti and my family and I can’t wait to see them one day. Keep praying!!!

  13. Apr 27, 2008
    at 7:36 pm

    I agree, Jill! I’ll join you in that prayer.

  14. Paul Boehm
    Apr 28, 2008
    at 9:48 am

    Awesome proof of Compassion working and our $$$ is not being wasted. God bless you and your family and sponsored children.

  15. Linda Silva
    Apr 28, 2008
    at 12:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story! We have seen this same thing with our little girl we sponsor in Sao Paulo Brazil. She was very shy at first and she is growing into a young confident young lady and she is all smiles now!! We have been fortunate to visit her 3 years in a row. The Sponsor visits truly make a difference in the children’s lives!!

  16. Claudie
    May 1, 2008
    at 8:58 am

    Wow! what a wonderful thing God is doing through his people and through Compassion International.
    I recently signed up to sponsor a child in my country Haiti.
    Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for your prayer and for your giving heart. God will not fail to bless you and yours. Please pray for spiritual revival and repentance in Haiti.
    Glory to God!

  17. Jul 20, 2008
    at 11:49 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Becky. This really encouraged me. A couple of weeks ago, I was in Bolivia and a friend of mine had just sponsored a little 4 year old girl a few weeks before there. I was so privileged to meet her, but her father was paralized and her mother had a very hard time making ends meet. The little 4 year old girl was so sad. She never smiled. I gave her a little doll and she just held on to that little doll, but never smiled. I pray for her regularly. You can pray too. Her name is Carla. She was very sweet though. Reading this story really gave me hope for her, because I was kind of concerned for her. I’m glad that she does have a sponsor though that will write and will be really kind to her.


  18. Nov 14, 2008
    at 4:46 am

    Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

  19. Deborah Beghetto
    Oct 9, 2009
    at 10:25 am

    you made me cry..it’s so beautiful. I’t reminds me the day I visit my sponsor boy.He brought tears to my eyes as I gave him gifts, it’s so full of love and grace.

  20. Jul 13, 2010
    at 8:29 am

    That is so precious! A picture is worth a 1000 words..

  21. Natalie
    Jul 20, 2010
    at 3:50 pm

    That little boy is so precious. His expressions in the pictures are very understandable. I do think he is wearing the same shirt in the first 3 pictures. The last picture was so wonderful to see. Thank you to all that make a difference in the lives of the precious children and their families and communities.

  22. Linda
    Jan 5, 2011
    at 7:21 pm

    That sweet smile is absolutely PRICELESS!!!!!

  23. Robert Womack
    Feb 23, 2011
    at 12:36 pm

    What an awesome account! My eyes filled up just reading it. Have to remember, folks, that many of the children we sponsor live in some of the poorest and most challenging places int he world. Probably not a lot to smile about most of the time. But I always thank God that I have been privileges to share a portion of my abundance with those who have so little. I have a feeling that when I first meet my sponsored child in heaven, we’ll both be wiping tears away and laughing joyously together.

  24. Ed Gugliucci
    Feb 24, 2011
    at 9:19 am

    The first picture I saw of my child was two years ago on the web page when I was researching a Bible quotation on another site. I had no intention of sponsoring a child at that time, so I passed it by and went on with my work. BUT he looked so sad I couldn’t get him out of my mind. I frantically went back into the cache on the PC the next day and retrieved the site with his picture and info and sponsored him immediately. Now, every picture I have of him shows a very happy child! God works in mysterious ways and is great all the time. ed

  25. Amanda Groves
    Feb 24, 2011
    at 1:05 pm

    Thank you so much for this. Our sponsored son actually smiled in all his photos since we sponsored him, except for his most recent picture. Which through me into tears because a I may never know why. But your story reminded me of the perspective I need to have. I am determined to pray more, write more, & care more for him, in hope that he is smiling all the time thinking of God’s love, even if I never see it in a picture. :)

  26. Lynda
    Feb 24, 2011
    at 1:18 pm

    Absolutely great post! :) :)

  27. Stacy
    May 4, 2011
    at 6:43 pm

    I’m glad I read this, I have been worried about the lack of smile in my introduction photo. I just started sponsering, and my child is only 5, so I’m hoping for many photos and smiles during the many years of friendship in the future! :) Thanks for giving me hope!

    • May 4, 2011
      at 9:35 pm

      Hi, Stacy,

      I wouldn’t put too much weight into the smile or lack of smile on a picture. Many centers believe that child is not allowed to smile in the picture. So, if the child smiles, they’ll retake the photo, so they get one where he/she is serious. Also, take a look at this video that I shot of a child being photographed…. You can see it’s not the most confortable situation:




      I’m going to be teaching a workshop to the people taking the pictures in Bolivia. So, I’m going to be sure to mention the smiles. It’s a big deal in the USA. In other countries, that’s not quite as emphasized…. But if you met your child, she/he would probably have a huge smile all day long….

  28. Monica Koors
    Oct 18, 2011
    at 11:52 am

    Thank you Compassion for all you do!! God Bless You! I am so thankful for the people behind Compassion working hard to improve the lives of these precious children! I am so blessed to have my precious and wonderful sponsored child!!!

  29. Kathy
    Dec 30, 2011
    at 5:54 am

    Thank you so much for this comment. I so wondered why there were no smiles and it gives me extra hope that my sponsored child will be helped on the inside as well as the outside!!
    God Bless you in a wonderful way!

  30. Suzanne
    Jan 2, 2013
    at 4:01 pm

    It’s funny, but I just wrote to my sponsored child in Columbia in November and asked that he gift me with a smile in his next picture. I’d received a few pictures over the last 3 years and he never smiles, even standing next to gifts. I was concerned for his personality or thinking the environment was getting him down. I suppose there’s truth to my assumptions, but it gives me hope reading this blog and comments that it might be the process. I’m still hoping for a smile, though, in the next picture.

    • Jan 7, 2013
      at 1:02 pm

      Hi, Suzanne, It depends a lot on the person, who takes the photographs in that center and the policies in that center and the culture. This boy might have the biggest grin on his face from day to day, but when they take a picture, he might be told to not smile. When I was in Colombia, all the kids smiled a lot. The rule is that the child’s eyes must be shown. When the center takes pictures, they don’t want their pictures to be “rejected” by the person, who handles the pictures. Then they would have to redo this same thing. It’s not easy to take these photos. If the gift is big in size, many times this person has to travel to the child’s home, which might be quite a ways and especially in Colombia, quite dangerous to go with a camera, because there are so many gangs. Thus they try to avoid having to go back. If you can, try to read the smile in what he writes. Remember in many ways, smiles for photos is a very north american tradition.


  31. Keri
    Mar 11, 2014
    at 11:40 pm

    Brought tears to my eyes too. I sponsor 3 children and they make me so happy! Such a blessing!

  32. Victor Muthoka
    Mar 11, 2014
    at 11:45 pm

    This left a deep smile on my face.

  33. Kelly
    Sep 13, 2014
    at 10:48 am

    Thank you for sharing this simple post. I know as sponsors we would just give anything to see one simple smile staring back at us. For fun I even had my son take a picture without a smile and one with a smile and sent them to the children we sponsor hoping to encourage them to provide us with a gift of their smiles. And still they are as straight faced as ever. But I have not given up hope that one day a smile will be produced. I have faith that they share their smiles at their Compassion sponsored centers each day with their friends, teachers and family.

  34. Feb 18, 2015
    at 6:37 am

    This gives me HOPE! My sweet Bithi in Bangladesh breaks my heart every morning when I look at her little face and pray over her. I try to remind myself that she is smiling when I can’t see, but your words here, and the undeniable photo, have given me hope that I will see her smile!! Thank you.

  35. Matthew
    Mar 18, 2015
    at 5:54 pm

    Haiti loves Becky! Thanks for sharing this.

  36. Beth
    Mar 18, 2015
    at 6:23 pm

    We started our sponsorship of Dominic (Kenya) in 1998 when he was 5. We didn’t see a smile til year 6 or 7 either. So I know how special that first picture is when you see it! Last fall he left the program at 22 and we did the paperwork to continue correspondence on our own. He is in a college program for mechanics and has some access to a computer. He just emailed us some pictures and the smiles are huge! He thanks us all the time for what Compassion sponsorship has done for him and his family. And he plans to be a sponsor himself once he has a job and can do so. I can’t emphasize enough what writing letters means to a child-so little time on this end and such tremendous benefits on theirs.

  37. Janet Snoke
    Mar 19, 2015
    at 3:52 pm

    I’ve been sponsoring a girl from Bolivia for 5 yrs. She just turned 16 & this was the first photo of her smiling also. I was so excited. Her smile was huge. I couldn’t wait to write to tell her how thrilled I was.

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