I’ve taken many calls from sponsors about the pictures of the children they sponsor. “Why is he wearing such nice clothing?” “Why is she not smiling?” “His newest picture doesn’t look like the boy I sponsored. Why?”
Picture this: You’re in El Salvador in the middle of summer visiting a newly opened Child Development Center. There is a long line of mothers, fathers and children waiting to be registered for our sponsorship program.
You complete the enrollment paperwork for 4-year old Susie and ask her to go have her picture taken. Because she has never seen a camera before, she gets very nervous and a little scared when standing in front of the photographer. Her picture comes out with her looking unhappy.
Next, you meet Carlos, who is 8. When you send him to have his photo taken, he is so hot and tired that he doesn’t smile for the picture.
Then, at the end of the day you notice Maria standing at the end of the line with her parents. Her outfit looks very familiar. You realize that you have seen that outfit on many little girls. When Maria finally gets to the front of the line, you ask her about her beautiful dress. She says that she borrowed it from a friend so she could look pretty in her picture.
There are so many circumstances when picture-taking day comes around … and we are, after all, working with children who get tired, cry and have limited energy.
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Fast-forward two years. It’s time for that same development center to update the pictures of the children enrolled in the program. With nearly 200 kids and just as many photos to take, things get a little out of hand for you.
You’re taking Alex’s picture and in the rush of the afternoon accidentally transpose his child number on your notes. The child number next to Alex’s picture is actually Hector’s number (you are human, after all).
Once “Hector’s” new photo is uploaded to his file, we print a copy, and mail it to Hector’s sponsor.
After about two weeks, Hector’s sponsor calls — the new picture looks nothing like Hector. She’s right, and after I review the pictures in Hector’s file, I agree and contact the country office to fix the issue.
Some of our mistakes have created really funny pictures, and we laugh at them, but most are handled without error.
I know it can be disappointing to receive a photo without a smile anywhere to be seen, but please remember that even though you can’t see it, it’s there. Here’s the proof. And no matter what the picture looks like, it’s the child or teen in that picture that matters most.
We originally published this post on July 12, 2010.